Some days, the English language is a malleable, ever-changing tapestry. Other days, it's an industrial strength doormat that people wipe their muddy boots on.
Every year, someone — usually someone in the media — coins a term, and it gets overused until people start threatening physical harm to anyone who uses it in their presence.
It's why I love my job.
Because as a writer, December 31st is my Christmas.
This is the 39th year Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan has released their List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.
It's the day I sit at my computer, humming "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year," seeing if any words I love to hate made the list. Not that I actually expect people to quit using them. I just feel morally justified when the offensive words are targeted for extermination.
This year, there were plenty of banned words for me to cheer, a few to feel bad for, and a couple that I thought were perfectly acceptable. In a few cases, people had a bigger problem with the behavior than the actual word.
"Selfie" is one of those words; it received the most nominations by word curmudgeons, and similar reasons for hating it.
"It's a lame word. It's all about me, me, me. Put the smartphone away. Nobody cares about you," said David of Lake Mills, Wisc.
David's less-than-charitable view of people seemed to be the prevailing one. Most people hate the word "selfie" because it's usually Millennials taking pictures of themselves making duck lips. Or disgustingly fit people taking pictures of their washboard abs in the hopes that a stranger will punch them in the head.
Not that I'm bitter or anything.
"Twerking" was number two, thanks to Miley Cyrus' Video Music Awards performance last August. I hate it so much, I won't add it to my word processor's user dictionary. It even made the Oxford Dictionary last year, which just goes to show you those British snobs don't know everything.
It also shows how powerful social media is, thanks to everyone complaining about her performance: in just four short months, Miley "The Tongue" Cyrus managed to twerk her way into the number two slot, falling to a word that's actually been around for a couple years.
I'm surprised "hashtag" took so long to make the list, coming in at number three, because it's been around since 2007. But like most things technological, the curmudgeons take a while to catch up with the rest of us.
I don't think it should be on the list. It's a valid word. Another word for pound sign, number sign, or tic-tac-toe sign. It's just a different word; you're only hearing it more because Twitter is growing in popularity. By growing in popularity, I mean your local insurance agent just discovered it and is sending out messages, even though no one is following him.
The other reason you're hearing it more is because some people have taken to speaking the actual word. It's actually not supposed to be used conversationally. It's usually only encountered in written form, in combination with several words mashed together — #ErikIsAwesome. But some people have started saying the actual word out loud.
People who post "selfies" on Twitter and Facebook.
And now I hate the word too.
The "Twittersphere" is the place where "hashtag" is used, but people are tired of that one too — non-Twitter users, of course. But it's a better alternative than the Tworld Twide Tweb. Admittedly, the practice of making Twitter words — taking "Tw" and sticking it on another word — is a little twiresome, but just twettle down, twammit! It's not like it's the end of the world.
It's not Twarmageddon.
Because now we're not allowed to add "–ageddon" or "–pocalypse" to the ends of words to convey a sense of catastrophe.
People may hate it, and it may be twupid, but this is where we need to not blame the word, and instead look at why it's used that way.
It began when news stations took their weather reports from the Book of Revelation, making every storm sound like the Trumpet of Doom heralding the end of the world. When news stations started naming blizzards to get people to watch their over-sensationalized weather reports, Twittersphere started to make fun of them. We came up with Snow-pocalyse, Snowmageddeon, or my personal favorite, SNOWMYGOD! to demonstrate how silly it was.
When meteorologists stop sensationalizing every flurry and drizzle, we'll stop using these cataclysmic terms. Until then, we're going to keep using them proudly.
The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My latest book, The Owned Media Doctrine is now available on Amazon.com
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