Words and phrases that should die in 2012 (5×8 – 12/29/11)

Tidying up the language, the winter that wasn’t, faceless, breastfeeding backlash, and last call for a polar bear.


This is the time of the year to evaluate what was hot in 2011 and what won’t be in 2012. The Washington Post, for example, has its What’s Hot/What’s Not list. Tim Tebow is out, we’re told, while hunting for the “God Particle” is in. Hand-me-down sweat pants are coming in, which is enough to wish the next few days would last forever.

Yesterday, I repeated — via Twitter – my death wish for the hot 2011 phrase, “reach out.” We don’t phone people any more. We don’t contact them. We don’t talk to them. We “reach out” to them now. Reaching out is something you do to a drowning person, or an enemy. Kill it. Kill it while we still can.

That, as you might expect, kicked off our pent up linguistic death wishes:



Some other nominees submitted via email:

Weigh in — Should be reserved for boxing or TV shows about fat people trying to lose weight. You can find this phrase in a headline almost every day, like today, for example, in the Fargo Forum.


It’s lazy, a fact proven by substituting “said something.” We’re guilty of this, too.


If this were the ’80s, headline writers might write, “Reagan weighs in on Berlin Wall.”

Ideate — Which, conveniently, rhymes with “hate.”

Socialize — As in “Let’s socialize that plan and see what happens.” Let’s just not use it and see what happens.

Ask — As a verb. “I have an ask to add…”

NPR’s Steve Inskeep committed a language foul this morning with this tweet:


Hopefully, someone will have set him straight by the time he’s dinnering.

Piggyback on that idea — Why be effective in using one word when you can signal your bad idea by using four to introduce it?

Noodle — As in, “I’ll have to noodle on that for awhile.’

Going forward — “From now on.” Usually used by politicians caught in scandal who can’t bear to go backwards.

Kick the can down the road – First of all, nobody plays kick-the-can anymore. Nobody. Second, if you’ve got a problem and only one way to describe it, how big a problem do you really have?

Add yours below.


This is wrong. Sure, winter inconveniences most of us, but this is a state — and an economy — built on winter, like it or not. Many ski areas can’t make snow, few people are able to ice fish (a good-sized gap opened up on the eastern edge of Mille Lacs Lake yesterday), the St. Paul Winter Carnival usually works better with winter, and people in the Northland are starting to wonder whether the Beargrease dog sled race is doomed this year, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

“We’re still keeping our fingers crossed — we can still have the race if we get one of those good old-fashioned northern Minnesota blasts of snow,” said board President Geoff Vukelich said.

The paper says businesses that depend on snowmobiling are starting to suffer.

But there are more traditions at risk. What about the beautiful City of Lakes Loppet? And having the Art Sled Rally without snow is like having it without art. Saint Paul will be the only U.S. city this year with the Red Bull Crashed Ice. How are we supposed to do that in the slush?

No, this is all wrong.


What would it be like to not be able to recognize a face? The New York Times provided this fascinating video of a woman with the affliction.

Reader/Twitter pal @RadioNed called our attention to a 2010 Radioab broadcast about people with “face blindness,” and people who have to try decode who it is speaking to them. It is a more common situation than most of us may think.

Scroll ahead about 2:10 to avoid the pledge drive message…


Target is trying to defuse a backlash from nursing mothers who’ve organized “nurse-ins” in response to a complaint at a store in Houston.

“Guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable. Additionally, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms,” a Target spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times yesterday .

The protest started after a suburban Houston woman said she was harassed.


Around the country, and probably somewhere in Minnesota too, otherwise intelligent people will jump into freezing water this weekend. Garth Gaskey of Wisconsin will be one of them, but this is the last time he’ll participate in the oddest of New Year traditions.

“I’m getting old,” Gaskey tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’ve got four stents in my heart. My toes turn black from staying in the water too long. My daughter is having a conniption fit. It’s time I hang it up.”

He’s 82, and he’s the oldest “polar bear” in Wisconsin.

The Oldest Polar Bear (2007) from John Pappas on Vimeo.

Bonus: At least he didn’t make the cover. Sports Illustrated provides an early assessment of Ricky Rubio.


We’re just two days from the end of 2011. Today’s Question: In six words, how would you describe 2011?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The pros and cons of consumerism.

Second hour: The year in astronomy.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Jane Kirtley of the U of M Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law looks at the year’s developments in media.

Second hour: American Radioworks documentary, “State of Siege: Mississippi Whites and the Civil Rights Movement.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: New rules for home care aides.

Second hour: Erik Larson, author of “In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin.”