Poll: What Word Should Be Banished in 2012?

In this special edition of NewsFeed's Wednesday Words column, our resident vocabulary nut rounds up least-favorite and most-overused words that we might avoid in 2012.

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David McGlynn

Now that the world has finished their lists of all the hottest things, people, words, trends, stories, foods and pretty-much-everything-else for 2011, we look forward to a new year—full of Olympics and elections and fresh polls. During these months, there are certain words and phrases that people won’t want to hear. There are, of course, words that have long induced groans (like, say, chillax), but there are also some particular bugaboos from our past rotation around the sun.

Here are 10 words, phrases and symbols that people want to see banished from our lexicon in 2012:

1. baby bump: Lake Superior State University put together a list of terms they want to hear no more. Among them was baby bump, the phrase used to describe the bellies of women who are just starting to become heavy with child. It’s often used in speculations about which famous ladies might be pregnant or just gaining weight—an exciting prospect for the masses either way.

2. occupy: Yes, occupy was TIME’s own “word of the year” winner, but now the verb has been given its due. After months of non-stop news stories about occupying Wall Street, occupying London and occupying Oakland, many people would like to see this word occupying the back-burner.

3. netizen: This is a term for a citizen of the Web, or less grandly, anyone who spends a lot of time on their computer, probably more than they spend looking at other humans in the flesh. The word has been around for almost three decades, but the likes of the Los Angeles Times were using it as recently as last month. Perhaps it’s time to give it a rest, a little time to get out and make some word-friends.

4. bro- prefix: Oh brother, how the bro-licious terms (which some call brocabulary) have abounded over the past few years. The amount has really been brodonculous. Perhaps the most well-known is bromance, a word describing a close, platonic male friendship (often the result of a mutual man-crush). Usage has been on decline, but 2012 may be the year that it’s wiped off the bro-map altogether.

5. # [the hashtag]: Gizmodo recently published an invective about the hashtag, claiming that the mark used to designate subjects on Twitter was “ruining the English language.” Their argument: Yes, it’s good for finding relevant tweets, but “the colloquial hashtag has burst out of its use as a sorting tool and become a linguistic tumor … that now permeates the internet outside of the tweets it was meant to corral.” #ohsnap

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6. LOL/OMG/WTF: This is a three-fer, including three oft-used acronyms that many feel wore out their welcome years ago, even when used ironically. Is it time to just go ahead and laugh out loud, invoke the Lord’s name and use that curse word? Well, IDK.

7. boss: This noun was the top-pick for an African-American gossip site ironically called Bossip.com. “Ok, ok, ok, we get it. You’re the shot-caller … the flyest, most money-gettin’est playa of ALL the playas,” the editorial staff wrote. A slew of singles with that word in their title, they said, is “running this whole ‘Boss’ thing into the ground.” Perhaps it’s time to circle back to baller. Who else wants to listen to some Lil’ Troy right now?

8. sexting: Sexting, a verb connoting salacious texting between people who should never run for office, was one of many words added to Oxford’s concise dictionary this year. Once slang has become such standard English that it makes it into the dictionary of all dictionaries, that is often a signal that its time for the hep cats to move on. Also, it’s kind of unsettling, particularly when used in endless articles about middle-schoolers getting suspended.

9. crepuscular: This adjective, which describes something that is dim or resembles twilight, was one of the New York Timesmost looked-up words of 2011. Sometimes it’s a good thing to have readers hunting for their dictionaries, but as little-known words go, this one is pretty pretentious and unnecessary. Crepuscular stands in for all such terms that are more likely to confuse conversation than facilitate it—without teaching people a word they can really use.

10. epic: Online personality Maddox has railed against this word, and sets forth his case thusly: “If you have used the word out of context, which means any time since 2008, you should stop whatever it is you’re doing and start plowing fields, because you lack the ability to form language that doesn’t involve mimicking others, and are therefore a cow.” He believes the adjective should be reserved for oceans, long narratives and the cosmos.

So there you have it. The nominees for the rhetorical chopping block. Cast your vote on the right, and we’ll report the winner in next week’s edition of Wednesday Words.

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