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To win the future, heed this ginormous list of amazing (but overused) words

The headline above contains a generous sampling from this year's 'List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.' Read on.

By Staff writer / December 30, 2011

President Obama has used "Winning the Future" as a slogan for several initiatives, including this one from early 2011.

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A list that tracks the most overused words of 2011? How amazing is that?

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Oops! "Amazing” tops the official "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness," released Friday by Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. This is the 37th year the university has compiled a list of the hoariest, most annoying, and most clichéd words and phrases emanating from weary (or lazy) jawbones this year.

“With so much media and so many more opportunities to communicate, a lot of people find they get lazy and get stuck on a word or phrase to express themselves as the easiest way to get their point across,” says John Shibley, a public relations officer for the university who has helped compile the list for the past 15 years.

The university cobbles the list together from submissions streaming in from around the world, including Australia and Western Europe. This year, about 4,000 nominations arrived electronically.

“Amazing” earned the top spot because of its ubiquitous use to describe anything, great or small, no matter its relative merit. Examples: “That Hot Pocket I just ate was amazing!” Or, “The French Revolution was amazing!”

Frequent use by television jabbers Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, and every run-of-the-mill red carpet celebrity is blamed for spreading "amazing" into practically every conversation heard on television, streets, subways, or dinner tables. At least, Mr. Shibley says, its use replaces that 1980s chestnut, “awesome.”

“Amazing” received 1,500 nominations, says Shibley. “The mailbox was packed for ‘amazing’ – that one just slammed to the top of the unpopularity contest this year." 

The list, which dates to 1975, began as a New Year’s Eve game concocted by former Lake Superior State University public relations director Bill Rabe. In the pre-Internet days, the university used to receive as many as 800 nominations by letter or postcard. The proliferation of media now generates thousands of submissions worldwide, but also more opportunities to suck a word or phrase dry.

“There’s ample opportunity for a buzzword or buzz phrase to get overused. The environment’s very rich to draw from,” Shibley says.

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