Another year means another Banished Words List from the Lake Superior State University. I’m only too happy to rid ‘webinar’, ‘carbs’ and ‘blog’ (as opposed to ‘weblog’) from my vocabulary, but what worries me about these lists is all those dead words, with nothing suggested to take their place and carry on The Natural Evolution of Language. At the same time, there are other modern phenomena which deserve words of their own. Shouldn’t words be created to encapsulate their definitions? Of course they should. Definitions like:
- (adverb) A way of complaining about an event or happening in such a way as to draw maximum possible attention, publicity and/or popularity to the event itself. The phenomenon caused by this behaviour is currently known as the ‘St Tibulus effect’, but that may have to change.
- (noun/compound noun) A name for the sorts of items that you’re never sure whether they’re good value or not, and so are quite willing to pay anything between £1 and £5 for them. Examples: candles, wrapping paper.
- (adjective) A description of the mild feeling of disappointment caused by tuning in to I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and finding it’s ended its run and has been replaced by Just a Minute.
- (superlative adjective) A description of the black, icy feeling of doom caused by tuning in to I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and finding it’s been replaced by Quote Unquote.
- (noun/compound noun) A name for the generic description of smells found on toiletries, specific enough to let the manufacturers colour their wares a certain colour, but not so specific as to stop them being able to create the fragrance from any old chemicals they find lying around. Examples: Sea Fresh (blue), Herbal Green (green).
- (noun/compound noun) A name for the type of graphic found around fire exits and extinguishers, designed to be understandable by speakers of any language, but which turns out to be equally incomprehensible for all. These invariably consist of a person (or persons) and an arrow, artfully combined by someone who spent three years at design school learning how to instil the right level of bafflement in people that could be running for their lives.
- (adverb) A way of holding a conversation such as to reveal the minimum possible amount of information about yourself, your activities or your opinions, but get as much detail of the other party’s life out of them. (“…and so we went to Scarborough.” “Oh, so you went to Scarborough last summer?” “Yeah, we did. It was good, because…”) This technique is also used by bad writers of bad soap operas, in those scenes that ‘move the plot along’.
- (noun/compound noun) The protocol, possibly unique to men’s toilets, where if there are less hand dryers than people waiting to use them, the person at the front of the queue must always be seen to leave the room with his hands dripping, and only those at the back of the queue can be allowed to go through the full drying cycle.
- (adverb) The way in which hands are washed as meticulously as possible in such cases, in order to avoid at all costs having to be at the front of the queue. This obviously does not occur if there are fewer sinks than people waiting to use them, in which case an analogous situation to the previous definition applies.
- (adjective) A word to describe a person that, on being faced with two parallel queues, decides to stand in the middle of them, making it impossible to join any queue with any degree of confidence.
- (noun/compound noun) A weblog entry that promises much, but which turns out to be nothing more than a lame, if unwitting, rip-off of something done much better over twenty years ago.
(I haven’t bothered to think of words to match these definitions, of course – that’s your job…)