DETROIT — From wardrobe malfunctions to erectile dysfunction, it’s been a tough year all around for the guardians of English — language purists from blue, red and battleground states who long to say “You’re fired!” to offensive words and phrases.
More than 2,000 nominations arrived in Michigan’s far north, where a committee at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie released its 2005 compilation of language irritants Friday.
Among the 22 expressions on the “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness” are “blog,” “sale event,” “body wash” and “zero percent APR financing.”
“We’re uber-serious about this list,” said committee organizer Tom Pink, referring to the German prefix meaning “over” or “super” that increasingly finds its way into English.
Group members act as “linguistic sounding boards,” said John Shibley, co-compiler of the list.
“People talk back to their TVs, radios, computers, etc., when words and phrases make them angry or frustrated,” he said. “Diminishing ‘word-rage’ makes the world a more peaceful place.”
Now in its 30th year, the banned word list has drawn imitators and critics. Among the latter are members of the American Dialect Society, who choose their “Words of the Year” at a Jan. 7 annual meeting in Oakland, Calif. Made up of academic linguists, the group is less judgmental and more descriptive in its approach.
Many words appear on both lists.
“Language changes, and you cannot stop it. It’s just like any other part of human culture,” said Wayne Glowka, an English professor at Georgia College & State University who heads the American Dialect Society’s new word committee.
Shibley said the Lake Superior State group compiles the list in the spirit of fun, and going through old lists can be “like coming across a lost script from an Austin Powers movie.”
Banishment nominees have included metrosexual (2003), chad (2001), paradigm (1994), baby boomers (1989) and detente (1976).
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The Nov. 2 election produced a host of proposed bannings for 2005, including “blue (Democratic) and red (Republican) states,” “battleground states,” “flip-flop” and the political ad tag line “.... and I approve this message.”
Sex also was on the minds of committee members, who targeted the impotence synonym “erectile dysfunction” from Viagra and Levitra ads and “wardrobe malfunction,” used to describe the baring of singer Janet Jackson’s right breast at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.
“It wasn’t the wardrobe’s fault!” wrote contributor Jane Starr of Edmonton, Alberta.
Donald Trump’s phrase “You’re fired!” from his TV show “The Apprentice” deserves a ban, if nothing else so that imitators avoid a possible trademark infringement, the committee said.
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