Are you as sick of the “these words should be banned” lists as I am?
As you probably know, Lake Superior State University in Michigan publishes a list of words from the previous year that should be banned and not used in the new year (you can find this year’s list on their website. It’s a tradition that started with the publication of the first list in 1976 and has grown in popularity since. The list consists of words culled and finalized from a list of submissions sent to the university throughout the year. The list is intended to be a list of words that have been so over-used during the previous year that they should instead be banned and never used again. Examples of the words appearing on the 2012 list include “fiscal cliff”, “yolo,”, “spoiler alert”, and “boneless wings”.
Although originally born out of frustration, taken in fun by most, and referenced on innumerable news shows, chat shows, and other medial avenues during the first days of each New Year, the list does have a dark side. That dark side is the notion of “banning” words from the vernacular and who exactly has any right to do that. Obviously this blog post could very easily delve into the “one world government” realm of discussion but that it is not my intent.
However, several recent events have started to ignite this subject in my mind. For example, as mentioned earlier in this blog post, the Lake Superior State University list of banned words has been referenced numerous times in the media already. While some of the hosts have approached the list with bemusement and comment on how overused some of the terms have become, others have presented the list as if it were some official communiqué or pronouncement that must be observed and obeyed.
Not legally binding
The list is not legally binding. Indeed, it is as legally binding as my mother’s shopping list, but it is fascinating to observe the different reactions to the list. It’s not like any police officer is going to arrest me, any court convict me, and any country execute me for using any of these “banned words” but some people are acting as if such actions might occur. Even the seasonal discussion regarding whether someone should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” seemed to have a darker side this year. For example, I was listening to K-Love radio in the background one day recently while working at home and a woman caller made a comment along the lines of “oh, I guess we’re not supposed to say that anymore” immediately after she had wished the radio hosts “Happy Christmas”. Really?!! K-Love radio is a listener-supported Christian radio station that plays contemporary Christian music radio station, and a listener feels that wishing someone in this environment “Happy Christmas” is somehow inappropriate or “not allowed”? Doesn’t the First Amendment of our constitution apply anymore?
Does the name Malala Yousufzai ring any bells for you? It should; she was the 14-year old Pakistani girl that was shot by a Taliban terrorist on her school bus because she the courage to promote the right of women to pursue an education. The juxtaposition of her and the woman caller is interesting; one faced the murderous agent of those that would repress and silence her while the other is afraid of some invisible and informal societal pressure to which she has succumbed.
Tired of the “banned words” list
I’m tired of the “banned words” list already – it has outlived its usefulness and is clearly numbing the population against recognizing and exercising their first amendment rights. If you don’t like the term “fiscal cliff’ or any other term then exercise your first amendment rights to not use it as part of your vocabulary; just keep your hands off my vocabulary.
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