Yeet! List says ban 'optics', 'thought leader', 'collusion'

2018-12-31 19:48
Some of the 18 chosen from public submissions include "in the books", "grapple", "optics", and "OTUS family of acronyms" such as POTUS for the President of the United States. (Alex Brandon, AP)

Some of the 18 chosen from public submissions include "in the books", "grapple", "optics", and "OTUS family of acronyms" such as POTUS for the President of the United States. (Alex Brandon, AP)

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Northern Michigan's Lake Superior State University on Monday released its 44th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

The politically charged term – no collusion – at the centre of special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation into whether US President Donald Trump's campaign coordinated with Russia is among 18 entries on Lake Superior State University's 44th annual list.

University spokesperson John Shibley said the school received about 3 000 votes through its website and Facebook pages. Although Trump has repeatedly tweeted that there was "no collusion" and "collusion" was among the top-three vote-getters – along with "wheelhouse and "in the books" – its inclusion should not be interpreted as a political statement by the list-makers. Rather, voters apparently were just irritated by hearing and reading the word so often in the past year, he said.

"I can usually read a political nomination when I see it," he said. "If I saw a string of trolls trying to pack the ballot box for political reasons, I would have caught it."

The other words or expressions to make the list are "wrap my head around", "grapple", "optics," "eschew" and "thought leader". Also submitted by the public for the pyre of popular parlance: "platform", "ghosting", "yeet", "litigate", "crusty", "legally drunk", "importantly" and "accoutrements".

Two other political entries also made it: "Most important election of our time" and "OTUS" acronyms such as POTUS – for President of the United States. The acronyms that have found their way onto cable news shows date back to the late 19th century, when POTUS and SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) were used as telegraph codes, according to Merriam-Webster. FLOTUS, for the first lady, first appeared in the 1980s.

Among the newest terms – yet one the curators feel has outlived its usefulness – is "yeet", which variously refers to the name of a dance, a taunt, an excited acknowledgement or throwing something. Other words are commonly known in one setting, such as "litigate" among lawyers, but get trotted out by some politicians and pundits for hashing out "any matter of controversy", according to one submission.

A fun list

The list is meant to be in fun, but it's bound to raise some hackles.

There was a "whiff" of legal concern back in 1994, when officials from the Los Angeles Lakers objected to the list's inclusion of "three-peat", Shibley said. The team's coach at the time, Hall of Famer Pat Riley, owned the trademark. Eventually, the team officials dropped their objections after determining that its inclusion on the list wasn't "commercially flagrant".

Some members of the public were upset at the 2002 inclusion of "9-11", which received thousands of votes for banishment, Shibley said. It was deemed by nominators as "too much (of) a shorthand" for the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but people misunderstood and thought the school was "thumbing our noses at 9/11", he said.

Shibley said that with the rise of social media and ever-more-divisive politics, people have even "shorter fuses", which means he and his colleagues tread carefully. After all, the aim of the list isn't to inflame but to entertain.

"Hopefully (it) helps diffuse some of the animus out there – not by laughing at ourselves, but by laughing at how language sometimes backs us into some absurdly funny corners," he said.

There's no overlap between this year's list and 2018 word-of-the-year pronouncements by Merriam-Webster ("justice") and Oxford Dictionaries ("toxic"). Still, the Michigan school did ban "toxic assets" in 2010 and "bring them to justice" or "bring the evil-doers to justice" in 2010.

Another Michigan school takes the opposite approach: Detroit's Wayne State University attempts through its Word Warriors campaign to exhume worthy words that have fallen out of favour. This year's list included "couth", "compunction", and "nugatory", which doesn't describe the creamy candy confection known as nougat but means "no value or importance".

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