According to this article, Lake Superior State University has developed a list of “banished” words and phrases. The list includes popular phrases like baby bump, occupy, man cave, ginormous. One particularly least-favorite of mine on this list is “amazing.” Once reserved for things like Grace, this word appears to now mean “something that was vaguely interesting” or “better than being unconscious.” Aside from the fact this is an obvious way for an obscure northern Michigan university to generate some publicity, the list contains a number of words I would like to never hear (or use) again. A ginormous number of words, really.
I think that there are quite a few words or phrases which ought to be banned from biblical studies as well. Maybe I am just stinging from reading way too many papers the last two weeks of this semester, but the phrase “scholars have debated [fill in your topic] for many centuries” from all student papers. I had one student tell me that the topic had been debated for many millennia, which I thought odd considering Christianity is barely two millennia old. I saw words like “frigging” or “freaking” far too often considering these were papers on biblical topics!
Here is one I over-use in my lectures: “already / not yet.” I say this as a way of saying, “go read Schweitzer, Ladd, Wright and then you will understand everything I am saying here.” I know what it means, but I toss it out so glibly that the phrase lacks any rhetorical punch. I therefore resolve to not use the phrase this year, although I am slated to teach the Gospels next fall, so that might be an impossible resolution to fulfill. (Sort of like my resolution to go on a diet.)
Another word which has perhaps lost too much value is “intertextual.” Bear in mind that I use the word 400 times in my dissertation. What was once a trendy post-modern / reader-response literary theory was co-opted by evangelicals to mean “a quote” or an “allusion.” For example, “Paul’s intertextual allusion to Deuteronomy” is a repetitive redundancy for evangelical scholars, who are probably unaware of what “intertextual” meant in the first place. I am tempted to throw “New Perspective” into this category, since it is not all that new any more, and I am really not attracted to a book which claims to me a new-new perspective.
There are other phrases which have lost meaning (if there ever had any meaning). What does “emergent” mean? That one has been stretched to mean everything from evangelism in a coffee shop to “raging-liberal hell-denying Mac-User with spiky hair and trending glasses.
Would that I have the power to enforce my will on the masses…. What other words and phrase ought to be banished from biblical studies in 2012?