Tuesday, December 28, 2010


In a published editorial this week, the venerable "Globe & Mail" newspaper, the country's oldest daily, offers-up a lexicon of political words that Canadians may want to banish from their vocabulary in 2011. These include "coalition", "long-form" (as in census), and "strategic assets" (as in Potash Corporation).

The list and many others like it are anecdotal evidence of the annual holiday period when journalists and their editors find themselves frequently desperate for items of worthwhile "news" value to fill column inches or network broadcasts.

I can relate: As a young journalist several decades ago I worked the early morning, (4:00 AM) news shift in the New Brunswick newsroom of the CBC. I developed over time a long distance telephone relationship with an obscure "psychic" on the northeast Atlantic coast of the province, on whom I could always count for her annual predictions to fill my first New Year's Day broadcast at 6:00 AM and ad nausea every hour, on the hour, thereafter. Besides her foresight (such as it was) and an occasional overnight fire or tragic auto accident, there wasn't anything else.

I could always count on my "source" to prognosticate on the well being of the Hatfield Government; its rascally Minister of Tourism, Charlie Van Horne; or the success/failure of the "Bricklin" automobile venture. - Lest I digress: If any of those named mean anything to you; you know of which decade I speak - Others may "Google" at their leisure.

Since the almost obscure start of its list in 1976; a small university in the northern-most part of Michigan has established a worldwide reputation; the envy of far greater institutions, politicians and prognosticators for its annual listing of: "WORDS BANISHED FROM THE QUEEN'S ENGLISH FOR MIS-USE, OVER USE OR GENERAL USELESSNESS."

In fact, Lake Superior State University (LSSU) in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan is the smallest public university in the state. But, the reputation of its "words list" attracts more attention at the New Year each winter than most any other event on the continent. Once the "banished words" are made public on December 31, LSSU staffers and public relations personnel will field telephone calls and grant interviews to every major world news organization with an English language broadcast, including Xinhua in China as well as the more conventional CNN, BBC, Thompson-Reuters, CBC and NPR; and major publications including Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, as well as The Colbert Report and numerous others.

Amazingly good and absolutely free publicity for a small town university known best for its academic programs in Environmental Sciences, Fisheries and Wild-Life Management, and: Because of the savvy timing of an annual tongue-in-cheek compilation of abused and misused words and phrases, recognized around the globe.

Words and phrases outlawed in previous years by LSSU have included: My Bad (98), Free Gift (88), and Live Audience (83) - Doubtless, you may relate to the 2010 list of banished words which included: Shovel-Ready; Tweet; Too Big To Fail; App; (and) Stimulus.

The much anticipated 2011 list of fifteen "Words Banished From The Queen's English For Mis-Use, Over-Use Or General Uselessness" will be published this Friday, December 31 - The world's media awaits!

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