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Let this sink in: Would a story that unpacks a list of tiresome words and phrases be impactful or a nothingburger? Worse, could it just be fake news?
Northern Michigan's Lake Superior State University on Sunday released its 43rd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. The tongue-in-cheek, non-binding list of 14 words or phrases comes from thousands of suggestions to the Sault Ste. Marie school.
This year's list includes "let me ask you this," ''unpack," ''impactful," ''nothingburger," ''tons," ''dish," ''drill down," ''let that sink in," and the top vote-getter, "fake news."
The others are "pre-owned," ''onboarding/offboarding," ''gig economy" and the redundant "hot water heater." Also on the list is the Trumpian Twitter typo "covfefe."
While the list contains a little political flavor, Lake Superior State spokesman John Shibley said he had expected more given the highly divisive 2016 election and a year of deepening divisions in government and the U.S. electorate.
"It wasn't as focused on politics in a very dirty sense," he said. "Most of the nominations were well thought through ... considering how the year was."
As evidence, he points to "fake news," which garnered between 500 and 600 votes. The phrase has been leveled against entirely fabricated reporting, stories that contain errors or inaccuracies, and those with a critical tone. It has even been wielded as a cudgel against entire news networks. It was also found to be the second most annoying word or phrase used by Americans in an annual Marist College poll, behind "whatever."
"I think a lot of people know fake news when they see it. It can be propaganda, it can be satire," Shibley said. "It's used deliberately to paint a certain story or notion as not being true."
While some words are perennial nominees, others really speak to a particular time and may soon lose relevance. "Covfefe" — which was contained in a fragmented Tweet sent from President Donald Trump's account on May 31 — became shorthand for a social media mistake, Shibley said.
"It's the 'pet rock' of this year's list," Shibley said, referring to the fad product born and banished in the 1970s.