Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Amazing junk

Posted By on 01.04.12 at 02:00 PM

  • Newtown grafitti
Lake Superior State University has released the list of words that respondents to its annual survey are intent to see “banished.” Receiving the largest amount of reader complaints this year? “Amazing,” which one commenter is correct in identifying as a contemporary relative of the 90s staple “awesome”—a hyperbole whose meaning has been vacated by repetition. Said another: “Every talk show uses this word at least two times every five minutes. Hair is not 'amazing.' Shoes are not 'amazing.'” Runners-up include “shared sacrifice,” “occupy,” “blowback.” It’s really been that kind of year, hasn’t it? The shared sacrifice demanded by the Occupy movement has provoked a certain amount of cultural blowback. (Sorry.) Also, “baby bump.”

I think, though, that the best recent curmudgeonly pop-cultural response of this type comes from Ron Rosenbaum, who reviewed the past year's “crop of stupid and annoying catchphrases” for Slate. He skipped over “amazing,” though he did single out the continued use of "awesome," which Rosenbaum thinks is able to "sustain layer upon layer of irony" and mean just about anything, or nothing: "It can mean awesome, in the original, nonironic sense; it can mean meh; and it can express just about any nuance of emotion (or lack thereof) in between."

Rosenbaum divided his disdain into categories, leading with the "loathsome and repellant" genital application of the word “junk,” as in, “Don’t touch my”: “Seriously, though, if you were combing the hundreds of thousands of nouns in the language for a more repulsive, anti-sexual way of describing sex organs—or ‘nature’s blessings,’ as I like to call them (kidding!)—I don’t think you could come up with anything worse.” Rosenbaum’s list, which goes on to pick fights over “squicky,” “going viral,” “trending,” and others, tends toward the dated—none of the aforementioned are anything new—but I suppose that their longevity is what really makes these things irritating.

Related: the most frequently searched word on the Merriam-Webster website last year was “pragmatic,” and the secondmost was “ambivalent.”

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