January 05, 2008

Rejecting innovations

The 2007 Banished Words list from Lake Superior State University is (like its predecessors) hostile to innovations, especially those having to do with the Internet.  For instance:

WEBINAR -- A seminar on the web about any number of topics.

"Ouch! It hurts my brain. It should be crushed immediately before it spreads." -- Carol, Lams, Michigan.

"Yet another non-word trying to worm its way into the English language due to the Internet. It belongs in the same school of non-thought that brought us e-anything and i-anything." -- Scott Lassiter, Houston, Texas.

Today's Unshelved comic strip echoes this hostility to webinar:

(Hat tip to Mark Mandel on ADS-L.)

Why not just call it "a seminar (held) on the web"?  Because that's a whole complex expression describing the event, when people would like something compact, for brief reference.  Web seminar would do (though it could be understood as 'seminar about the web', parallel to syntax seminar), but the telescoped version webinar is even more compact, and also more colorful.  In fact, in his discussion of the Banished Words list on ADS-L on 2 January, John Baker picked webinar out as one of several genuinely useful items on the list (the others: waterboarding, surge, Black Friday).  If you have reason to talk about the referents, it's good to have short expressions for the purpose.

What we get from the commenters on the LSSU list (and the characters in Unshelved) is visceral cringe reactions, hostility towards inventiveness and playfulness, disdain for the Internet (as the enemy of thought), and cries to make it all go away.  As blogger Grammdaemonium puts it,

Once more Lake Superior State University has released its annual list of words to be banished, and once more it is written in the same drab, condescending tone we find so common among our inferiors.

But it gets publicity for LSSU.

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at January 5, 2008 01:06 PM