Edi­tor’s note: This post was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished on Decem­ber 30th, 2012, and repub­lished on New Year’s Day 2013.

Every year since 1976, Michigan’s Lake Supe­ri­or State Uni­ver­si­ty has released a thought­ful and humor­ous “List of Words Ban­ished from the Queen’s Eng­lish for Mis­use, Overuse and Gen­er­al Use­less­ness”. Here is the 2013 (and thir­ty-eighth annu­al) edi­tion, for your read­ing enjoyment:

FISCAL CLIFF — As one might expect, this phrase received the most nom­i­na­tions this year. If Con­gress acts to keep the coun­try from tum­bling over the cliff, LSSU believes this ban­ish­ment should get some of the credit.

“You can’t turn on the news with­out hear­ing this. I’m equal­ly wor­ried about the Riv­er of Debt and Moun­tain of Despair.“Christopher Loiselle, Mid­land, Michigan

“(We’ve) lost sight of the metaphor and start­ed to think it’s a real place, like with the head­line, ‘Oba­ma, Boehn­er meet­ing on fis­cal cliff’.” Bar­ry Cochran, Port­land, Ore.

“Tends to be used how­ev­er the speak­er wish­es to use it, as in falling off the fis­cal cliff, climb­ing the fis­cal cliff, chal­lenged by the fis­cal cliff, etc. Just once, I would like to hear it referred to as a finan­cial cri­sis.” Bar­bara Cliff, John­stown, Pennsylvania

“Con­tin­u­al­ly referred to as ‘the so-called fis­cal cliff,’ fol­lowed by a def­i­n­i­tion. How many times do we need to hear ‘fis­cal cliff,’ let alone its def­i­n­i­tion? Please let this phrase fall off of a real cliff!” Ran­dal Bak­er, Seabeck, Washington

“Fis­cal cliff, fis­cal update, fis­cal aus­ter­i­ty… what­ev­er hap­pened to ‘eco­nom­ic’ updates? Fis­cal has to go.” Dawn Far­rell-Tay­lor, Ontario

“Makes me want to throw some­one over a real cliff,” Don­na, John­stown, New York

“If only those who utter these words would take a giant leap off of it.” Joann Eschen­burg, Clin­ton Twp., Michigan

KICK THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD — “Usu­al­ly used in pol­i­tics, this typ­i­cal­ly means that some­one or some group is neglect­ing its respon­si­bil­i­ties. This was seized upon dur­ing the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion and is used as a cliché by all parties…Republicans, Democ­rats, Inde­pen­dents, Lib­er­tar­i­ans, Tories, Whigs, Social­ists, Com­mu­nists, Fash­ion­istas…” Mike Clo­ran, Cincin­nati, Ohio

“I’m sur­prised it was­n’t on your 2012 list — were you just kick­ing the, um, phrase down the road to 2013?” T. Jones, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“I thought that per­haps you weren’t ready to deal with it. You just kicked that can down the road.” Rebec­ca Martz, Hous­ton, Texas

“I would def­i­nite­ly like to kick some cans of the human vari­ety every time I hear politi­cians use this phrase to describe a cir­cum­stance that has­n’t gone their way.” Chris­tine Tomassi­ni, Livo­nia, Michigan

“Much the same as ‘put on the back burn­er,’ these two phras­es still have heat and are still in the road. Kick this lat­est phrase down the road.” Michael F. Raczko, Swan­ton, Ohio

“I can’t turn on the TV any more with­out being informed that can-kick­ing has occurred. What’s wrong with the word ‘post­pone’?” Kathryn, West Chester, Ohio

DOUBLE DOWN — “This black­jack term is now used as a verb in place of ‘repeat’ or ‘reaf­firm’ or ‘reit­er­ate.’ Yet, it adds noth­ing. It’s not even col­or­ful. Hit me!” Allan Ryan, Boston, Mass.

“The next time I see or hear the phrase, I am going to dou­ble over.” Tony Reed, Hol­land, Michigan

“Over-used with­in the last year or so in pol­i­tics.” John Gates, Cum­ber­land, Maine

“Bet­ter nip this in the bud – it’s already mor­phed into ‘quadru­ple down.’ ” Marc Pon­to, Mil­wau­kee, Wisconsin

JOB CREATORS/CREATION — “It implies super­nat­ur­al pow­ers — such as the abil­i­ty to change the weath­er or lev­i­tate. Most new jobs pay less than the lost jobs to ensure stratos­pher­ic CEO com­pen­sa­tion and nice returns on invest­ments. I respect­ful­ly pro­pose a replace­ment term that is more accu­rate — job depleters.” Mark Dobias, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“One of the most over­played buzz terms of the 2012 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Appar­ent­ly ‘low­er­ing unem­ploy­ment’ doesn’t have the same impact.” Den­nis Ittner, Tor­rance, California

“Since jobs are only cre­at­ed by demand, con­sumers are the real job cre­ators.” Scott Big­ger­staff, Red­lands, California

“It’s been over-used and pigeon-holed into polit­i­cal argu­ments left, right, and cen­ter to the point that I don’t believe it has any real mean­ing.” Adam Myers, Cum­ming, Ga.

“To belong to this tax-proof club, you don’t have to cre­ate a sin­gle job. All you need to do is be rich. In fact, many peo­ple who call them­selves ‘job cre­ators’ make their mon­ey by lay­ing off peo­ple.” S. Lieber­man, Seat­tle, Washington

“Uttered by every politi­cian who wants to give big tax breaks to rich peo­ple and rich busi­ness­es…” Jack Kolars, North Manka­to, Minnesota

“If these guys are cap­i­tal­ists, as claimed, they are focused on reduc­ing expens­es and max­i­miz­ing prof­it. Jobs are a large part of expens­es. So, if any­thing at all, they min­i­mize employ­ment to max­i­mize prof­its. Up is down, black is white. Job cre­ators are real­ly employ­ment min­i­miz­ers.” Bob Fan­drich, Fred­er­icks­burg, Virginia

PASSION/PASSIONATE — “Dia­betes is not just Big Phar­ma’s busi­ness, it’s their pas­sion! This or that actor is pas­sion­ate! about some issue some­where. A DC lob­by­ist is pas­sion­ate! about pass­ing (or block­ing) some pro­posed law. My pas­sion! is sim­ple: Ban­ish this pho­ny-baloney word.” George Alexan­der, Stu­dio City, California

“As in ‘that’s my pas­sion.’ Please, let’s hope you mean ‘enthu­si­asm.’ ‘Pas­sion’ con­notes ‘unbri­dled,’ unmedi­at­ed by rea­son and sound judg­ment. Pas­sion is the stuff of Ahab, Hitler, and chau­vin­ists of every stripe, and ter­ror­ists.” Michael T. Smith, Salem, Oregon

“Seared tuna will taste like dust swept from a sta­tion plat­form — until it’s cooked pas­sion­ate­ly. Appar­ent­ly, it’s insuf­fi­cient to do it ably, with skill, com­mit­ment or finesse. Pas­sion­ate, begone!” Andrew Foyle, Bris­tol, Unit­ed Kingdom

“My pas­sion is (insert favorite snack food here). I’m pas­sion­ate about how much I hate the words ‘pas­sion’ and ‘pas­sion­ate.’ Don’t wait for next year’s list!” David Gre­aney, Bed­ford, New Hampshire

YOLO — “Stands for ‘You Only Live Once’ and used by wannabe Twit­ter philoso­phers who think they’ve uncov­ered a deep secret of life. Also used as an excuse to do real­ly stu­pid things, such as streak­ing at a base­ball game with YOLO print­ed on one’s chest. I only live once, so I’d pre­fer to be able to do it with­out ever see­ing YOLO again.” Bren­dan Cot­ter, Grosse Pte. Park, Michigan

“Used by teens every­where to describe an action that is risky or uncon­ven­tion­al, yet accept­able because ‘you only live once.’ Who lives more than once?” P.P., Los Ange­les, California

“Just gives peo­ple, espe­cial­ly teens, a rea­son to do stu­pid things. I find it annoy­ing and I’m pret­ty sure I’m not alone here.” Daniel, Hick­o­ry, North Carolina

“Only a real yoyo would use the term ‘yolo.’ ” San­dra McGlew, White Lake, Michigan

SPOILER ALERT — “What was once a polite warn­ing has turned into a declar­a­tive state­ment: I have just spoiled some­thing for you. When news out­lets print arti­cles with head­lines such as, ‘Huge upset in men’s Olympic swim­ming,’ with a diminu­tive ‘spoil­er alert’ on the link to the rest of the arti­cle, I think it’s safe to say we’ve for­got­ten the mean­ing of the word ‘alert.’ ” Afton, Port­land, Ore.

“Used as an obnox­ious way to show one has triv­ial infor­ma­tion and is about to use it, no mat­ter what.” Joseph Joly, Fre­mont, California

BUCKET LIST — “The expres­sion makes me cringe every time I hear it — and we’ve been hear­ing it for sev­er­al years. I’m sur­prised it isn’t already in your mas­ter list. Let’s empha­size life and what we do dur­ing it. It’s such a grim way of look­ing at ‘what I want to do,’ and often it is in self­ish terms.” Shea Hoffmitz, Hamil­ton, Ont.

“Get­ting this phrase on the Ban­ished Word List is on my buck­et list!” Fred­er­ick Fish, Georgia

TRENDING — “A trend is some­thing tem­po­rary, thank good­ness; how­ev­er, it is not a verb, and I’m tired of news sta­tions telling me what trite ‘news’ is ‘trend­ing.’ ” Kyle Melton, White Lake, Michigan

“I’m sick of chirpy enter­tain­ment com­men­ta­tors con­stant­ly inform­ing us of what ‘is trend­ing right now.’ I used to like a good trend until this.” Nan­cy, Vic­to­ria, British Columbia.

“Trend­ing leaves me won­der­ing ‘in what direc­tion?’ It seems to mean ‘increas­ing in atten­tion received’ or ‘fre­quen­cy in which it is ref­er­enced.’ ” John Han­non, Spring­field, Va.

SUPERFOOD — “It’s food. It’s either health­ful or it’s not. There is no ‘super’ involved.” Jason Hansen, Fred­er­ic, Michigan

BONELESS WINGS — “Can we just call them chick­en (pieces)?” John McNa­ma­ra, Lans­ing, Michigan

GURU — “Unless you’re teach­ing tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion, Hin­duism or Bud­dhism, please don’t call your­self a guru just because you think you’re an expert at some­thing. It’s sil­ly and pre­ten­tious. Let oth­er peo­ple call you that, if they must.” Mitch Devine, Ran­cho San­ta Mar­gari­ta, California

A Word Ban­ish­ment salute to John Prokop of Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia, who sent us a list of near­ly four dozen words, phras­es and acronyms that “bug the heck” out of him. Most of those that he men­tioned are on this list or have been on pre­vi­ous lists.

Lists for pre­vi­ous years are avail­able on Lake Superior’s site.

Two of the words or phras­es on the 2013 list — job cre­ator and guruwere nom­i­nat­ed by us last year after LSSU released its list for 2012 (we always tack on a few words or phras­es of our own). Our thanks to LSSU for includ­ing these two this time around. They’ve been wor­thy of ban­ish­ment for quite some time.

This year’s list is quite strong, and we com­mend the Uni­corn Hunters for doing such a thor­ough job putting it togeth­er. “Fis­cal cliff” (which, as we’ve not­ed here on The Advo­cate, is a ter­ri­ble metaphor for our nation’s finan­cial prob­lems) deserved­ly has the top spot, and we’re also very glad to see that “YOLO” made it on.

We’d com­plete the list by adding sev­er­al more obnox­ious phras­es that we’d like to see ban­ished for overuse, mis­use and gen­er­al uselessness:

ADORKABLE: A made-up word that com­bines dorky and adork­able; its chief Urban Dic­tio­nary entry defines it as “a high­er state of being all dorks strive towards.” This mash-up has been in use for a num­ber of years now, but we heard it way too often in 2012. It needs to go.

-GEDDON con­struct: This suf­fix, derived from the word Armaged­don — which refers to a big bat­tle that will sup­pos­ed­ly take place at the end of the world — is increas­ing­ly used in man­u­fac­tured words that serve to dra­ma­tize dis­rup­tive events. “Snow­maged­don” has been used to describe major snow­storms, “Euroged­don” to describe Europe’s fis­cal prob­lems (which are appar­ent­ly worse than ours), and “Car­maged­don” to describe the effect of clos­ing Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Inter­state 405 for road work. These are all sur­viv­able events… which leads us to ask: What do high­way clo­sures, bud­get dis­putes, and weath­er sys­tems have to do with the end of the world? Let’s stop ‑ged­don in its tracks and ban­ish it.

LITERALLY: The oppo­site of fig­u­ra­tive­ly, but fre­quent­ly used when the speak­er or writer actu­al­ly means fig­u­ra­tive­ly. As with “like”, it has become a pop­u­lar filler word with young peo­ple. It is also some­times used to embell­ish a sen­tence — maybe because it packs more punch than fig­u­ra­tive­ly. For exam­ple: “Me and my friends lit­er­al­ly brought the house down with our insane­ly awe­some party!”

MOMMY PORN: A stu­pid phrase that the media invent­ed to give a name to the genre that Fifty Shades of Grey tril­o­gy and sim­i­lar works of fic­tion belong to. We hat­ed this one the moment we first heard it. It needs to be ban­ished now before it sees wider usage.

SUPERSTORM: What Sandy sup­pos­ed­ly turned into after it ceased to be a hur­ri­cane. After Kat­ri­na, Sandy was (and still is) the sec­ond-costli­est hur­ri­cane in U.S. his­to­ry, so per­haps “Super­storm” is an appro­pri­ate descrip­tor. How­ev­er, as Pop­u­lar Sci­ence says, it is not a mete­o­ro­log­i­cal term, and seems to have caught on with head­line writ­ers because of its shock val­ue. We here­by place a one-year mora­to­ri­um on it.

MEH: A syn­onym for mediocre, fre­quent­ly seen in com­ment threads. Prob­a­bly owes its pop­u­lar­i­ty to the long-run­ning tele­vi­sion show The Simp­sons. Used to describe one’s lack of enthu­si­asm for some­thing, whether it be a can­di­dates’ debate, final score of a game, or a news event. Its overuse has become rather grat­ing. Time to ban­ish it.

What words would you like to see ban­ished that aren’t on this year’s list — or the Mas­ter List? Let us know in the com­ments. And, Hap­py New Year!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

12 replies on “Banished Words for 2013”

  1. “It’s All Good” real­ly irri­tates me. Because it’s not. There are some things that are all bad. 

    This phrase that gets repeat­ed over and over again like a rote mem­o­ry tool to describe a sit­u­a­tion needs to go.

  2. Hey! More Ban­ished Words! Read­ing this post reminds me of my good old room­mate! He always enjoyed LSSU’s list. I will for­ward this to him. Fair­ly cer­tain he will get a kick out of it. Many thanks for sharing!

  3. You wrote “ADORKABLE: A made-up word that com­bines dorky and adorkable;”

    I think you mean, com­bines dorky and adorable.

  4. Diana: “Amaz­ing” was ban­ished last year. “Amaze­balls” has yet to be ban­ished, however.

    Jen­nifer: “I’m just sayin’ ” was ban­ished last year. “Know What I’m Sayin’?” was ban­ished in 2000. 

    Cheyanne, Jane: “It’s all good” was ban­ished in 2000. 

    Jer­ry: “Trick­le-Down Effect” was ban­ished in 1988.

    Nick, “flus­trate” is not on the list. We’ll make a note of that one.

  5. “It is what it is.” It’s prob­a­bly made it to an ear­li­er list, if so I apol­o­gize. The super­storm of stat­ing the obvi­ous. Grat­ing does­n’t begin to cov­er it.

  6. “Balls to the Wall” Not only is it offen­sive, sex­ist (sort of) and juve­nile (seems like an utter­ance maybe made by the likes of mega-jerk Kiss mem­ber Gene Sim­mons, etc), but it also makes no sense. If your balls are to the wall, you can­not act in any way, pre­sum­ably against an oppo­nant or tough sit­u­a­tion, cuz you are fac­ing the wall, not your prob­lem. I think it is used only cuz its nasty, in an imma­ture, 4th grade kind of way, and cuz it rhymes. Thats it! It rhymes. How cool!

Comments are closed.