Sunday, December 23, 2012

The worst words of 2012

The Business Insider has compiled a list of the worst words of 2012 based on the opinions of several popular culture pundits from around the web.  Listed below are some of the ones most likely to be uttered by lawyers, whether in conversation or in one's legal writing. So take heed if you want to avoid using words that are sure to annoy in 2013.  (And although it wasn't singled out below, I'd like to nominate "metric" as another overused, tiresome word from the year that just concluded. If you've got your own "favorite," please share it in the comments below).

A Guide To 2012's Worst Words

Actually. Adverb, mostly. When Sarah Miller declared war on literally over at The Awl, I argued that actually was worse, the "talk to the hand of the adverb community," or "the word that you use when you're actually saying, 'You are wrong, and I am right, and you are at least a little bit of an idiot.'" Actually, I still agree with that. 

. . . .

Disrupt. Verb, but with noun and other forms. Developer and writer Matt Langer erupts on disrupt!: "Oh my god will someone PLEASE disrupt the disruptors already? This revolting word has got to go. Because while the past five years or so of startup mania has been insufferable and obnoxious and annoying it's all in all been generally innocuous, mostly just a bunch of well-capitalized B-school bros Ubering around and talking all this big game about 'changing the world' when all they're really doing is masquerading good old fashioned naked greed as some kind hopey-changey photo-sharing app, which: fine, whatever. But this disruption nonsense is actually a genuine, insidious problem, because it has engendered this fierce cult of Now, of The New, this influential school of VC evangelist types pedaling a wrecking ball mentality which dictates that anything not in the process of starting up ought to be kneecapped. Disruption isn't so much a business strategy anymore as it is a knowing sneer, the thinly veiled desire of the aspirationally 1% to just watch it all burn. It's the new first principle of business, which suggests the primary function of business anymore isn't to build things up but to tear them down. Disruption is now an end in itself, and no industry is safe when the sole moral obligation of the disruptor is to disrupt. And so it is that we get for-profit education. Or we get Farhad Manjoo trolling the entire literary world by saying it should celebrate the rise of Amazon and the death of the independent bookstore. And this is all CRAZY! Enough disrupting. Let's get back to 'doing business.'"

Ecosystem. Noun. Pity ecosystem, a case of what happens when good words fall in with a bad crowd. Rebecca Greenfield explains, "This reasonable science-related word has been co-opted by the tech writing community, which has senselessly ravaged it. The true meaning of the term translates to a 'biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.' As in, the place where living things live together. To tech writers, however, ecosystem involves a lot of non-living things that just happen to share characteristics. The Android ecosystem, the app ecosystem, the tablet ecosystem, the digital ecosystem, the start-up ecosystem — it's not like at the end of the day all the little gadgets go home to their gadget neighborhoods and hang out."

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Gaffe. Noun with political inclinations. From the Wire's Elspeth Reevegaffe is veering off a semantic cliff: "The definition of a gaffe has been broadened to any time a politician says something you can put in an headline and then write jokes about. A gaffe is a guaranteed two-post story — one on the original comment, and one on the follow-up comment explaining the comment. Reporters' excessive reliance on gaffes to make it through a slow news day was most apparent when a Washington Post reporter was caught on tape yelling across a parking lot to Mitt Romney, "WHAT ABOUT YOUR GAFFES?"
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Historic, historical. Adjective. Dashiell Bennett speaks to the gross overuse of this word, saying, "Every election is historic. Technically, anything that ever happens can become history, so pundits really need to stop throwing this word around anytime they want to make something sound important. It's like that old saying: If everything is special, then nothing is."

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INTERNET-HYPE WORDS. Expressions of "internet popularity." The New Yorker's Ben Greenman says, "I do not like words associated with internet popularity: viral, traffic, metrics, and similar examples. I don't like them because they're convulsive. They aim to describe an idea of phenomenon that is impersonally successful: something that reaches large numbers of people without necessarily forging strong relationships with any of them. And then, strangely, those words themselves circulate through the system in the same way as the phenomena they are describing. They are like bloodless blood. To be fair, I'm not sure the words themselves are the problem so much as the thoughts behind them, which suggest that many things are more important than quality and that skimming meaninglessly past the eyes of millions is more important than settling meaningfully into the minds of a few."

Check out the rest 'o the list here.


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