2014 in Lists: Questions To Which The Answer Is No; additions to the Banned List; and Old Jokes

The author of ‘Listellany’ brings you the year in Top 10s

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The Independent Online

Top 10 Questions To Which The Answer Is No of 2014 (above):

1. Asked by Mail Online, 9 July. Nominated by Nick Morris.

2. Rare double QTWTAIN asked by a creationist tract spotted by Alan Beattie, 20 November.

3. Mail Online, 11 May. Nominated by Mike Graham.

4. Question in the Hull Daily Mail, 27 October, asked by Neil Pickford, who is worried that he thinks about people and then finds out that they have died. Reported by Alistair Coleman, who compiles a blog called Angry People in Local Newspapers.

5. Asked by The Guardian, 5 September. Nominated by Eric Joyce.

6. Asked by the Scottish Executive, 18 September. Nominated by Chris Deerin.

7. Asked by The Week, 21 February. Nominated by Seth Jacobson. Well, I can add it to the list now.

8. Asked by Will Gompertz, BBC arts editor, 22 November. “This video contains some graphic images.” Nominated by Tom Doran.

9. Metro, 15 December. Nominated by Labour History Group .

10. Asked by The Guardian, 17 December. Nominated by Dr Adam Rutherford.

Ivan Plis on Twitter recently explained #QTWTAIN to a puzzled novice as a “timeless and inscrutable” joke, which made me proud. My collection was originally of headlines in the form of questions to which the publisher implied the answer was “yes” when it was actually “no”, but the definition has been relaxed over the years.

For The Independent on Sunday last weekend I compiled several Top 10s of the year.

Top 10 Words and Phrases Added to the Banned List in 2014

1. “Re-shoring.” Re-shore, or onshore as a verb, is even more unacceptable than off-shore. It means moving jobs back to Britain from abroad. Used by David Cameron in a speech at Davos,  24 January 2014.

2. I tried to hold back the tide of progress in The Independent on Sunday on 23 March this year, when I banned hashtags, selfies, artisan this and artisan that, hipsters and millennials. None has been seen in print since.

3. “Berlin Wall”, to divide anything except Berlin, 1961-89. Michael Gove used it in a speech on 3 February 2014 to talk about the divide between private and state schools.

4. “Porn”, for anything that is not porn. By order of Lisa Markwell, editor of The Independent on Sunday. Food porn, property porn, stat porn. More seriously, “child porn” is a euphemism for child sexual abuse.

5. “Inflection point”. Thanks to Carlos Lozada, who published an updated list of his least favourite clichés at The Washington Post, 27 February 2014. It also included “Ignominious end”, “There, I said it” and “As a society”.

6. “Call out”, verb. Ed Miliband used it in Prime Minister’s Questions on 9 July: “The Prime Minister said that waiting times in accident and emergency had gone down, but within 24 hours the House of Commons Library had called him out.”

7. Things being “a thing”. As in, “Is an Olympic sized football pitch a thing?”

8. “Buy-in”, noun. Nominated by Carole Dent, Australia.

9. “I will revert to you.” Infecting email like a virus. Nominated by Copylab.

10. “To own”, to dominate or win an argument. It has been around for a while, but I assumed it would just die of embarrassment. Nominated by Graham Sutton. Although I still think “pwned” is childishly amusing.

Top 10 Spurious Polls of 2014

Actually, this is just one poll, supposedly of 115,000 people around the world, carried out by the dating website WhatsYourPrice.com (“dating” website?) to find the Top 10 Most Sinful Cities in the World.

1. Ottawa, Canada (Greed)

2. Guangzhou, China (Envy)

3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Greed)

4. Boston, United States (Lust)

5. Manchester, United Kingdom (Wrath)

6. Houston, United States (Gluttony)

7. Lyon, France (Greed)

8. Sydney, Australia (Lust)

9. Phoenix, US (Sloth)

10. Osaka, Japan (Wrath)

Top 10 New Words Added to the Dictionary in 2014 That Should Not Have Been

Every month the Oxford English Dictionary gains free headlines by adding a batch of new words to its online version. Harrumph, I say.

1. Empath, added in March. Originated in science fiction in the 1950s, where it was used to refer to a person or being with the paranormal ability to share the feelings of another. “It has now also taken on a more general meaning, denoting a person who can appreciate another’s emotions (but within the normal range of human ability).”

2. Ship, added, in this sense, in May. “Ship was originally an abbreviation of relationship, and refers to a romantic relationship between two characters in a fictional series – often one that is supported by fans rather than depicted in the series itself. Those who have a particular interest in a particular ship are known as shippers. Support for one of these relationships is described with the verb ship – for example, ‘I will always ship Sherlock and Molly.’”

3. Perf: entered the dictionary in May, as another way of saying performance.

4. Snacky, adjective, which, along with the comparative snackier and the superlative snackiest, was added in May. “It can be used both to mean the food suitable for eating between meals and to mean slightly hungry.”

5. Flexitarian, added in June. A portmanteau of flexible and vegetarian: a person (or relating to a person) who follows a primarily but not strictly vegetarian diet.

6. Adorbs (August). Yuk.

7. Yolo (August). As I pointed out, it should be yloo: you live only once.

8. Cool beans (December). “US, informal, to express approval or delight.”

9. Duck face (December). Pout for the camera.

10. Mahoosive (December). Don’t be ridiculous.

Top 10 Jokes of 2014

They’re mostly old but here are some that I’ve liked this year. It is what Twitter is for.

1. Where does bad light end up? In prism. (Richard Pinner via Martin Sutherland)

2. The more I hear about inverse proportion, the less I like it. (Moose Allain)

3. A ventriloquist walks into a gar. (Chris Heaton-Harris)

4. These so-called speed humps are a joke. If anything they slow you down. (Viz via Tim Wakefield)

5. The guy who invented predictive text has died. His funfair is next week. (Louisa Heaton)

6. My computer keeps singing “Rolling in the Deep” – it’s a Dell, obviously. (Chris Heaton-Harris)

7. I came running towards her, snorting, fingers up like horns on my head. “No, I wish you were more likeable,” she sighed. (Moose Allain)

8. If asked in a job interview to describe yourself in three words why not try “violent when disappointed”? (Alex Dawson)

9. The correct way to spell “hats” is HATS because it’s all caps. (Fro Vo, via Andrew Denny.)

10. Have you been hit with a rhythm stick? You could be entitled to compensation with a personal Ian Dury claim. (Chris Heaton-Harris)

Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top 10s From Politics to Pop is available for download for just 99p.

Happy New Year to you all.

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