Friday, January 4, 2008

Michigan's Banished Words for 2008

Lake Superior State University in the Upper Peninsula has released its annual "Banished Word List" - irksome, awkward or overused words and phrases. The list is at once descriptive and prescriptive. Winners emerge from hundreds of entries collected through the year and submitted by people across the country. So how about a list specific to our lovely state?
Michigan's Banished Words for 2008:
Crisis - "Crisis" means a moment of change, discernment and decision, as in "crisis of conscience." We usually find crises uncomfortable because most of us hate change. In addition, we have come to confuse crisis with catastrophe, a sudden, complete overturning of everything as we know it. But a crisis can make us see more clearly a hard truth. If you are alive, you are in crisis; it's the way of the world, not just Michigan.

Gridlock - Unless reporting traffic conditions in a city, try another word. For example, if the state Legislature has trouble with the budget process in 2008 largely through tactics of obstruction, use "obstruction."

Public/private partnerships - Favored during times of shrinking tax revenues and formerly known as "privatization," it is often used to suggest a collaborative relationship between well-intentioned private entities and inept governments waiting to be rescued. It could be called "government-enabled private taking of the commons." With Gov. Jennifer Granholm's no-new-taxes promise, expect to see more of this in 2008.

Slump, crunch - When describing the economics of houses and cars, avoid these tired terms. Reach for something a little more accurate, such as recession or depression. "Slump" and "crunch" evoke noisy breakfast cereal for gnomes.

Financialization - This is not specific to Michigan, but is the crux of our economic difficulty. Instead, say "turning the necessities of life into opportunities to create indebtedness." Selling cars becomes fitting consumers with acceptable financing packages, even if it means rolling in previous unpaid debt from their last car. Higher education becomes a booming market for student loans, where kids trade away future earning potential in the hope that a college diploma will increase their future earning potential. Home ownership becomes a gamble in a Wild West mortgage market with losers out in the cold, rather than warm and cozy by the hearth.

Entrepreneurial community - Often set against a labor/management model, the starkest entrepreneurial sensibility is every man for himself. A group of rugged individualists isn't really a community, though. A community cares for the less fortunate among them, rather than kicking them to the curb with a buyout. A community has a common purpose, identity and values. Instead of "entrepreneurial community," why not return to "pluralistic society"? There's room for difference, strength, weakness and compassion in that.