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What's your passion?



For 30 years on New Year’s Day, Lake Superior State University in Michigan has published a banished word list, words that should be stricken from “the Queen’s English for mis-use, over-use and general uselessness.” Begun as a publicity stunt by the fledgling college’s media-savvy public relations director, the list was an instant hit in 1977 and remains so not only for January 1 news-starved reporters but for those — me included — anal-retentive word freaks.

At the top of the 2007 banished word list is “GITMO,” the warm and fuzzy acronym for the infamous Guantanamo Bay Naval Base where dozens of alleged terrorist suspects have been held for years without being charged.

Other annoying words named this year: “awesome” (already banned in 1984 but making an annoying resurgence), generic combined celebrity names like Bennifer and Brangelina, and “chipotle,” an over-used term for plain old roasted jalapeno peppers. Joining the list are several phrases: “Went missing” mis-used for “is missing” or “was missing.”

Rounding out the list of 15 is “we’re pregnant.” “Were men feeling left out of the whole morning sickness/huge belly/labor experience?” asks Sharla Hulsey of Sac City, Iowa on the list’s website. “You may be expecting, but only one of you is pregnant.”

Since the 2007 list was published two months ago, hundreds have added their own suggestions for words to be stricken or at least used appropriately. Here’s one I’d like to add, number one on my pet peeve list of mis-used words: passionate.

How many recruiting ads have you read recently that ask: “Are you passionate about working on the (fill in blank here)” Are you passionate about working as a liftie, front desk clerk, barista or sales clerk?

Hell, no.

Passionate is a desired state to be reached in the bedroom when one gets to the point where up from down becomes a moot point. And although describes one of the word’s five usages as an adjective (1. having, compelled by, or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling; fervid: a passionate advocate of socialism. ) I prefer to think of it as an emotion best suited for the bedroom rather than for the office cubicle, although some of you may disagree on that point.

Other usages for passionate are equally dodgy for workplace usage:

2. easily aroused to or influenced by sexual desire; ardently sensual.

3. expressing, showing, or marked by intense or strong feeling; emotional: passionate language.

4. intense or vehement, as emotions or feelings: passionate grief.

5. easily moved to anger; quick-tempered; irascible.

Whatever happened to “dedicated”? There’s a word that can’t be misconstrued for any meaning other than for which it was designed, as in

“devoted to a vocation,” and “having single-minded loyalty”, according to Oxford dictionary.

Inappropriate use of “passionate” should take its place on the banished word list, along with “boast,” another word often mis-used in advertisements. Morris Conklin of Lisboa, Portugal complained on Lake Superior’s 2007 list: “As in ‘master bedroom boasts his- and her-fireplaces’ — never ‘bathroom apologizes for cracked linoleum’ or ‘kitchen laments pathetic placement of electrical outlets.’” But “passionate,” there’s a word that definitely needs to remain in the master bedroom, under lock and key.