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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Repurposing: The Anglophile/Brit-twit word of the moment. Just as it seems, despite my efforts, we will never be able to stamp out “spot on” and those who think the use of it gives them an Atlanticist sophistication, we’ve now got another Britishism already past its sell-by date. Anyone?

Anyone?: As in, ”Did anyone get the sell-by joke? Using a Britishism to mock a Britishism?” Anyone is a reflexive bit of self-mockery sometimes used after failed or lackluster attempts at comedy. It’s still funny to me, one of the few modern catchphrases that suggests humility, however much that humility is deserved.

Kudos: This one is ancient and it used to drive me crazy because people thought it was a plural rather than a Greek singular word. Today, people tend to use it properly—but it’s still a crap word of the sort used by people who write letters to In Style (“Kudos for a really intimate look at Justin Bieber”) and think the foreign term will give them gravitas.

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Value-added: It’s practically always value-diminished when anything is described as a “value-added.”

Learnings: A new buzzword for takeaway, I’m told. Not a value-added.

Publicness: The Jeff Jarvisism of the moment. According to the self-promoting “Internet intellectual,” everyone should tweet whatever’s happening to their private parts. Because privacy is an antiquated concept. Or something. Sadly Jeff may have reached his sell-by date. Even Jeff’s fellow buck-raking Internet guru/conference-cash savants have not started using the term, perhaps embarrassed by Jeff’s tragic ode to Germany or Evgeny Morozov’s hilarious dissection of his work. Publicness failed to go viral, merely bacterial.

That guy: At first it was kind of awesome being in on the (slightly) mysterious and withheld explicitness of “that guy.” As in, “You don’t want to be that guy,” meaning “that dork.” The phrase allowed you to think, “Oh, I know who they mean by ‘that guy.’ ” But by now if you think the use of “that guy” is cool, you ARE that guy. “That guy” has become “that phrase,” if you know what I mean.

Is it worse to be “that guy” or a go-to guy? Go away, go-to guy!

And what about -friendly? Reader-friendly, SEO-friendly. They’ve taken the friendliness out of friendly. If “friending” didn’t kill friendship, all this XYZ-friendlyizing will.

Fail: Sometimes #FAIL. I tried to put a stop to epic fail two years ago but clearly, um, failed. Why do people take such satisfaction in the failure of others? Duh. Fail is truly the signature—if not the sign-off—of the zeitgeist, the domain name of contemporary human nature.

But I don’t want to leave this on a down note. So I’ll say farewell for now with my favorite new emoticon, which grows more haunting and enigmatic the more you look at it. Think of the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg* in Gatsby: (^_^)

It’s the face of the future staring right at us. And saying, “Meh.”

Correction, Dec. 23, 2011: This column originally misspelled the name Eckleburg. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

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