Category Archives: Words

Banished Words

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale

I was listening to “The Splendid Table” one recent Sunday morning and was appalled to hear Lynne Rossetto Kasper mention a kitchen “hack” for a desired outcome. Until then I had thought I could avoid hearing “hack” (used in place of the word “tip”), if I simply stayed off Facebook and Pinterest. It’s just one of those little new words that drives me a little batty, and apparently I’m not the only one. On New Years’ Day, I came upon this New York Times article about a Banished Words List, issued annually for the past 40 years by the Public Relations Department of Lake Superior State University (in Sault Ste. Marie, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula).

This tongue-in-cheek listing began as a publicity strategy to help LSSU become known as more than a technological institution. “The first list was dreamed up by Bill (William T.) Rabe and… friends at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975. The following day, the “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness” was released – the international reaction from news media and the public was unexpected… Although Rabe retired in 1987, the list has been continued by LSSU’s Public Relations people.    

“People from around the world have nominated hundreds of words and phrases such as ‘you know,’ ‘user friendly,’ ‘at this point in time,’ and ‘have a nice day,’ to be purged from the language.” Some more recent offerings have been: “my bad” (1998), “forced relaxation” (1989), “free gift” (1988), “live audience” (1983, 1987, 1990). 2015’s list included “bae,” “polar vortex” and… “hack.”

It was in some odd way satisfying to find “hack” on the 2015 Banished Words List

“This word is totally over-used and mis-used. What they really mean is ‘tip’ or ‘short cut,’ but clearly it is not a ‘hack,’ as it involves no legal or ethical impropriety or breach of security.” – Peter P. Nieckarz Jr., Sylva, N.C.

What word or phrase would you submit to the 2016 Banished Word List?

Letting Go

Today’s post comes from Chris in Owatonna.

I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.  –Oscar Wilde

I’ve had it! Enough is enough! I can’t change one more word!

While working on the final draft of my suspense novel, Castle Danger, those thoughts built up over the past few weeks until I reached a breaking point. It’s time to let go and send it to the proofreader, and ultimately the printer.

There comes a time during every creative process that the creator must pronounce his work “finished.” A painter finishes a painting; a sculptor chips off the last piece of marble and sands it down; a composer inks in the final note on the score. Then the artist lets go, releasing his creation to the world for its consumption and subsequent pleasure, displeasure, or indifference.

So I’m now at the letting go stage. I realized I can change a word here, switch sentences there, intensify an expression in a third place, but to keep doing so indefinitely is a sign of fear, doubt, and uncertainty. Is the story good enough? Will anyone buy the book? If so, will they like it? And by extension, will I feel validated for spending several years of my life on creating something from nothing.

I’m glad I waited until this point, though. To have deemed Castle Danger to be finished any earlier would have left me with nagging doubts about whether I gave it my best shot. Now I am confident I gave it my best shot and can face whatever comes in the way of “success,” positive/negative reviews, and feeling good about myself. I feel good about myself right now, and the novel’s success or failure won’t change that.

If it bombs, I’ll be disappointed, but hey folks, I wrote a damn novel! Not the most earth-shattering achievement, but at least, I didn’t sit around for the rest of my life and talk about writing a novel. Seriously, I’m proud of having gotten to the point of completing a  monumental project (for me). It’s something I never imagined myself doing this late in life.

For a Neo-Renaissance practitioner like me, new experiences are always good, but seeing a project through to completion is just as important as trying the new activity.

When have you finally let go of a project or creation and what brought you to that decision?

What Rhymes With Affluenza?

Header image from free Photobank www.tOrange.us / CC by 4.0

Around water coolers everywhere, the strange tale of the “Affluenza Teen” is all the rage right now.

Ethan Couch, while still a minor, sought to evade responsibility for causing four deaths while driving drunk by using the defense that his pampered upbringing left him unable to tell the difference between right and wrong.

He managed to avoid jail time with an extended probation, but when it began to look like he would be prosecuted for violating the terms of the probation, Ethan and his mother fled to Mexico.

Yesterday, Tonya Couch was returned to the U.S.  Ethan has appealed his extradition and will remain in Mexico a while longer while authorities work out the details.

He will most certainly be returned, to much fanfare and derision.

When Trail Baboon singsong poet laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler learned of this  sad (but uniquely American) story, he thought the topic was weighty enough to be worth at least three limericks.

I
Affluenza is quite a disease.
When you’ve got it, you do what you please.
but the symptoms ain’t bad
if your mom and your dad
keep on paying the lawyers their fees.

II
A pampered young man and his mum,
were so careless and reckless and dumb.
they made national news
which essentially proves
too much cake makes a good child a crumb.

III
A young Texan explained, in his view,
He was over-indulged as he grew.
The disease that he got
made him easy to spot.
As the guy with the privileged flu.

What’s YOUR excuse?

Mail DisOrder!

Header image by Dvortygirl via Creative Commons 3.0

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale

I know a lot of Babooners probably shop Online, which has to make things easier during this season. Husband and I are still going to the Bricks and Mortar places for most of our purchases. HOWEVER, we have managed to get on catalog mailing lists galore – we probably bought something through a catalog in 1992 that sold our info to another catalog… and now I’m getting Christmas merchandise catalogs to the tune of three a day.

I have here in front of me: LL Bean, Catalog Favorites, Potpourri, Whatever Works, Harriet Carter, Miles Kimball, Bits and Pieces, Collections Etc., Walter Drake, Dream Products, FeelGood Store, and the Vermont Country Store.

And that’s within just the last few weeks.

I have to admit I like looking at some of them, especially if I haven’t seen one in a while. I particularly enjoy the funny t-shirts, some of which I cut out and put in people’s Christmas cards with the caption – “If I were buying you a gift, here’s what it would be.” Some that have made me laugh out loud this year are:

Plus these hits:  

    • It’s not hoarding if it’s only books 
    • You cannot be old and wise if you were never young and crazy
    • I’d grow my own food if I could only find bacon seeds
    • Families are like fudge, mostly sweet with a few nuts!
    • A little gray hair is a small price to pay for all this wisdom!
    • What is this word “NO” you speak of? 
    • You are about to exceed the limits of my medication
    • Gardening is cheaper than therapy, AND you get tomatoes

And my personal favorite:

  • I may be old, but I got to see all the cool bands

But even though I often dog-ear some pages and save the catalogs for a while, I won’t order anything, and I wish I could think of a way to stop them from sending me all this paper.

What’s your all time favorite t-shirt?

Advanced Social Media

Many thanks to the gentle baboons who have kept this blog going for several months and especially the past few weeks while I’ve been distracted by work.

Our Fall Membership drive is underway at Fresh Air Community Radio – we’re in the middle of the second week of fundraising, just two days away from the scheduled conclusion. Just recently I’ve been preoccupied helping friends like the Morning Blend hosts (pictured above) as they try to get listeners to call 612 375-9030 to make a contribution.

KFAI_SignIf you’ve never listened, you should give it a try. The most baboon-friendly show on the schedule is Stone Soup, Wednesday mornings from 10am to noon. I often hear host Pam K. playing music that was, or would have been, featured on the old MPR Morning Show.

But that’s no surprise. Our station has many personalities, literally and figuratively. We are the antidote for anyone fed up with tightly formatted radio. While the most popular stations in town strive for stability by trying to sound exactly the same whenever you tune in, we are like the flowing river. Stick your dial at 90.3 / 106.7 FM and you’ll find that you can’t listen to the same station twice. No matter what you think you’re going to hear, it’s always going to become something else.

KFAI_State_FairSome people look at that and say we’re hanging on too long to an outdated model, suggesting that the volunteer-based grab bag approach to programming where individuals use the medium as a form of self-expression is a hippie artifact. They say we’ve got to step into the digital age and create a coherent multi-platform brand that is consistent and predictable and is tied to something more marketable than the quirk factor.

But I look at the digital age and see an environment where any form of media that’s seen as monolithic and prepackaged is at risk of being overwhelmed by thousands of small-time operators who are creatively and subversively employing the same tools as the big players.  And I don’t think subversive is too strong a word.  After all, we have a broadcast frequency in a major American city, and we routinely hand it over to just ordinary folks so they can be heard.

In that sense, community radio is the original social media.

If we were Facebook, we’d give everyone their own show, and I do sometimes encounter people who think they can walk in the door  at KFAI and have an on-air slot within days.  After all, they have excellent musical taste!  Unfortunately, we’re limited by the number of hours in a day, and new program hosts soon find out having your own weekly radio show is a more demanding commitment than simply posting your thoughts and putting up a cat video every now and then.

But it is an enticing thought.

If you had a radio show, what would it sound like and what would you call it?  

A Roll in the Hay

Today’s post comes from Clyde in Mankato.

I know, I was an English teacher and all that, but I am really far more visually oriented than word-oriented. I opened at random a book called The Prairie World by David F. Costello. I read this description, and until I came to the key words, which I have left blank below, I had no idea what plant he was describing:

If you examine a stem closely, you will see that the leaves alternate in opposite directions from the stem, and only one leaf grows from the node. The leaf itself consists of two parts: the sheath which forms tube around the stem, and is split its full length; and the blade, which is wide and often flat but nearly always elongated. The portion of the leaf at the junction of the blade and sheath is called the collar. The mebranous or hairy structures where the base of the blade touches the stem is called the ligule. This structure, which varies greatly among different _____s, is useful in their identification. It keeps water from flowing inside the sheath where fungi might grow. Some _____s have appendages, one on either side of the base of the blade, known as auricles . . . As the ______ continues its seasonal growth it produces new stems from buds that develop from old stem bases near the surface of the ground . . .”

Do you recognize that plant? We all know it well. But we seldom look at it at such close range. I had a colleague who taught biology who tried to get students to notice, to look, to see at both the close range and the larger picture; to see patterns, to see differences and similarities and to relish the wonder of nature. I tired to teach essentially the same thing about reading and literature.

Costello is describing grass. Just grass, grown taller than we let it grow in our cultured yards. The technical jargon does not help, it never does, except to the those in the inner circle of the world circumscribed by the given jargon.  But since every June of my childhood was driven by a high concern for grass, or hay as farmers call it in full form, I should recognize it by any description. I used to lie in it, just to relax in the sun, to rest with my dog by my side, to look up at the clouds drifting across the sky on their way to Lake Superior.

Somehow I did not Mowingroll over and look carefully at the intricacy of a single plant of grass. In the larger picture, driven by the daily details, a biology teacher and an English teacher are teaching many of the same skills.

Praises be for the small and simple yet wonder-filled things which sustain us heart, body, and soul.

Are you a good looker?

The Mystery of S.A.L.T.

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbindsale.

A couple of weeks ago in mid-August, I noticed something on our kitchen wall calendar penciled in on Wednesday morning, “SALT.” It is in my writing, and is apparently an acronym for something I wanted to attend. On checking further, it also appears in mid-September, mid-October, November, and December. I have been racking my brain, and I have NO IDEA WHAT THIS IS. I’ve hunted through the various little “rat-piles” that lie around the house for leaflets announcing various events. I’ve looked through old emails and through my list of “Favorites”.  And I finally entered S.A.L.T. into my search engine to see if something rang a bell. Here’s most of what showed up:

  • Salina
  • Speech Application Language Tags
  • State and Local Taxation
  • Strategic Arms Limitation(s) Talks/Treaty
  • Short and Long Term
  • spending a lot of time
  • Serum Alanine Aminotransferase
  • Salt and Light Television
  • Southern African Large Telescope
  • Supporting Arms Liaison Team
  • Sloping Agricultural Land Technology
  • Special Altimeter
  • Society for Applied Learning Technology
  • Subscriber Access Line Terminal
  • Save A Life Today
  • Skin-Associated Lymphoid Tissue
  • Same As Last Time
  • Seminars About Long-term Thinking
  • Seminars About Long Term
  • Society of American Law Teachers
  • Sloping Agriculture Land Technology
  • Student Action Leadership Team
  • Scottish Association for Language Teaching
  • Society for Accelerative Learning and Teaching
  • Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts
  • Subscriber’s Apparatus Line Tester

Although some are interesting, none of these seems be what I was thinking of attending, but it’s kind of refreshing to know they exist.

I’m pretty sure it’s nothing urgent, or I would have remembered it!

What’s been the most crucial thing you completely forgot?