Frequent use by television jabbers Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, and every run-of-the-mill red carpet celebrity is blamed for spreading "amazing" into practically every conversation heard on television, streets, subways, or dinner tables. At least, Mr. Shibley says, its use replaces that 1980s chestnut, “awesome.”
“Amazing” received 1,500 nominations, says Shibley. “The mailbox was packed for ‘amazing’ – that one just slammed to the top of the unpopularity contest this year."
The list, which dates to 1975, began as a New Year’s Eve game concocted by former Lake Superior State University public relations director Bill Rabe. In the pre-Internet days, the university used to receive as many as 800 nominations by letter or postcard. The proliferation of media now generates thousands of submissions worldwide, but also more opportunities to suck a word or phrase dry.
“There’s ample opportunity for a buzzword or buzz phrase to get overused. The environment’s very rich to draw from,” Shibley says.
Here are the other overused words the list’s gatekeepers hope will one day be banished:
Baby bump. A cuter way to describe a woman carrying an unborn child than the word “pregnant.”
Shared sacrifice. Petitioners interpreted this phrase, popularized by political backbenchers to corporate middle managers, as a stealth way to get others to give more without having to do anything themselves.
Occupy. The Occupy Wall Street movement that gained traction in the fall popularized this word that now is used to describe anything that protesters feel needs scrutiny. Examples: Occupy Flash Player and Occupy Sesame Street.
Blowback. Corporate jingoism meaning resistance.