'Fiscal cliff': banished for overuse

Lake Superior State University's 2012 list of terms that need to be removed from the English language was topped by 'fiscal cliff,"

Charles Dharapak/AP
President Barack Obama winks as he arrives to speak to the press about the fiscal cliff bill.

The phrase “Fiscal cliff” topped the list compiled for 2012 by Lake Superior State University of words that need to be banished because they have been overused.

The list’s full title is “The List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness” and has been compiled yearly by the university since 1976, when phrases like “at this point in time” and “détente” were voted for banishment. ("Invented by Henry Kissinger," the university wrote on "détente" at the time. "Nobody else knows what it means, and now even Kissinger has forgotten. [Before the year was out the president of the United States also banished "detente." Later, voters banished Kissinger and the president.]")

The list and its rankings is based on submissions by English speakers who write to Lake Superior State University and complain about certain terms. The compilation is released annually on New Year’s Eve.

“You can't turn on the news without hearing this,” Christopher Loiselle of Midland, Mich. wrote to LSSU about “fiscal cliff.” “I'm equally worried about the River of Debt and Mountain of Despair.”

A contributor known only as Donna, who is based in Johnstown, N.Y., agreed with Loiselle.

“Makes me want to throw someone over a real cliff,” she wrote.

Other now-banished phrases includes the second-most-nominated term, “kick the can down the road,” and the phrase which came in third, “double down.” Mike Cloran of Cincinnati, Ohio explained the first for LSSU. 

“Usually used in politics, this typically means that someone or some group is neglecting its responsibilities,” Cloran wrote of “kick the can. “This was seized upon during the current administration and is used as a cliché by all parties... Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Tories, Whigs, Socialists, Communists, Fashionistas…" 

“Job creators/creation” and “YOLO,” which stands for “You Only Live Once,” also attracted English speakers’ ire. Check out the full list here.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.