In 1976, a group at Lake Superior State University, calling itself the 'Unicorn Hunters,' released a "banished word list" that cataloged words they felt should be banished from the English language "for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness." Every year since then this group has released an updated new list. Words and phrases for 2020 include 'Quid pro quo,' 'Artisanal,' and 'Mouthfeel'.
'Unicorn Hunters' is an odd name, and as far as I can tell, the origin of the name had nothing to do with the banished word list. It was invented by Wilmer T. Rabe, the public relations director at LSSU, who felt the school needed to let people know it was about more than just engineering. (It was best known, at the time, as a feeder school for Michigan Technical University). More info from the Des Moines Tribune (Aug 2, 1976):
To emphasize the college's non-engineering aspects, Rabe proposed a 'poet's fortnight.' Professor Peter Thomas, Lake Superior's poet in residence, embellished the Rabe proposal and 'Unicorn Hunters' — later refined into Unicorns Ltd., Conglomerate — was born.
"From there," says Rabe, "it kind of just grew and began to embrace more and more things."
Loosely put, unicornism — Lake Superior State style — is an abstraction seemingly devoted to the pursuit of joy.
Conglomerate stationery explains: "The Hunters are dedicated to the proposition that every man has a unicorn which he is predestined to hunt. It is not necessary that he actually find or slay this unicorn, merely that he diligently seek it."
To this day, you can still download a Unicorn Hunting License from the school's website. The Banished Word List was one of the ideas created by this group.
The irony is that, in recent years, the term 'Unicorn Hunters' has come to acquire a very different meaning. Googling the term now brings up this definition:
"Unicorn hunting" is where a male/female couple look to find one person who they can permanently invite into their relationship. They form a "triad" with the couple and the three people have group sex.
Maybe it's time for LSSU to add 'Unicorn Hunters' to its banished word list.
In 1974, the Lafayette waterworks in Louisiana revealed an apparent correlation between drops in water pressure and television viewing habits. In particular, the water pressure would drop immediately after popular shows and movies had aired... presumably from viewers waiting until the end of the shows to relieve themselves:
The record drop in water pressure to date, a plunge of 26 pounds per square inch (PSI) of water pressure, came at the end of the TV showing of the movie "Airport." The movie "Patton" chalked up 22 and "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" checked in with a respectable 19.
So, the idea was floated that flush ratings might serve as a surrogate for the Nielsen ratings.
1971: Boston Gas commissioned artist Corita Kent to decorate a gas tank next to the I-93 in South Boston. Her design featured a series of rainbow-colored stripes. But once her artwork was done, people began to claim that they could see the bearded silhouette of Ho Chi Minh in the blue stripe. The suspicion was that Kent, being an anti-war activist, had purposefully put it there. Kent always denied this.
The colorful tank was the idea of the colorful chief executive of the Boston Gas Company, Eli Goldston. He commissioned Corita Kent, the widely known pioneer in pop art silk-screen prints and art education, who some years ago left her convent and the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles and now works in Boston. Her signature, "Corita," printed in letters 5½ feet high, appears almost small on that huge alfresco painting that consumed 555 gallons of paint and the labors of four painters working nearly six weeks.
Now here, brightening drab and messy industrial surroundings, is something we would call "magnificent and fitting." But some people, alas, were upset. In Corita's free-flowing brush strokes, they professed to detect the profile of Ho Chi Minh. The mayor of Quincy, Mass., in fact, declined an invitation to attend the dedication of the rainbow colored gas tank on the grounds that he did not want to pay "homage of any nature to a communist."
Corita just laughed. "Some people see faces in the clouds," she said.
— The Montgomery Advertiser - Feb 3, 1973
"Reverse streaking" is defined as the act of running clothed through a nudist colony. During the 'streaking epidemic' that hit college campuses in 1973 and 1974, there were scattered reports of 'reverse streaking'.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.