Catchphrase Executioner: The Worst Slang Terms of 2011

Scrutinizing culture.
Dec. 23 2011 3:02 PM

Catchphrase Executioner

Bad sex jargon, horrible “occupy” jokes, and other terrible things we said this year.

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Here are some more:

Crowdsourcing: Hasn’t it occurred to anyone—especially the new media genius types who abuse the concept—that the archetypal crowd is a lynch mob? A Nuremberg rally? And, really, no matter how many studies you cite, you’re not going to convince me you get smarter by asking a lot of ignorant people questions. Did Einstein “crowdsource” the Special Theory of Relativity? Or was that just the General Theory?

I’m OCDing: As in, “I’m OCDing over these heavy metal anthems.” Medicalizing your trivial preoccupations (there’s an “occupy” joke in there) doesn’t give them gravitas.

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Gravitas: OK, last mention allowed was the one above (maybe one more). Isn’t it obvious that someone who’s using gravitas is mainly trying to confer it upon himself by implying he has the gravitas to recognize and bestow gravitas? It’s like the people who applaud bad plays at prestigious theaters: They’re not applauding the plays, they’re applauding themselves for being there.

Adding hashtags to trite observations to make them seem witty: This rarely works. I do recall one that did. The writer Lizzie Skurnick on Facebook, a year or so ago, something like this: “Cats skittering around the walls of the room #veryblackswan.” I don’t know why I laugh out loud every time I see this. Maybe you have to have had cats. Or to have seen Black Swan—in a certain light. Meanwhile, just about everyone else who attempts witty hashtag humor fails: “I’m hungry #goingtooccupythefridge.” Meh.

Which brings me to meh: I still like this! I think it’s rare to find something so new and expressive in the language. Maybe people only recently began to realize what a big emotion “meh” is. The Times Magazine's "Meh List" makes me feel I'm late to the party (another catchphrase I kind of like, since it describes a feeling I often have). Maybe people have only recently begun to feel “meh” a lot. Or give that “meh” feeling a name. But I think meh is the emotion of the new century. Welcome to the Meh Era, where nothing impresses us any more, nothing even has the potential to impress us. We’re all too cool for school. (Old catchphrase, still worth dragging out once in a while.)

Speaking of emotions, let’s talk about the worst new emoticon (or maybe it’s the best, I can’t decide). I have only used an emoticon once in my life (long story), but I’ve been an observer of their evolution, and I only recently saw this: (^_^)

Awesome, right? It can mean just about anything, from benign to sinister.

Speaking of which, has awesome become the new cool in the sense that it is an indestructible, multitasking word, able to sustain layer upon layer of irony and always work on at least one level #usuallymore. It can mean awesome, in the original, nonironic sense; it can mean meh; and it can express just about any nuance of emotion (or lack thereof) in between. Or several at the same time. Or in succession. I think awesome is, in its resiliency and all-purposeness, truly awesome.

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