Unicorn Hunters

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.
     Posted By: Alex - Fri Oct 23, 2020
     Category: Languages | 1970s

The artwork on the license looks appropriate to the current meaning of the term.
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 10/23/20 at 09:25 AM
I disagree with those three choices, anyway. They're all useful in the right contexts. They may be misused (though I don't see how you can use "mouthfeel" in the wrong context; over-use it a bit in a very narrow context, perhaps, but how do you use that word in building or politics?); but they all mean something specific which is still useful in its right place.

If I were to ban a word, it would be... well, to begin with I'd ban the use of "literally" in the meaning "very much not literally". It's all very well wanting to be emphatic, but this misuse has left us with no word that actually means "literally", and only that.

But really, my one main pet word hate is television interviewees' use of the word "absolutely" to mean, merely, "yes". Or sometimes even "myeah, probably". If you only need to say "yes", or "indeed", or "I agree", using a term as black-and-white, as definite, as unrelenting, as... well, absolute as "absolutely" is unnecessary divisive. It implies that whoever doesn't agree is on the wrong side of the debate, and who does is on the right side, and there is no grey area. In this time of black-and-white, hate-hates-hate politics and social media, we do not need that. We need more nuance.
Oh, and even worse than that is the BBC pundit's favourite variation: "ohabsolutely", spoken as one single word. As if disagreeing weren't even thinkable. It needs to go, for the good of humanity.
Posted by Richard Bos on 10/24/20 at 08:23 AM
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