Mighty Red Pen

January 1, 2008

Words are the new words

Filed under: Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 2:16 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Hat tip to Mister MRP, who shared that Lake Superior State University in Michigan came out with its 2008 List of Banished Words. Top on the list were perfect storm, webinar, and waterboarding.

MRP heartily agreed with the banishment of wordsmith/wordsmithing, which seems to be a fancy word for a committee of fifteen wrote this:

 WORDSMITH/WORDSMITHING – “I’ve never read anything created by a wordsmith – or via wordsmithing – that was pleasant to read.” – Emily Kissane, St. Paul, Minnesota.

If you’re finding yourself using a lot of the words on the banished list, for example, random, sweet, and X is the new Y (oddly, not a word but on the banished words list), you might want to check out Flocabulary to help you pump up your own wordsmithing skills.

According to their own website, “Flocabulary uses the educational power of hip-hop music to foster literacy and promote academic success in the classroom and beyond.” And not only can you increase your vocabulary, you can also study U.S. history and Shakespeare. Check out this sample from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

That’s me, the P U C to the K,
I’ll teach you that life is just a game we play.
I’ll steal your TV, sell it back on eBay,
I’m too fast. Catch me? You better press replay.
I’m the mischief maker, the summertime shaker,
I take your top, then drop the top real later.
I mess with humans, because I hate your rules.
Only days I like are Halloween and April fools.
Think you’re cool?
I’ll switch your Bud Light with O’Doul’s . . .

It’s just a perfect storm of vocabulary skills building and hip hop. Sweet.


Prospero año nuevo, everyone!



  1. The list makes my ears bleed!

    Take those words out of 2007 conversations and you’d have a lot of gaps. In order of annoyance / uselessness, I’d go with:
    1. “It is what it is.”
    2. “Random”
    3. “Webinar”

    “Waterboarding” has a very specific meaning. I think Lake Superior State University could use some human rights training.

    Comment by helen's dad — January 2, 2008 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

  2. Happy New Year, MRP & Helen’s Dad.

    When I saw this post I thought, that’s crazy to ban random and sweet they are useful words. Then I read the link and found it was the incorrect usage of the words they were banning. ::light dawns::

    I’d like to ban the word “grazing” when referring to people eating many small meals or snacking.

    Comment by Molie — January 2, 2008 @ 5:21 pm | Reply

  3. I’d have to agree with you, Helen’s Dad. Although there were a couple on the list I’d quibble on (for instance, “pop” seems to be used a great deal and to good effect around MRP’s workplace), I didn’t get waterboarding. It seemed to me that the person who nominated that one must not really understand it’s meaning. I’m not sure I remember the last time waterboarding was used in casual conversation.

    As for sweet and random, I did a double take cause being of a certain age (ahem) I can’t believe those words are still around! I had to check that it wasn’t List of Banished Words from Fast Times at Ridgemont High or something.

    Comment by mightyredpen — January 2, 2008 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

  4. I actually like the word “sweet” when people mean, “that’s really neat/wonderful/great.”

    Not overused,and not in formal contexts (so therefore not in my magazine), but in conversation now and then, it’s OK.

    In fact, my favorite use of it happened at my son’s bday party: Young Roland was grabbing candy from the piñata off the floor and stopped to read the label. He exclaimed, “Extreme Sour Smarties?! Sweet!”

    I almost fell over, I was laughing so hard. Of course, he didn’t get it.

    And I’ve heard people use “random” well slangily–not to mean “great,” but to mean “that’s a nonsequiter” or “that’s off topic” or even “that’s not particularly logical.”

    My kitchen contractor said “it is what it is” all the time, and I came to see it as useful (especially in his profession)–he meant “things are this way, and there’s not a lot of sense spending time talking about how we wish they were different. Accept reality, and start moving forward.” Again, used judiciously, it’s OK. I haven’t really heard people use it much, though.

    “Webinar” makes me want to shoot someone. Or delete them w/ a red pen.

    Comment by TootsNYC — January 3, 2008 @ 9:42 am | Reply

  5. Yeah, what it is about webinar?! There’s just something weird about that word.

    I actually used to really like the expression “it is what it is” until I realized how much people use it to sort of relieve themselves of responsibility, like “it’s out of my hands.”

    Comment by mightyredpen — January 3, 2008 @ 8:43 pm | Reply

  6. This just makes me laugh, and yet it’s a damn fine idea.

    Using hip hop as a teaching tool for English.

    Go take a look at Flocabulary
    The piece that actually left me chuckling on this snowy wet morning was this. A Hip hopped up Cliffs Notes version of Romeo and Juliet.
    I love the idea – speaking to kids usi…

    Trackback by Blind, Not Dumb — January 14, 2008 @ 11:27 am | Reply

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