Polar Vortex of 2015's Cray-Cray Banished Words

12/31/2014 08:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

As always, as we usher out the old year, our thoughts and browsers turn to the Lake Superior State University in beautiful Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan to see the newly-posted banished words list (the 40th anniversary list!). So I invite all "wordies" (oh, I'm a-gonna get some grief for that) to join in the fun!

Here is the full list of banished words for 2015:

Bae

Polar vortex

Hack

Skill Set

Swag

Foodie

Curate / Curated

Friend-raising

Cra-cra (cray-cray)

Enhanced interrogation

Takeaway

[...] -Nation (sports)

I have to admit, this year's list made me feel my age a bit, since there were several terms on the list that I either just flat-out didn't recognize or that I had to read the definitions for, in order to understand what they were talking about.

Take "bae" for instance. I'd seen it hovering around online, but never bothered to figure out that it means "before anyone else." Or "swag," which now is apparently a catchall word for what folks used to call "cool." To which, I can only say: "Groovy, man."

To put it a different way: "Dang these kids today." Anyway, as usual the comments from people proposing words for the banished list were pretty amusing at times:

[Bae] -- "It's overused. I heard someone refer to their ramen noodles as 'bae'! If I was putting someone 'before anything else,' I would respect them enough to use their name."

"The most annoying term of affection to show up in years. Also, the concept 'before anybody else,' developed AFTER the word became popular. Reason enough for it to be banned."

[Polar vortex] -- "Wasn't it called 'winter' just a few years ago?"

"What happened to 'cold snap'? Not descriptive enough?"

[Hack] -- "I just received an e-mail for a book called 'Marriage Hacks.' I have seen articles about life hacks, home improvement hacks, car hacks, furniture hacks, painting hacks, work hacks and pretty much any other hack you can think of. There are probably even hacking hacks."

[Skill set] -- "A skill is a skill -- that is it. Phrases such as 'I have the skill set to do that properly' or anything resembling that phrase, shows the speaker is seriously lacking skills in the art of conversation. Please try this, 'I have the skill... do you have the skills... this requires certain skills... he is very skilled... that was a skillful maneuver... See? No need for a skill set."

[Swag] -- "The word 'swag' has become a shapeless, meaningless word used in various forms (such as 'swaggy') but with no real depth."

"Whether it's a 'free gift' (banished in 1988) or droopy clothing, this word is neither useful nor fancy."

[Foodie] -- "It's ridiculous. Do we call people who like wine 'winies' or beer lovers 'beeries'?"

"Someone who enjoys food' applies to everyone on Earth. What's next? 'Oh, I'm an airie; I just love to breathe.' 'Could we do it at 11, instead? I'm kind of a sleepie.'"

[Curate / Curated] -- "It used to have a special significance reserved mainly for fine art and museums. Now everything is curated. Monthly food and clothing subscription boxes claim to be finely 'curated.' Instead of abusing curated, why don't they say what they really mean: 'We did an online search and posted the first 25 items we found' or the 'curated selection of items in your box this month are a mix of paid placements and products that have failed to sell elsewhere.'"

[Takeaway] -- "It's used all too frequently on news programs, as in, 'What is your 'takeaway' on a given situation.' 'What is our 'takeaway' on Congress' vote?' 'Is there any 'takeaway' on the recent riots?' I have heard Jon Stewart use it. I've heard Charlie Rose use it, as well as countless numbers of news talking heads, usually for all the wrong reasons. For me, a takeaway is a sports term, where one team is controlling the ball (or puck) and the other steals it, or took it away - a 'takeaway.' In the U.K., 'takeaway' food is known as 'to go' here in the Colonies."

[-Nation] -- "Although a devout Wisconsin sports fan, I do not belong to Packer-Nation, Badger-Nation, Phoenix-Nation, or Brewer-Nation. Further, I am not aware of any team or mascot that has the carrying capacity to be a nation."

To which I'd like to add a few personal observations. "Polar vortex" is really the continuation of two trends. The first is the rediscovery by the national news organizations of "weather." Used to be, national news would ignore most weather events that were purely local in nature, even big events where a few people died. This is no longer the case, and every single weather disruption gets top billing nowadays (mostly because they all have dramatic videos to show the folks at home). The secondary trend -- and this is my own theory -- was when the East Coast got jealous, about 15 or 20 years ago, with the "El Niño" and "La Niña" weather patterns in California and the Pacific Ocean. The East Coast had blizzards, floods, storms, and other outdoor calamities, but the Left Coast was so hip they had cool names for weather trends. Obviously, they've been trying to catch up ever since. But maybe that's just me....

One footnote on "swag," in its original banished meaning (free stuff): being of Germanic ancestry, I've always used either the pronunciation "shwag" (or even "schwag") because it sounds better to my ears. This has nothing to do with anything, I fully admit, but I thought I'd toss it out there for discussion. Also up for pedantic pondering: I've always seen "cray-cray" written with trailing Y's. It just looks better that way, at least to me. But then again, I am not a hip young user of social media, so what do I know?

"Foodie" has long irritated me, just because it sounds so downright silly. Haven't noticed the rise of "curated" or "friend-raising" (shudder), which seems to be the practice of hitting up your pals for dough. "Takeaway" never really bugged me, but I can see how it could be considered annoying.

On a more serious note, I think we can all agree that 2014 was the year that "enhanced interrogation" was fully de-euphemized back into the easier-to-understand "torture."

And lastly, before I cram these all into a final paragraph, I lay the blame for "-nation" at the feet of New England fans. The first time I ever heard the term was in reference to the Boston Red Sox, and it is indicative of a peculiar delusion of this region's fans -- many of whom are confidently convinced that their team is equally beloved by everyone across this great land. Kind of like the delusion the Dallas Cowboys fans went through back in the 1970s, when they all wanted everyone to use "America's Team" to describe their local favorites. This is nothing more than thinly-disguised sports arrogance, folks. It now seems to be spreading beyond New England (to be fair, some Californians have used "Raiders Nation" for a long time, too), and I agree it should be banished. You love your team. We get it. But not everyone does -- and you cannot claim nationhood, unless you want to look silly. Get over it.

In fact, since I'm on a roll, I think I'll just end with the sports theme for our big finish.

I, of course, expect everyone in America to now consider themselves part of Giants Nation, after their stunning World Series win this year. Our bae Madison Bumgarner certainly showed everyone what a swag pitcher is capable of, with a skill set no other pitcher can match. I mean, was his nine-inning performance cray-cray, or what? The takeaway was, of course, that everyone else in America got the chance to become a San Francisco baseball fan this year. All of whom are invited to come to the city by the Bay (even if they have to friend-raise the money for the trip) to see a game and check out the Giants ballpark -- the best in the league as well, with concessions even foodies rave about! OK, I fully admit that, football-wise, San Francisco is in dire need of some life hacks, or perhaps a curated list of 25 available head coaches to fill Jim Harbaugh's departing shoes. But it's not like Harbaugh is going to face any enhanced interrogation techniques to divulge his coaching secrets in his new gig at the University of Michigan or anything -- although he might have to get used to a polar vortex or two. And no matter how much you use and abuse language (and no matter which sports teams your hearts and passports belong to), we'd like to wish everyone a very happy new year!

 

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