LEARNING TO LIVE IN A NEW VOCABULARY
It’s that time of year to report on the list selected for 2015 of “Words Banished from the Queens English for Mis-use, Over-use or General Uselessness.” Every year the Lake Superior State University designates the words in the contemporary language that we could do without. Usually these words come from the social media network and are sometimes a concocted word finding favor among the younger generations, such as “hash tags.”
This year the type of banished words is not as familiar as in prior years like “selfie” in 2013. At the top of the list is the word “so” frequently used to begin a sentence. According to the University, the word serves no purpose in the sentence and is commonly used in news channel broadcasting.
Another banished word is “bae” which was entirely foreign to me, driving me to my thesaurus for a definition. The short answer is a word of endearment, often referring to a boyfriend or girlfriend. However the word is taken on a wider meaning in today’s vernacular as a label for something that is cool, as in “This sandwich is bae.”
Also in the mix were the words problematic and conversation, for reasons that I am not able to decipher. Another one on the list is “foodie” which joins “selfie” and “hoodie” in my list of over-used words.
Sometimes the source of these cast-out words is vague. Mostly they are coined by the media for headlines and appear repeatedly in communications until they acquire a life of their own. It is also presumed that the words are understood by the casual reader. That’s not always the case as I often find myself checking a dictionary or the web to grasp what the reporter is saying.
An old phrase that has been over-used during the recent recession is “sea change.” The archaic definition can be traced to Shakespeare’s 1612 play “The Tempest” when Prospero declared a change had been brought by the sea. The modern use of sea change usually means transformation of public policy. It is also a popular title in literature and music.
Professor Higgins in the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady” claimed that the English language was a thing of beauty if properly spoken. His complaint centered on the Cockney language commonly used by the working class in London. Cockney is still prevalent in stores and pubs where servers take your order after you ask him at least two times what he said.
The spoken word and the use of colloquialisms can still be a problem if the speaker talks too fast, runs the words together and perhaps has an edge of a foreign accent. I find I have to ask a customer service representative to please speak slowly for me to understand his or her telephone explanation.
There’s no doubt that the King’s English is constantly being modified with trendy new expressions. Most of these strange words are related to the digital world with the vast system of communication by texting used in the social networking society. Just by the nature of texting, it is convenient to abbreviate certain words or create a new word that better fits our communications in the world of iPhones, iPads and Facebook.
Here is my advice. Whenever you might be confused about a certain word, just ask your 10-year-old grandchild for an explanation.