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Rosie Right

Words of the Year

The year is new enough, I believe, for us to look at the language we used in 2002 and resolve to get rid of a few words and phrases

The American Dialect Society has voted to call weapons of mass destruction the phrase of the year. This phrase is sometimes contracted to WMD. Of course this phrase has a horrible meaning that we wish we could banish, but if that's not possible, it would, for variety's sake, be good to find another way to express the terrible thought. Some other candidates for Word of the Year were regime change, and google as a verb (to search the Web using Google Search Engine).

Lake Superior State University publishes, each year, a list of words that should be "banished from the Queen's English for Mis-, Mal- or Over-Use as well as General Uselessness" For 2003, the university wants us to stop using material breach — one person who nominated this phrase said it "suggests an obstetrical breach."

Undisclosed secret location This, the editors from LSSU describe as a "redundant stacking of adjectives. …"

Weapons of Mass Destruction was also on the university's list.

Extreme — We all have heard this applied to sports, to cars, to almost anything. LSSU calls it "The most over-used word in advertising and marketing.…"

Rosie has several words she, personally, hopes to see less often in 2003. One of these is over, as in "Over 1,000 people saw the error in her column." The Associated Press Stylebook is a bit ambiguous about this usage, but each time a manuscript comes to my desk using this, I change it to more than. This, even though Webster's Dictionary of English Usage tells us that "Disapproval of more than is a hoary American newspaper tradition. …"Over in the sense of more than has been used in English since the 14th century. …

"There is no reason why you need to avoid this usage."

Another prejudice Rosie has cherished is dislike of less than rather than fewer than when describing individual items. Even though the AP Stylebook tells us not to do this, it is ubiquitous. This time, Webster's is in some agreement, saying that following the AP rule is better in most cases, but even here, it allows for exceptions.

Perhaps Rosie's nominations should be excluded from any banished list, but surely we can take to heart the Dialect Society and LSSU's lists. These lists can be found at www.americandialect.org and www.lssu.edu/banished.

Let Rosie hear from you by mail, Style Weekly, 1707 Summit Ave. Richmond, Va. 23230; by telephone, (804) 358-0825; or by e-mail, repps@styleweekly.com.

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