Ado Run Run or Much Adieu

Art of Column Writing

By Suzette Martinez Standring
2004-06 President
National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Suzette Martinez Standring

Suzette Standring

It’s much ado about nothing. Or perhaps I should say “adieu.” Time Magazine’s Fourth Annual Word Banishment Poll is all high and mighty about what words to ban in 2015.

Wordsmiths at Time please take note: The primary meaning of “banish” is to send a person away as punishment. Therefore this year’s offending words cannot be deprived of society’s comfort because they have no feelings. I know, one can “banish” the blues, but is the lexicon so limited that Time had to resort to secondary definitions? Also, to “ban” means to forbid something from use or to officially or legally prohibit. Is Time a court with jurisdiction now? Objection: it assumes facts not in evidence. Sorry to be a stickler about accuracy.

That said, the poll indicates words the public is sick and tired from hearing overused or misused. I see Time issued an apology for posting “feminist” on its get-rid list. I chuckle to think of the tsunami of angry responses, forcing that so-called overused word to sear into editors’ eyeballs. That’s right, neither the concept nor we are going away.

The survey was also a crash course in code slang: “turnt” or “om nom nom nom,” words that will cease to be used once people like me are in the know. It’s like when someone from the over-60 set says, “My bad.” (It just lacks street cred, ya know what I’m sayin’?)

This one didn’t make the list but, for me, it’s a cringe factor: using the word “conversating” instead of “conversing.” Why use a high-sounding inaccuracy for a word that is never used regularly anyway? When was the last time you heard, “Yesterday I was conversing with my BFF” much less “conversating” with her?

Language evolves and sometimes to the point where original definitions can be lost, for example, like the phrase, “hook up.” To learn it means having sex was an embarrassing discovery. Years ago I was setting up an appointment with a professor about giving a university workshop and I said, “How about if we hook up at 2?”

Long pause.

He replied, “We can meet at 2,” a pointed emphasis on “meet.”

Oh, please. As if.

Since some innocent phrases have gone double entendre, it makes me wonder how the term “social intercourse” ever went out of vogue? It used to mean deep but non-sexual interaction through music, shared interests, or meaningful conversation, but methinks that is so 1900. Still uncommon, it now it means sexual, attention-getting behavior akin to a “flirtacious whore,” according to the Urban Dictionary, which misspelled flirtatious.

But what do you expect when letters are purposely omitted, thus poll nominees “bae” for babe, and “obvi” for obvious.

I still maintain that it is incorrect for Time to name its survey the “Annual Word Banishment Poll.” Nothing is being banned. Rather it surveys which words readers prefer to ignore. Maybe there should be tally of words commonly misspelled that writers can ignore. Perhaps the Annual Word Ignorance Poll would be more apt.

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Email Suzette Standring: suzmar@comcast.net She is the author of The Art of Column Writing, and her new book is The Art of Opinion Writing. Visit www.readsuzette.com.

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