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This is your mind on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

2008 Banished Words

“Irrelevant substitution is the new excuse to be unoriginal.” —Russell Warner

Lake Superior State University (Lake Superior is a state?) does the world a favor every year by maintaining this list of banished words for the year—words and phrases that have been generally overused and abused through no fault of their own. These are the sorts of utterances that make you wish there was such a thing as copyslap; the ability to just slap someone who uses them after their reasonable expiration date. As you can see from my own mutation above, the phrase “Orange is the new black,” and its innumerable iterations are a particular architecture of bone-picking with me.1 Definitely, a second runner up is the phrase, “It is what it is,”—a phrase that requires more energy to utter than it has power to explain. In other words, to use that phrase is like letting the Universe die just a little.

The whole business of the media picking a catchy phrase or term and just beating it with the rubber truncheons of mediocrity, until the belief that it was ever clever in the first place seems about as remote as the possibility of a blonde cable news anchoress being ugly, makes me want to email Susan Blackmoore to let her know that she could sum up her talk in about 19 fewer minutes by simply pointing out that all memes are bad.2 I’m very certain that George Orwell would agree. These phrase fads are just bad for all of us. They reduce conversation to a level of bipolar uselessness. The funny thing is, I really don’t blame us. That is to say, I don’t want to <sarcasm>throw modern culture under the bus</sarcasm>.3 I do think the media is to blame, the Media with a capital ‘m’, that is—the crew that’s a shill for paid advertising and wouldn’t know a serious story if it stopped them in a dark parking garage. You just don’t hear this kind of regurgitated drek on PBS Frontline. We hear these phrases over and over again and it induces a laziness of thought, a willingness to give in to the agenda of other people’s choice of words, rather than making the effort to think of something new for yourself. I don’t think it’s the end of the world or anything, but it just adds to the drudgery, you know?

So, I’ll end this bitter goodbye to the sheep-thought of 2008 with a New Year’s resolution for the writing on Banapana in 2009.4 In the coming year, I resolve to do my best to not use but identify these black holes of ingenuity and only mention them when I intend to call them out. Enjoy and Happy New Year’s Day to you!

  1. In defense of the year 2008, I remember hearing “Orange is the new black,” as far back as 2000. In fact, I remember it specifically as the stupid excuse for the development of a number of color palettes for design clients. I suppose though that the phrase’s usage has become much more common since, and the list is correct for pointing out that it is past time to end this meme’s reign of inanity. 

  2. That final phrase most assuredly includes the meme meme itself. 

  3. Shebang, it’s times like these that I wish we really could introduce a new punctuation for sarcasm. Italics just don’t cut it. 

  4. Which on January 19th will be celebrating its third ongoing year of babbling! 

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