In a New Year's tradition that goes back to 1976, the Unicorn Hunters, a group of language conservationists at Lake Superior State University in Michigan, have released their annual List of Words Banished From the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.
And the number one banished word of 2012 is -- slight drum roll, please -- "amazing!"
"LSSU was surprised at the number of nominations this year for 'amazing' and surprised to find that it hadn't been included on the list in the past," say the Unicorn Hunters. "It seemed to bother people everywhere, as nominations were sent from around the U.S. and Canada and some from overseas, including Israel, England and Scotland. A Facebook page -- 'Overuse of the Word Amazing' -- threatened to change its title to 'Occupy LSSU' if 'amazing' escaped banishment this year."
Coming in a close second was "baby bump," followed by "shared sacrifice," "occupy," "man cave," "the new normal," "pet parent," "win the future," "trickeration," "ginormous" and "thank you in advance."
The Unicorn Hunters were founded by W.T. "Bill" Rabe, the school's public relations director, as a publicity gimmick to put LSSU on the map. And he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Over the years, the list has been expanded to include such groaners as "more bang for the buck" (1996), "bring the evildoers to justice" (2002), "back in the day" (2008), "don't even go there" (1997), "teachable moment"
After Rabe retired in 1987, the university -- which knew it had a good thing on its hands -- copyrighted the name and continued the tradition. The very first phrase on the very first hit list in 1976 was "Have a nice day."
"It's not that we wish anyone ill," Rabe explained. "But this has become so overused, telephone operators use it even when people call funeral homes."
TECH CALENDAR: Meanwhile, looking for a fun read to gratify your inner technogeek? Have I got a book for you!
It's "Mad Science: Einstein's Fridge, Dewar's Flask, Mach's Speed and 362 Other Inventions and Discoveries That Made Our World," featuring 365 of the most amusing anecdotes from Wired Magazine's popular "This Day In Tech" column.
The editor and author of many of the entries is San Francisco journalist Randy Alfred.
"Mad Science" ranges chronologically from Jan. 1 (1538: First New Year of the Gregorian calendar) to Dec. 31 (1938: First breathalyzer test -- just in time for New Year's Eve!).
In between are such gems as Feb. 14 (1929: Al Capone uses cutting-edge technology -- the Tommy gun -- to wipe out the Bugs Moran mob), May 4 (1538: First use of the "@" symbol), Aug. 24 (2006: Pluto demoted from planet status), and Sept. 21 (1982: First use of the smiley-face emoticon).
The earliest entry is April 24, 1184 BCE: Greeks Use Wooden Horse to Defeat Trojans' State-of-the-Art Security.
"'This isn't a book meant to be read all at once from cover to cover," says Alfred. "Ideally, it should be read in short amounts while sitting down in the smallest room in the house."
Reach Martin Snapp at firstname.lastname@example.org.