DETROIT -- Spoiler alert: This story contains words and phrases that some people want to ban from the English language. "Spoiler alert" is among them. So are "kick the can down the road," "trending" and "bucket list."
A dirty dozen have landed on the 38th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. The nonbinding, tongue-in-cheek decree released Monday by northern Michigan's Lake Superior State University is based on nominations submitted from the United States, Canada and beyond.
"Spoiler alert," the seemingly thoughtful way to warn readers or viewers about looming references to a key plot point in a film or TV show, nevertheless passed its use-by date for many, including Joseph Foly, of Fremont, Calif. He argued in his submission the phrase is "used as an obnoxious way to show one has trivial information and is about to use it, no matter what."
At the risk of further offense, here's another spoiler alert: The phrase receiving the most nominations this year is "fiscal cliff," banished because of its overuse by media outlets when describing across-the-board federal tax increases and spending cuts that economists say could harm the economy in the new year without congressional action.
"You can't turn on the news without hearing this," said Christopher Loiselle, of Midland, Mich., in his submission. "I'm equally worried about the River of Debt and Mountain of Despair."
Other terms coming in for a literary lashing are "superfood," "guru," "job creators" and "double down."
University spokesman Tom Pink said that in nearly four decades, the Sault Ste. Marie school has "banished" around 900 words or phrases, and somehow the whole idea has survived rapidly advancing technology and diminishing attention spans.
Nominations used to come by mail, then fax and via the school's website, he said. Now most come through the university's Facebook page. That's fitting, since social media has helped accelerate the life cycle of certain words and phrases, such as this year's entry "YOLO" – "you only live once."
"The list surprises me in one way or another every year, and the same way every year: I'm always surprised how people still like it, love it," he said.
Rounding out the list are "job creators/creation," "boneless wings" and "passion/passionate." Those who nominated the last one say they are tired of hearing about a company's "passion" as a substitute for providing a service or product for money.
Andrew Foyle, of Bristol, England, said it's reached the point where "passion" is the only ingredient that keeps a chef from preparing "seared tuna" that tastes "like dust swept from a station platform."
"Apparently, it's insufficient to do it ably, with skill, commitment or finesse," Foyle said. "Passionate, begone!"
As usual, the etymological exercise – or exorcise – only goes so far. Past lists haven't eradicated "viral," "amazing," "LOL" or "man cave" from everyday use.
Also on HuffPost:
While it never wins or loses the election on its own, having a simple slogan that defines the campaign can mean a lot, particularly with undecided voters. So, in the best case scenario, it shouldn’t be totally stupid. Here, in no particular order, are the 20 dumbest American Presidential campaign slogans of all time.
2012 Mitt Romney: Believe In America
“Believe in America?” This country may be going through a rough patch right now, but does anyone doubt it exists?
2008 Barack Obama: Change We Can Believe In
This slogan was right on, except it turns out he was talking about loose change, which is all we have to live on.
1884 James Blaine: Ma, Ma, Where’s My Pa (Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha)
In 1884, Republicans nominated former Speaker of the House James G. Blaine for President against Democrat Grover Cleveland, who reportedly fathered an illegitimate child. Republicans started the mocking chant “Ma Ma Where’s My Pa,” because what better way to win an election than to sound like screaming children? When Cleveland won the White House, his supporters added the rejoinder “Gone to the White House, ha ha ha” which, in the 19th century, qualified as a pretty major burn.
2000 George W. Bush: Real Plans For Real People
So what is your opponent offering? Fake plans for fictional people? Real plans for fake people? Fake plans for real people?
1920 Warren G. Harding: Cox And Cocktails
Warren Harding was running against James Cox, who opposed Prohibition. While this is terrible slogan for a Presidential campaign, it’d be a pretty good one for a Sex And The City movie.
1976 Jimmy Carter: Not Just Peanuts
This slogan referred to the fact that after being discharged from the Navy in the 1950′s, Jimmy Carter took over his family peanut farm and ran it quite successfully. He won the Presidency, defeating Gerald Ford in 1976. Still, four years later, he would learn the power of a truly great political campaign slogan when Ronald Reagan uttered the words: “It’s morning again in America.”
1940 Wendell Willkie: Roosevelt for Ex-President
Current politicians rarely mention opponents by name because they don’t want to give them free publicity. Here’s a tip: If you are running for President, you probably shouldn’t have a slogan featuring the other guy’s name, and the word “President.”
1992 Ross Perot: Ross For Boss
Do you get the sense this was produced by the candidate in about four seconds? “How about Ross For Boss?” Perfect, let’s DO THIS.
1952 Dwight Eisenhower: I Like Ike
Some people say this is the best political campaign slogan ever, but we think it’s a little meh. Oh, you “like” the guy? Isn’t that weak tea for the guy who just kicked Hitler’s ass for you?
1996 Bill Clinton: Building A Bridge to the 21st Century
Wait, so if George H. W. Bush had been re-elected in 1992, does that mean America would have just stood at the dock, unable to cross into the year 2000? This is a slogan that means nothing. Of course Seinfeld was the most popular show on TV back then, so “nothing” was kind of in.
1916 Woodrow Wilson: He Kept Us Out Of War
This is one of those “hindsight is 20-20″ deals, but HE GOT US INTO WORLD WAR ONE.
1964 Barry Goldwater: In Your Heart, You Know He’s Right
The grandfather of modern conservatism used this slogan in an unsuccessful Presidential run against Lyndon Johnson and was defeated in one of the largest landslides in history. Johnson supporters twisted the words of Goldwater’s slogan against him, altering it to read “In Your Guts, You Know He’s Nuts.”
2008 John McCain: Country First
This isn’t such a bad slogan, especially considering McCain’s admirable war record and the relative inexperience of his opponent, Barack Obama. But after McCain’s “Hail Mary pass” of selecting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, the slogan seemed to many voters to be at odds with McCain’s actions.
1900 William McKinley: A Full Dinner Pail
While we appreciate that it’s full, if your idea of success involves a family eating dinner out of a pail, we are not going to vote for you.
2004 John Kerry: Let America Be America Again
Were there really people out there who didn’t think America was America? What did they think it was? China? Mexico? They certainly didn’t think it was Canada, because 2004 was the year they cancelled the hockey season.
1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt: Sunflowers Die in November
This was the slogan that FDR used against his opponent, Alf Landon, who was from Kansas. As EVERYONE KNOWS, the official state flower of Kansas is the sunflower, and election day is in November. Despite this terrible, “bad-poetry-as-political-attack” campaign slogan, Roosevelt still carried the election, possibly because nobody wanted a President named Alf.
1936 Alf Landon: Let’s Make It a Landon-Slide
Oh, maybe that’s why FDR’s terrible “Sunflowers die in November” slogan worked: his opponent’s pun was even worse. A “Landon-Slide?”Oh, brother. We bet he got a real “Alf-A-Lanche” of votes from that one.
2008 Hillary Clinton: The Strength and Experience to Bring Real Change
This slogan sums up exactly what was wrong with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Obama inspired a nation with his call for “change”; Hillary responded by using a long-winded copycat version of that message, which inspired a grand total of no one.
1940 Wendell Willkie: Washington Wouldn’t, Grant Couldn’t, Roosevelt Shouldn’t
This was the slogan that Wendell Wilkie used to remind voters that previous Presidents either wouldn’t or couldn’t run for a third term as President, something that Roosevelt was doing. Unfortunately, it sounds more like a history class than a campaign slogan.
2012 Barack Obama: Forward
While moving forward is admirable, if we hear a guy yell “Forward,” it sounds like he’d prefer we not look back, at say, his record.