Ginormous Trickeration

Pretty well everyone I know has a pet hate about the use and misuse of the English language. (I can’t speak, or speak for, other languages, but I suspect the same annoyance will apply.)

I have lots. For example, using the word ‘gate’ as a suffix to indicate some level of conspiracy, as in Camillagate, Svengate, Climategate, Shilpagate and even Nipplegate.

I hate it because it became boring and predictable long ago, a journalist’s cliché to convince the public that their story is more significant than it actually is.

That’s my rantlet done with. The point I’m trying to make is that overused words and phrases start to irritate after a while and the feeling that they should be banned becomes overwhelming, but should it be a local or a worldwide blacklist?

(I’ve realised that I’ve just used what might be an offensive word, but I can’t think of an alternative.)

Lake Superior University has published its 2012 list of words and phrases that should be banished and here they are:

  1. Amazing
  2. Baby Bump
  3. Shared Sacrifice
  4. Occupy
  5. Blowback
  6. Man Cave
  7. The New Normal
  8. Pet Parent
  9. Win The Future
  10. Trickeration
  11. Ginormous
  12. Thank You In Advance

The list was drawn up by public nomination in the US and illustrates, to me at least, how different nations are irked by different words.

Amazing is amazingly overused in the UK as well, but where would Grace be if it were banished? And I suppose that there was bound to be blowback against occupy after the Wall Street and the London Stock Exchange protests.

Ginormous though is a perfectly useful word for humorous exaggeration and has been in use in the UK for decades, but not overused in common parlance in my experience.

As for the others on the list, I don’t recognise them as words I hear often or use myself. I even had to look up trickeration to find out that it is just a neologism for trickery.

So let’s start our own list of words to banish from UK English, starting with the suffix -gate.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering why there is an image of Cab Calloway illustrating this post, it’s because of his 1931 song, Trickeration, which perhaps shows us that neologisms are the old normal. Here it is:

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

18 comments… Add yours
  • Trevor Rowley 5th January 2012

    Perhaps we could start off with looking at the overuse of the word really. When people are interviewed, especially in the somewhat relaxed atmosphere of a radio or TV studio, they regularly express their opinions on the matter in hand with overuse of the word really. To emphasise how strong their opinions are they don’t say (for example) that they are “really happy” or “really pleased”. Instead, we get it in duplicate and they have suddenly become “really, really happy or “really, really pleased”. I would be just (plain) happy or pleased if they would stop overusing the word really.

    As Hughie Green (long dead British film actor and TV presenter) would say, “I mean that most sincerely, friends. I really do”

  • Jay from The Depp Effect 5th January 2012

    Oh, I suspect we all have our own lists of words and phrases we love to hate! I have to admit that I am amused by the term ‘Man Cave’ though I don’t use it myself, but ‘Thank You In Advance’ does irritate me considerably!

    Trickeration? Gee, I’d never have guessed that was an Americanisation! Tee hee.

    I’m sure that some of the words and phrases I overuse are on someone’s list too, but at least I do try to use the English language correctly (most of the time) and vary my adjectives.

    My own pet hates? ‘Gobsmacked’ is one of them. It’s just plain ugly. Many of the others are from woolly hat politically correct terminology.

  • Mr Parrot 5th January 2012

    I really, really agree with you Trevor. It also reminds me of another of my pet hates: politicians in general and David Cameron in particular who start every sentence with ‘Let me be clear’.

    I also found ‘man cave’ and ‘pet parent’ odd to say the least. I quite like the sound of trickeration, although I’m not sure how, when or where I’d use it.

    Gobsmacked is an ugly turn of phrase, but then I think it was meant to be. It’s another word that has become diluted through overuse.

  • rhymeswithplague 5th January 2012

    I first heard “ginormous” when my grandson said it. I thought it an unneeded combination of “gigantic” and “enormous” and said so, but he continues to use it anyway. I guess this is how language expands and evolves, by newer, younger speakers who simply ignore the old dinosaurs.

    My pet peeve is back-formations. For example, someone ignored a perfectly good verb (“oriented”) and used a perfectly good noun (“orientation”) to come up with a new verb that is (a) unnecessary, (b) clunky, and (c) a back-formation of the noun (“orientated”). Another example involves the Book of Revelation, which was written by the Apostle John. A “revealer” is “one who reveals” but religious people (in the U.S., at least) sometimes use the phrase “John the Revelator” — egads!

    Back-formations make me crazy.

  • rhymeswithplague 5th January 2012

    Americans used to say “flabbergasted” but more and more of us are saying “gobsmacked” — hands across the sea, and all that.

    I long ago noticed that the more someone says “simply” or “clearly” the less simple and less clear something is. I think it is used by speakers to get the upper hand and insinuate their superiority to the commoners listening who wouldn’t possibly understand the intricacies of the situation without an explanation from someone with exalted intelligence. (Do you think I’m reading too much into it?)

  • Mr Parrot 5th January 2012

    Mr Plague: Businessmen are very fond of back-formations. I have a theory that most of them like to invent new words because they’re incapable of using the ones we already have.

    I wonder if some people prefer ‘John the Revelator’ because ‘John the Revealer’ sounds vaguely lewd!

  • Mr Parrot 5th January 2012

    I think I’m right in thinking that ‘gobsmacked’ originated in the north of England, possibly Liverpool meaning a slap on the cheek to pull someone up sharply. But I might be wrong.

    If one felt so inclined, I’m sure there’s an entire dictionary to be had from politician’s speak, not least the meaningless catchphrases that are their subsitute for policy. ‘The Big Society’ springs to mind.

  • Trevor Rowley 5th January 2012

    Thinking of politicians (and other type officials) you can always tell when you’ve caught them out as they start their answer with either “I’m glad you asked me this question” or “That’s a very good question”. They really mean, “Oh, no!! I haven’t a clue how to answer this.” What they then go on to produce is usually the biggest load of waffle (or in some case lies) that you are likely to hear for the next week. Plain speaking? I don’t think so. Deception? more likely.

  • Mr Parrot 5th January 2012

    It’s all part of the media training they get. I was once asked to be an interviewee for some trainee tv journalists. I remembered the politicians maxim: say what you want to say regardless of the question you’re asked.

    I started off with the standard line, ‘before I answer that, can I just say..’ and proceeded to waffle on. The problem was that when I finished my spiel I’d forgotten what the original question was.

    Or perhaps that is the point — make the audience forget the question. I could be a politician yet!

  • Roger Green 5th January 2012

    I too despise -gate.
    As for your US list, I also despise baby bump, because it’s made pregnancy into this weird “is [starlet/reality show person I’ve never heard of] preggers? It trivializes it.
    I hate shared sacrifice because it’s usually Republicans suggesting that the poor are paying too little tax.

  • Mr Parrot 5th January 2012

    Thanks Roger. ‘Shared sacrifice’ is not one I’d come across before. It sounds similar to ‘we’re all in this together’ in the UK which means that the average person has to pay more tax and/or lose their job in order to protect the interests of the wealthy, especially those who are also politicians.

  • Katherine 5th January 2012

    My children call me the apostrophe police, but this is written language of course, not spoken.
    ‘Literally’ would have to be the word I like least at the moment. That is, of course when the speaker means ‘metaphorically’, for example; ‘I was literally blown away by …’ or, ‘..he was literally dead to the world…’

  • Elizabeth 5th January 2012

    The problem is partly that the user often doesn’t realise that they are over-using the word until it is pointed out by someone else! It wasn’t until I heard my boys doing a seriously outrageous impression of me that I realised that they had sat through numerous public speeches where I had inserted the phrase, “I don’t know about you, but…”. They told me that, in order to pass the time, they used to bet jelly babies on how many times I would use the phrase and how far into the message I would get before the first time! Like most of our politicians I use full notes when I’m speaking, but even so, it is so easy to relax, get into the flow and just get into a cycle without realising. I did one radio interview where I used practically nothing but the word ‘basically’ all the way through – a word that I actually very rarely use!

    It’s odd and I’m not excusing the behaviour, but it just happens sometimes! I don’t know about you, but I think it’s basically amazing! x

  • Jay from The Depp Effect 6th January 2012

    You’re probably right about the origin of ‘gobsmacked’; whether it’s Liverpudlian or from somewhere else, it seems likely that that’s what gave rise to the expression. But wherever it comes from, it’s right alongside ‘geddeah’ (‘get here’) screeched by young mothers to their offspring in my list of cringe-inducing words.

    However .. ‘orientate’ is perfectly correct in UK English. It’s the way I was taught back in the 1950s – and I was taught a very good standard of English.

    ‘Orient’ seems to be the American English version and sounds wrong to us (although I have used it when talking on the internet to a largely American audience) because to an Englishman the usual meaning is ‘the opposite of occident’, having its derivation in the Latin word for ‘east’.

    It’s interesting, actually. In my Collins New English Dictionary (first published 1956) the definition of ‘orient’ is ‘rising, as the sun; lustrous (as applied to pearls); the east; Eastern countries’, with the use as a transitive verb placed secondary to this with the meaning ‘to place (an object) so as to face the east, to determine the position of, with respect to the east, to take one’s bearings’ and it is ‘orientate’ which is given the meaning of ‘the act of determining one’s position, or to bring into clearly understood relations’.

    However, in the Penguin Tasman Dictionary (which I bought when living in New Zealand), the definition is even more restricted: ‘orient’ means 1 the east, and 2 the countries comprising the east, leading to (indicated by an arrow in the text) ‘orientate’ meaning to place so as to face the east or to adjust with relation to (etc).

    Conclusion? It seems to be uniquely American to object to ‘orientate’ as a verb!

  • rhymeswithplague 6th January 2012

    I am nothing if not uniquely American!

  • rhymeswithplague 6th January 2012

    There are lots of other examples of words that have entirely different meanings in America and the U.K., but since this is a G-rated blog I won’t get into them…

  • Roger Green 6th January 2012

    Re: Shared sacrifice/we’re all in this together – it’s all the same. What baffles me, at least in the US, are the folks who buy this rhetoric, even though they are not rich, since it operates against their own self-interest.

  • Jay from The Depp Effect 6th January 2012

    Ha! Bob, you are so right! 😉


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