'Problematic,' 'So,' ' secret sauce' among list of overused words

'Problematic,' 'So,' ' secret sauce' among list of overused words


DETROIT (AP) — So a university has decided, without holding a presser, that about a dozen words and phrases are problematic and should be banned from everyday use — and there are no plans to walk it back even if the announcement breaks the Internet.

Still, everyone can be a stakeholder and join the conversation.

Northern Michigan’s Lake Superior State University on Thursday released its 41st annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.

The tongue-in-cheek wish-list of sorts includes starting an answer with the word “So,” ”presser” instead of press conference, “problematic,” ”walk it back” and “break the Internet.” Others are “stakeholder,” ”join the conversation,” ”physicality,” ”price point,” ”manspreading,” ”giving me life” and “vape,” describing the act of “smoking” e-cigarettes.

There’s no “secret sauce” — that rounds out this year’s list — for inclusion: It’s based on nominations submitted by stakeholders, er, members of the public to the Sault Ste. Marie school.

“(It’s) usually used in a sentence explaining the ‘secret’ in excruciating public detail,” John Beckett of Ann Arbor, Michigan, wrote in his nomination to ban “secret sauce.” ”Is this a metaphor for business based on the fast-food industry?”

As for “So,” it has the distinction of getting the most nominations and making the Banished Words list twice — but for different reasons. This year, people find starting a reply with it to be overused, meaningless and affected. In 1999, those nominating it griped about its incessant use as a modifier, as in, “I am so down with this list.”

Some linguists and word watchers say starting an answer with “So” flowered in academia, particularly among those in the fields of science, technology and engineering. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has used it, giving it pop culture currency.

“Currently, it is being overused as the first word in the answer to ANY question,” wrote Bob Forrest of Tempe, Arizona. “For instance, ‘How did you learn to play the piano?’ Answer: ‘So my dad was in a classical music club.'”

University spokesman and list overseer Tom Pink said he and his colleagues were surprised by a lack of political terms, but they expect to see some in 2016, a presidential election year.

He noted that an increasing number of nominations come without explanations.

That, he said, could have something to do with the rapid-fire, abbreviated means by which we communicate in the digital age.

“Getting worse in recent years, probably bcuz people are typing from their phones!” Pink wrote in an email, which he sent from his phone.

Lest anybody get the wrong idea about Michigan schools only calling for word bans — even humorously — Detroit’s Wayne State University offers an antidote: Its newer Word Warriors campaign boasts of “bringing back great words” that have fallen out of favor. Past words the university wants people to use more include “caterwaul,” ”rapscallion” and “flapdoodle.”


Follow Jeff Karoub on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jeffkaroub . His work can be found at http://bit.ly/1N7ImDc .

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