“I don’t know if it’s a word, but it’s a virtue.”

November 24, 2010

I came across Lake Superior State University’s 2010 List of Banished Words not too long ago. It intrigued me, since I had no idea there was a such thing as Lake Superior State University. The annual list itself largely consists of words that have either been overused to the point of meaninglessness (friend as a verb, stimulus, transparency) and words that never should have been used in the first place (bromance, sexting, chillaxin). Predictably, the vast majority of the grammatical rape can largely be attributed to teenagers, politicians, and social media.

While I love geek humor as much as the next guy (who happens to be a geek humorist), there’s the issue of more vital words that are actually going the way of the dodo. After being playfully teased yesterday by a student employee regarding my “tiny” 8oz. coffee, I rhetorically threw out whether she knew the meaning of temperance. After receiving a baffled look and a simple “no,” I extended the question to the other student employees, garnering the following responses:

“Is that smaller than 12oz?”

“I’ll ask my friend, she’s a barista.”

“Is that a type of Chinese food?”

Of course, after sharing the definition, I got another response:

“Ah, it’s that thing we never use.”

In a futile attempt to re-integrate temperance into society, I’d like to propose that the 8oz. “short” size at Starbucks be renamed “temepered.” It probably wouldn’t fly, but not because people don’t know what it means; no one seems to know what Vente (“twenty”) means either. It just doesn’t have a ring to it. “Restraint” is a bit more familiar, but it isn’t as much a quantifier as it is a modifier. A “restraint latte” sounds low-fat and “latte with restraint” just sounds like decaf.

Yes, I realize I should be concerned that the millennial generation literally does not know the meaning of temperance. Believe me, I am. The thing is, I don’t need the verbal section of the SAT to prove that. The gross over-abundance of social diarrhea on Facebook and Twitter feeds effectively demonstrates that self restraint is being bred out of our species. The real lesson is that words are not “banished” through any definite action, but are simply left behind.

A list of those words, for various reasons, wouldn’t be very funny though.

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