Annoying Words, and a Lesson about “Trendy Words” in your novel

Every year, Lake Superior State University releases a tongue in cheek list of words that are misused and overused and have become generally useless in the English language.  Here is the list for 2011:

LSSU’s 2012 List Of Banished Words

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

To see lists from previous years, visit lssu.edu/banished.

I have to admit that I must have been living in a box, because I haven’t even heard most of these.  I’ve heard baby bump, but that’s been around for years.   Amazing has been around, too…  but I don’t see either one as a problem.  Pet parent?  Is that a dog lover or something?

I guess everything in the news is about “Occupy Wall Street” and “Occupy Philadelphia”.  There were notes about people now using “occupy” in slang, but I haven’t heard it (Although I spend all my time in a boring office building)

“Thank you in advance.”  What?  Are people thanking people they meet in the street before a conversation?  I’ve only seen this in the closing of a query letter.

There are a few words that have crept into my house this year that I am completely fed up with.

  Stop!  PLEEEEESE.

There is nothing epic about your origami project not folding correctly!

  Please stop saying seriously.  This is one my husband picked up from somewhere.  Every time he sees something he doesn’t like (which is often with three children) he says “Seriously?”   Frequently it is combined with “Come on…  Seriously?” It was okay the first ten times.  All of the sudden it has become a bad habit.  It makes my skin crawl.  And my kids are starting to say it.  I realized this was a larger social phenomenon over Christmas when I heard my older brother say it.  Ugh.

What makes you hear a stupid word, even if it’s misused, and start adding it to your own vocabulary?  Does it make you feel cool?  Is this about an acceptance factor?  I guess it’s like cursing.  If you are around it all the time, it inches in to your normal speech just because it is familiar.

The neat thing about language is that it is constantly evolving.  The items on this list, like “Occupy” are relative to the social and political issues of the year.  That is what makes words so cool.   Next year, (hopefully) no one will even remember the words on this list.  I just pray that Seriously and Epic disappear with them.

As a writer, you should take care to note things like this.  For instance, I read a beta recently where a teenage character said “Epic Fail”  (I nearly puked).  Anyway… what happens is this seriously 🙂 dates your novel.  Be very careful using speech that is “trendy”.  It may be good for your “voice”… but think about this…

You finish your novel.  You query it for a year.  Even if you are lucky and get a contract right away, it could be 1-2 additional years before your novel hits the bookstores.  The “trendy voice” is now dated, and your target audience won’t be able to relate.

Similarly, if you self-publish— yes… you are getting your novel “out there” while it is still trendy.  But what happens in a year?  Do you still want to be trending upwards?  Of course!  Do you want people thinking “Oh, this is so last year!”   Hmmmmm.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

My suggestion is to be very careful of dating your dialog by being too trendy.  Trust me.  In three years, no one will have any idea of the significance of “occupy”… or worse.  It could mean something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

If you are writing for magazines, though… GO FOR IT.  Magazines are immediate, and a one-time read.  After that month (or whatever the publication period), no one will be able to purchase it anymore.  When writing for magazines, feel free to be as trendy as your genre can stand.

What words annoyed you last year?

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30 responses to “Annoying Words, and a Lesson about “Trendy Words” in your novel

  1. I haven’t heard about the banishment list. Thanks for the link. I will have to check out some of the other overused words. I do agree that there are some words that will date your work, so it is important not to be ‘trendy’ unless you’re going for a vintage feel to a story. I had in my mind that the third story in my series would be twenty-some years after the first two books so if they sounded a little like the ’90s, that was okay – if I can get this third book finished and in bookstores before the end of this decade! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Monday Mentions: Cat Lit, Hero Dogs, Pet Pix & George Carlin On Pets « Amy Shojai's Blog

  3. Hi Jennifer, came over to check out your blog after seeing you “followed” mine–and so likely you’ll read “pet parent” more than ever before, LOL! That and “fur kid” and the like. Yep, folks who dislike the notion of “owning” a critter call themselves a variety of things from “parent” to “guardian.”

    Epic fail, like, ya know, I mean seriously? *s* Great post!

  4. Love this and never even considered that I could mistakenly “date” my novel as I wrote it. I don’t think I’m guilty of this, but will definitely be looking out for it when I go back to edit it. Thanks for the ‘amazing’ tip! Haha

  5. I laugh when officially people come along and say “Yeah, these words are so like, banished. Cuz we said so.” Amazing? Man cave? Baby bump? All pretty common terms. And yeah, amazing is a word. It’s not even slang. People who think they are smarter than everyone else never cease to amaze me.

    What a bunch of ginormous pr**ks, right?

  6. I must say I am guilty as charged about using “Amazing” too much. Guess I will have to come up with another. I love your list of personal words that need to go away, around our house it is “Durp” and “Lol.” Last year they just said L-O-L. Now they have to pronounce it. 🙂

  7. Whoop! Yesterday was my day of Lost In Space Between my Ears.

    LOVE this type of list. They’re like way cool.

    p.s. To make up for my tardiness. I went through and gave you a thumbs up on all of your responses. You’re welcome!

  8. Marie Gilbert

    Great post. I was surprised at some of the words, but I have some to add: really, whatever, blow my mind, like, anyway.

  9. Dear Jennifer,
    I just came over to your blog from Paige’s. Glad she linked to you. I found what you said today thought-provoking. It made me remember that ’70s and all the words that emerged then. Politicians began to say, “at this point in time” when they meant “now.” So often, it seems, people in power find words to obfuscate what they really mean. We have to dig deep to find meaning. Thanks for getting me thinking.

    Peace.

  10. A most eggcellent post, Smithers! lol

  11. I’ve used some of the words, but never use others. I think I will start calling myself a pet parent. I kind of like that one. 🙂

  12. I enjoyed reading your post and have to agree that most of this year’s list are a bit odd to have earned a place there. Ginormous? Amazing? Occupy? Those words have been around for a long time, but I suppose it’s all about the context they are used in that has become the annoying and should be banned.

    I agree with you about “epic”, “fail” and even worse….”epic fail”. In our house things are “random” which bugs the heck out of me. Also, occasionally, things can be “epically random” can you believe? Argh!!!

  13. I enjoyed this, and found your comments more helpful than the original article which I had already read. But, since I am a novice at writing, I’m now intimidated to express gratefulness or describe how good it was in anyway. I grew up in Michigan.

  14. I have NEVER used the word trickeration or the phrase Win The Future. I must start to overuse!
    hehe, great post!

  15. Great post. I need to think about that in my YA. I don’t use a lot of trendy language because my MC, Kate, kind of has her own way of talking. But I do bring us some trendy things beyond a cell phone (like shoes) that I may need to reconsider.

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  17. I enjoyed your post. Your point about keeping dialoge real but timeless rather than trendy is a great one. Keep the posts coming and…

    Thank you in advance.

  18. Ginormous had a brief resurrection a year back in the flick Monsters Vs. Aliens. The government names the lead character Ginormica. Other than that, yeah, like, solid 1980s.

    Great blog entry, and that Banished Words list link is an invaluable tool. It would also be helpful if you were intentionally trying to date your novel in a particular era. Thanks!

    • Good point, Glenn. There is always the possibility that you might WANT to date your novel, but if you do, make sure there is a reason to do so, and that it will work the way you want it.

  19. i seem to fall into a vocabulary bad habit every few years. right now it’s Amazing, so I laughed when I read this list. I have to be very conscious to ensure I don’t use it.

  20. Julie Catherine

    Ginormous? Seriously, isn’t that from the 80s or something? (LOL, I’m so sorry, I just had to say it, please forgive me …) I do agree with you, however, about dating your language in your books – you want them to be timeless. I have a word I’d like thrown out with the bathwater … “whatever” … I always just want to smack something(one) when I hear that one! Nice article. ~ Julie 🙂