Sifting through the heaps of discarded language and redundant memes expended in the last twelve months, it’s clear that they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Ah, for the days when clichés were built to last! Twitter now rolls out disposable buzz phrases like a chopstick factory, and all we can do is get a bit angry and forget about them.
This is not to say that Neology is dead. This year gave us ‘Twerking’, which I rather like – provided it remains confined to inverted commas rather than let loose in my kitchen. Another 2013 winner is ‘Chumley’ – shorthand for laddish berks with aristocratic pretentions and red trousers. It’s useful, it’s funny and it genuinely identifies something previously unformulated as a word.
These are the exceptions. Elsewhere, politicians, journalists and celebs alike have made this a diamond of a year for crimes against the English language. It is unlikely you’ll want to be reminded of any of this rubbish (YOLO, after all), but like it or not, here’s our top ten.
1. ‘Here’s the thing…’
Originally a rhetorical device used only by TV detectives, 2013 has seen this banish ‘the point is’ from the airwaves. Like the eponymous monster of John Carpenter’s so-titled 1982 horror film, this ‘Thing’ is a shape shifter; according to Ed Miliband, it’s that David Cameron is ‘strong at standing up to the weak’; Bill Bryson claims it is that brown bears occasionally attack humans; it is also, I’m told, the name of a chat show podcast hosted by Alec Baldwin. Whatever definitive form it takes, it’s here, there and everywhere.
2. ‘Totes amazeballs’
This is a bit more like it – something to get really angry about. It combines two superfluous neologisms into a phrase so irritating that it’s actually rather impressive. Internet, I salute you.
3. ‘Masculine of centre’
Apparently, this is a serious term to replace ‘butch’ in gender discussion, courtesy of a rather niche interest website called the Brown Boi Project. A proper investigation of the site reveals some fairly noble ideals buried in platitudes and pseudo-academic twaddle – ‘two-spirit people’, anyone? However worthy the intention, it’s still sodding annoying.
4. ‘Bitchy Resting Face’
What does this actually mean? Alas, we may never know: the twatosphere appears to have forgotten pretty quickly, too.
5. ‘A bit Meh.’
(With apologies to the American vernacular) So you wanna strike a conversational tone, huh? OK kid, lemme tell ya something: Jerry Seinfeld is allowed to sound like a Jewish comedian from New York because he is one. For you, and for everyone else, ‘Meh’ is not an adjective. Buy a thesaurus, for chrissakes.
6. ‘Just Sayin’ ’
The use of this phrase is a sure sign that it is, in fact, unclear as to what has just been said, though it is likely to have been a veiled insult or a convoluted polemic. This isn’t the problem, though: whether written or spoken, ‘Just sayin’’ demands its very own nasal dialect of upspeak, a sing-song inflection that bounces around one’s head like a nuclear-fuelled take on Black Lace’s Agadoo. Ugh.
7. ‘Team Nigella’
Poor old Nigella. First there was that ‘playful tiff’ with her husband, now she’s been endorsed by David Cameron (in the, uh, Spectator). ‘Team Nigella’ has already been skewered at far greater length elsewhere, but to all men claiming membership of this freeform body, I have a message for you: Nigella may well wink at you through the TV screen, but however loudly you belch your support, she’s still not going to sleep with you.
8. ‘Troubling Questions’
With or without the optional prefix ‘This raises…’, these ‘troubling questions’ are all over the place at the moment, in no small part thanks to Edward Snowden and his ‘revelations’. Pedantic it may be (this is a blog on language – what did you expect?), but surely it’s the answers, rather than the questions that do the troubling, no?
Time was when taking photos of oneself in the best possible light was seen as narcissistic and not a little odd. Plus ça change – except that some idiot came up with a cute diminutive to describe the practice. The result? Lifestyle journalists fell over their syntax to use it as many times as possible per paragraph and hordes of people who really should know better began taking them ‘ironically’. As for its buttock-clenching cousin the ‘Belfie’, the less said the better.
10. ‘Hard-working families’
Nothing, though, comes close to this in the inanity stakes. ‘Ordinary people’ don’t cut it in British political oratory any more – and nobody in their right mind can talk about ‘The Workers’. Political parties like families, but dislike scroungers – so this is the mandatory compromise for any ‘impassioned’ speech. But have you ever actually met a ‘Hard-working family’? What’s the qualifier? Do they send their kids off to the workhouse or something? No slacking in this demographic, mate – just pure drivel, laboured to death.