LESLIE CRISS: ’76 PR stunt remains today an annual tradition

By Leslie Criss / NEMS Daily Journal

“If you have a big enough dictionary, just about everything is a word.”
– Dave Barry

“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne

It started as a publicity stunt 35 years ago. Bill Rabe, then-director of public relations at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., came up with a clever concept he hoped would garner attention for Lake State.
He created the Unicorn Hunters, which through the years gave birth to such activities as burning a snowman on the first day of spring, an International Stone-Skipping Tournament each year on Mackinac Island and Unicorn Questing Season.
In 1976, Rabe generated the first List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.
That list, released every New Year’s Day since, has outlived Bill Rabe.
When he retired from Lake State in 1987, the school decided to continue the tradition, which has served them well.
The original list, compiled by Rabe and some friends at a New Year’s Eve Party in 1975, was topped by the phrase “at this point in time.” Certainly now or today works just as well. That was Rabe’s argument.
Each year’s list comes from nominations made by folks like you and me on the university’s website: www.lssu.edu/banished/submit_word.php.
Here are some of the other words that made the Banished Words Lists in the past 35 years:
In 1979, “yuh know” got double the nominations of any other word.
Two of my favorites from 1990 are “climb down” and “exact same.”
In 1992, “I see what you’re saying” made the list. If you think about it for a moment, it’s amusing.
“Your call is very important to us” made the list in ’96. Obviously, if our call was important, there’d be a living, breathing human being available to speak to us.
“Nuk-U-Lar” has made the list several times, beginning in 1978. It’s the incorrect pronunciation of nuclear which some folks still don’t say correctly.
More recently, tweet, app, teachable moment and using friend as a verb made the 2010 list. And the 2011 list, released just a week ago, offered these suggestions for words we might consider banishing from our vocabulary: viral, epic, wow factor, a-ha moment, back story, man up and two Sarah Palin-isms – mama grizzlies and refudiate.
“Adding this word to the English language simply because a part-time politician lacks a spell checker on her cell phone is an action that needs to be repudiated,” wrote Dale Humphreys of Muskegon, Mich.
One of my favorite phrases found its way onto the 2011 list as well, and though I appreciate the time-honored tradition of the lists, I’m going to keep saying it as long as I want.
“I’m just sayin’.”

Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@journalinc.com or (662) 678-1584.