The folks at Lake Superior State University in Michigan just released their recommendation for words and phrases that should be erased from our vocabulary in its annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.
Why Lake Superior State? And why the list? Well, for one thing, they don’t have a football team which gives them a lot of time to think about stuff like this. I wish Lake Superior State did have a football team and maybe Georgia could have played it in the Outback Bowl instead of that other school from Michigan, which doesn’t have list of overused words but did have a very good quarterback.
I also think because it snows a lot in Michigan, people get bored and to keep their brains from freezing they get together and try to think up clever things, like buzzwords they think have outlived their usefulness. Trivial, perhaps, but at least it beats ice fishing.
Even though it doesn’t snow much in Georgia, I think our football team’s brain froze in the Outback Bowl. We kept running the ball into the middle of Michigan State’s line even though we have a great passer and no running attack. Our runners kept getting stuffed like a deviled egg and still we kept running up the middle. At that point, instead of having an interest in doing away with words and phrases, I was inventing them, such as: “Throw the @#$%&* football!” and “If Isaiah Crowell is the next Herschel Walker, then Donny Osmond is the next Eminem.”
Most of the words that the folks at Lake Superior State don’t like are yuppie terms, like “shared sacrifice,” “blowback” and “the new normal.” I am glad these terms are out of favor because that means we will have to endure yuppies screaming fewer words while on their cell phones. I think yuppies scream a lot to attract attention and show us how “important” they are. I know several important people. None of them scream.
I guess I can’t be too self-righteous about banning overused yuppie terms. When I was growing up in the telephone business, we used to speak a lot of corporate jargon that wasn’t exactly in the mainstream. The bigger the word, the more important we felt.
For example, we used to talk a lot about “fungibility” in management meetings. I had no idea what it meant. I thought maybe it was a top secret project in which we were planning to grow mushrooms on a telephone, but I saw that when somebody said it, everybody got very serious. I did, too. I would look at a colleague and say something like, “This fungibility issue is the pits.” My colleague would nod gravely and say, “You got that right.” I wasn’t sure if he knew what fungibility meant, either, but I always felt like part of the team when I said it.
Another favorite of ours was “throughput.” If you had “input” into something and that generated “output,” there had to be “throughput.” No way can you get from input to output without throughput. I’ve tried it. Can’t be done.
After I retired, I understand that management began referring to employees as “associates.” Alas, many associates were “downsized,” which is another way of saying they lost their job and it probably didn’t make them feel any better than when they were called “employees.” BellSouth has been sucked up into Southwestern Bell and the whole thing is now called “the new ATT.” I don’t know many people in the new company but I suspect there are a lot of yuppies running around screaming in their cell phones that, “Our associates believe that fungibility is now the new normal. Be careful of the blowback. Now, who’s for a tofu salad?”
That is why I enjoy writing this column. I don’t have to use big, complicated words anymore. My policy is to make myself easily understood. I stick to simple words like “dumb” and stupid.”
There is one term the Lake Superior State experts think should be jettisoned and that is “win the future.” I will have to respectfully disagree with them on that. I think that term still has great relevance for all Bulldog fans. I believe that after watching the Outback Bowl, all would agree that if we are to win the future, we are going to have to throw the @#$%&* football more. To do otherwise would be dumb and stupid.
You can reach Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Ga., 31139.