Warning: This Is Not an Historic Blog Post
If you love words, or if you just like to feel smug and superior because you use them properly, mosey on over to the Lake Superior State University List of Banished Words website.
“The tongue-in-cheek Banishment List began as a publicity ploy for little-known LSSU” in 1976, according to the site’s History of Word Banishment. You can view the list year by year, along with the rationale for banishment, or you can see the entire list, words only. A link next to each word takes you to the relevant annual list.
An advantage of looking at the entire list is that it’s easy to see the repeaters, including viable alternative, very unique, world-class, and proactive. A few words and phrases appeared three times—live audience and ongoing among them.
What’s wrong with robust?
List contributor Rob Robinson “pulled nine references to ‘robust processes,’ ‘robust materials,’ and ‘robust packaging,’ from the first 13 pages of the Ford Automotive Operations MS-9000 requirements.”
Traditionally, robust has referred to physical characteristics: energy, durability, and health. I don’t have a problem with more intangible forms of robustness, used sparingly. I can live with the occasional “robust advertising campaign,” which is what my boss required of me when I was marketing director of a short-lived* dot-com. But the dear man absolutely reveled in robustness. If someone said something moderately intelligent in a staff meeting, he seized upon the statement as a “robust idea.”
Robust quickly gained buzzword status, meaning that verbally challenged business types used it at every opportunity to indicate that they were hip to corporate trends… or something. Revisit suffered the same fate, brought into frequent service as a synonym for “revise.” Passionate probably took the worst beating. Once upon a time we were passionate about our sweethearts; then we became passionate about, say, the arts. Most recently our employers have required us to be passionate about our jobs as file clerks.
Here are a few of my favorite entries from LSSU’s list, along with the submitters’ comments:
Author’s note: The most cogent definition I could find was “pattern or model; a collection of assumptions, concepts, practices, and values that constitutes a way of viewing reality, especially for an intellectual community that shares them; an abstract basic structure, of some tenure, in which knowledge is related within a given realm.”
This has become the educational buzzword of 1993. I would like to see “paradigm lost.” Nancy Dean, Stephenson, Michigan
As in “I want to empower a new paradigm of health care,” [a euphemism for] “I want to shut down the hospital and let the people get their own aspirin.” Bob Cudmore, The Record, Troy, New York
Youse or Yous
Author’s note: Regionalisms don’t trouble me; I treasure them, in fact.
As in, “Would youse like coffee?” …Only in the North American vocabulary. Tori Cook, MCTV News, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
As in “an historic moment.” Commonly used by news people (print and broadcast). It’s wrong! If this abuse is allowed to continue, the next sound you hear from me will be an hiss! Jim Wiljanen, Dewitt, Michigan
To Gift; Gifting
* In short-lived, “lived” rhymes with “hived.”
Bad writers sit down to write, and they think, “Ah, I am writing. I must use special Writing Language.” These people may communicate beautifully in conversation, but their writing is stilted and usually verbose. They write to impress rather than to communicate.
The difference between writing and conversing is that conversation isn’t a unit. When you are talking with, say, Marcella, she is usually talking too. So your conversation is interactive. You and Marcella give each other verbal and nonverbal cues that guide the conversation. You can tell if she doesn’t understand something, and you say it a different way. You can also use body language to make your point. The two of you make constant little adjustments to keep the communication flowing.
When you’re writing, however, the reader (Arturo) can choose to read or not read your writing (unless he is your English teacher). He can stop reading at any time without letting you know. Arturo bases his choice on three things:
(1) his interest in the subject,
(2) the energy in your writing (your style), and
(3) the integrity (unity) of your narrative (that is, does the piece hang together?).
Excerpted from Write Better Right Now, by Mary Campbell, designed for business writing but useful for any nonfiction genre
GOT A QUESTION? Enter it as a comment, or e-mail mary@LifeIsPoetry.net.