Monday, December 10, 2012

Having a way with words

From January 8, 2005

A Yooper university makes an annual contribution to the evolution of language. Lake Superior State University, on the far eastern side of the UP in Sault Ste. Marie, releases an annual list of words and phrases that need to be banished.
Known as the “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Overuse and General Uselessness,” it is put together by a committee at the university from nominations that come in from across the country. Written with tongue-in-cheek humor, this year’s list banishes phrases like “I approve this message” and Trump’s abuse of “You’re Fired.”
Political terms like battleground state, blue state/red state, and flip-flopper were also targets for banishment.
To view previous lists or nominate a word or phrase for banishment, visit
LSSU was established in 1946, as a branch of Michigan College of Mining and Technology (known today as Michigan Tech, my alma mater) to make room for returning World War II veterans. Lake Superior State College became autonomous in 1970 and developed into Lake Superior State University in 1987.The list began as a publicity ploy for little-known school in 1976.
This year’s list is the 30th annual. Proving that math isn’t a strength for English majors, I had to pause to think about that. 2005 minus 1976 seemed like 29 to me, until I counted it on on my fingers.
Another puzzler for me was why the Associated Press had DETROIT as the dateline in a story about the banished word list.
Anyone who looks at a map will see that Detroit is a fair bit south of the Soo, and you have to cross a bridge to get there. Just another example of the lack of respect given to Michigan’s better half.
Lake Superior State University is also known for its annual snowman burning ceremony to welcome the return of spring and for issuing Unicorn Hunter licenses.
Words fascinate me, and I enjoy learning about evolution of language and the origins of words. I’ll wish Latin had been offered as language choice when I was in school.
Looking up a word in a dictionary can be dangerous because I may not stop at one word. My dream addition to my book collection is the complete Oxford English Dictionary. It is a 20-volume set with over 22,000 pages and costs $995. lists the COMPACT version of it at $248.85.
I know that my desire for something that would be a few month’s rent completely outs me as a word geek. I subscribe to an e-mail list that sends me a word of the day to tide me over until I own a copy of the OED.
E-mail seems to be killing off the more formal, written letter. Universal Letter Writing Week begins today, Jan. 8 and continues through Saturday, Jan. 15.
Take the time to write a letter to someone you know before letter writing becomes a lost art. While I have a file saving special e-mails, I don’t treasure it as much as the box of cards and letters I hold on to. I still have cards sent to me from my paternal grandmother, get well cards from my second grade class when I missed school to have my tonsils out and a special valentine. I have even kept copies of letters I’ve written, which is easy as I usually only type longer letters so the recipient can actually read it.
The use of email and on-line options to pay bills are hurting the United States Postal Service. It is the only government agency that relies on its own revenue to stay in business.
It was recently announced that there may be an increase to the cost of postage soon. My initial reaction was to complain, but then I thought about it for a minute. A first class stamp cost 10 cents in 1974. What was the cost of a gallon of gas, a loaf of bread, or a gallon of milk that year compared to what we pay now? Sending a letter is a bargain.

No comments: