Was "Green" the Most Overused Word of 2008?


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Green has gone mainstream—there's no doubt about that now. Celebrities touting their "green" lifestyles, corporations announcing "green" initiative after "green" initiative, and politicians publicly calling for "green" legislation and policies all relentlessly graced the airwaves and internet pages throughout 2008. But was last year the year when eco-verbiage finally came to be much too much?According to the renowned word watchers at Lake Superior State University and the thousands of people who nominate their picks of overused and misused words each year, the answer is yes.

Banish Green Words in 2009?
As previously reported, the words 'Green' and 'Carbon Footprint' topped the 34th annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. The likes of "green" and "going green" beat out even the hopelessly overused 2008 election cycle lingo like "maverick" and "Wall Street/Main Street."

Some of the reasons cited for choosing green-related terminology as the prime semantic offender of 2008? Seems people are getting sick of hearing the word "green" in just about any context, too. These people listed their reasoning when they offered their nominations:

Too Much Green Talk


"Companies are less 'green' than ever, advertising the fact they are 'green.' Is anyone buying this nonsense?" Mark Etchason, Denver, Colo.

"If something is good for the environment, just say so. As Kermit would say, 'It isn't easy being green.'" Kevin Sherlock, Hiawatha, Iowa.

"If I see one more corporation declare itself 'green,' I'm going to start burning tires in my backyard." Ed Hardiman, Bristow, Va.

"This spawned 'green solutions,' 'green technology,' and the horrible use of the word as a verb, as in, 'We really need to think about greening our office.'" Mike McDermott, Philadelphia, Penn.

"It is now considered fashionable for everyone, tree hugger or lumberjack alike, to pay money to questionable companies to 'offset' their own 'carbon footprint.' What a scam! Get rid of it immediately!" Ginger Hunt, London, England.

Mike of Chicago says that when he hears the phrase 'carbon footprint,' "I envision microscopic impressions on the surface of the earth where an atom of carbon forgot to wear its shoes."

Christy Loop of Woodbridge, Va., says that 'leaving a carbon footprint' has become the new 'politically incorrect.' "How can we not, in one way or another, affect our natural environment?"

Despite being among the prime perpetrators of the green phrase phenomenon, I can see the frustration surrounding its overuse—especially on the oft-dubious "green" corporation front. I'm not about to burn any tires like Ed there, but sometimes I feel like flinging some compost in, say, BP's direction.

As for the carbon footprint-hating folks, it seems like at least those cited are missing the point, big time—get rid of the term altogether because some guy in Chicago has hallucinations about shoe-wearing atoms? The other two quotes seem to point to a general misunderstanding of the use of the term carbon footprint: of course we can't help but affect our natural environment, but the term describes a way of examining exactly how our actions are doing this, and looking for ways to diminish that impact. It's not all or nothing, here.

So my question is this: is "green" really in the spotlight too much? Is it better to have an over-saturation with environmental talk than have it be generally ignored?

And finally, is it possible that most people are actually sick of something they just don't understand very well—and that "green" should indeed be banned to make way for more detailed and useful information?

Perhaps only 2009 will tell.

More on Green Words:
What Green Words Are Obama and McCain Really Saying?
Green Vocabulary Makes it Into Chambers Dictionary
greenliving Magazine- Spreading the Green Word

Tags: Carbon Footprint | Environmental Footprint | Humor