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Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Banished Words for 2014

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 2014 (and thirty-ninth annual) edition, for your reading enjoyment:

SELFIE — Has the honor of receiving the most nominations this year.

“People have taken pictures of themselves for almost as long as George Eastman’s company made film and cameras. Suddenly, with the advent of smartphones, snapping a ‘pic’ of one’s own image has acquired a vastly overused term that seems to pop up on almost every form of social media available to us….A self-snapped picture need not have a name all its own beyond ‘photograph.’ It may only be a matter of time before photos of one’s self and a friend will become ‘dualies.’ LSSU has an almost self-imposed duty to carry out this banishment now.” – Lawrence, Coventry, Conn. and Ryan, North Andover, Mass.

“Named ‘Word of the Year’ by Oxford Dictionary? Give me a break! Ugh, get rid of it.” – Bruce, Ottawa, Ont.

“Myselfie disparages the word because it’s too selfie-serving. But enough about me, how about yourselfie?” – Lisa, New York, NY

“It’s a lame word. It’s all about me, me, me. Put the smartphone away. Nobody cares about you.” — David, Lake Mills, Wisc.

Dayna of Rochester Hills, Mich., laments how many people observe “Selfie Sunday” in social media, and Josh of Tucson, Ariz., asks, “Why can’t we have more selflessies?”

TWERK / TWERKING — Another word that made the Oxford Dictionaries Online this year.

Cassidy of Manheim, Penn. said, “All evidence of Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance must be deleted,” but it seems that many had just as much fun as Miley did on stage when they submitted their nominations.

“Let’s just keep with ‘shake yer booty’ — no need to ‘twerk’ it! Hi ho, hi ho, it’s away with twerk we must go.” – Michael, Haslett, Mich.

Bob of Tempe, Ariz. says he responds, “T’werk,” when asked where he is headed on Monday mornings.

“I twitch when I hear twerk, for to twerk proves one is a jerk — or is at least twitching like a jerk. Twerking has brought us to a new low in our lexicon.” – Lisa, New York, NY

“Time to dance this one off the stage.” – Jim, Flagstaff, Ariz.

“The fastest over-used word of the 21st century.” – Sean, New London, NH.

“The newest dictionary entry should leave just as quickly.” – Bruce, Edmonton, Alb.

HASHTAG — We used to call it the pound symbol. Now it is seeping from the Twittersphere into everyday expression. Nearly all who nominated it found a way to use it in their entries, so we wonder if they’re really willing to let go. #goodluckwiththat

“A technical term for a useful means of categorizing content in social media, the word is abused as an interjection in verbal conversation and advertising. #annoying!” – Bob, Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Typed on sites that use them, that’s one thing. When verbally spoken, hashtag-itgetsoldquickly. So, hashtag-knockitoff.” – Kuahmel, Gardena, Calif.

“Used when talking about Twitter, but everyone seems to add it to everyday vocabulary. #annoying #stopthat #hashtag #hashtag #hashtag .” – Alex, Rochester, Mich.

“It’s #obnoxious #ridiculous #annoying and I wish it would disappear.” – Jen, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“#sickoftheword” – Brian, Toronto, Ont.

TWITTERSPHERE — To which we advise, keep all future nominations to fewer than 140 characters.

“There cannot possibly be any oxygen there.” – Matt of Toledo, Ohio

MISTER MOM — The 30-year anniversary of this hilarious 1983 Michael Keaton movie seems to have released some pent-up emotions. It received nearly as many nominations as “selfie” and “twerk” from coast to coast in the U.S. and Canada, mostly from men.

“It was a funny movie in its time, but the phrase should refer only to the film, not to men in the real world. It is an insult to the millions of dads who are the primary caregivers for their children. Would we tolerate calling working women Mrs. Dad?” says Pat, of Chicago, who suggests we peruse the website, the manly blog of stay-at-home parenting.

“I am a stay-at-home dad/parent. And if you call me ‘Mr. Mom,’ I will punch you in the throat. – Zachary, East Providence, RI.

“Society is changing and no longer is it odd for a man to take care of his children. Even the Wall Street Journal has declared, “Mr. Mom is dead” (Jan. 22, 2013). I think it is time to banish it.” – Chad, St. Peters, Mo.

T-BONE — This common way of describing an automobile collision has now made it from conversation into the news reports. While the accident’s layout does, indeed, resemble its namesake cut of beef, we’d prefer to dispense with the collateral imagery and enjoy a great steak.

“As in ‘crashed into another car perpendicularly.’ Making a verb out of a cut of beef?” – Kyle, White Lake, Mich.

_______ ON STEROIDS — New! Improved! Steroidal!

“Please, does the service at my favorite restaurant have to be ‘on steroids’ (even though the meat may be)?” – Betsy, Los Angeles, Calif.

Suffering suffixes

Many in advertising and in the news took two words – Armageddon and Apocalypse – and shortened them into two worn-out suffixes this year.


“Come on down, we’re havin’ car-ageddon, wine-ageddon, budget-ageddon, a sale-ageddon, flower-ageddon, and so-on-and-so-forth-ageddon! None of these appear in the Book of Revelations.” – Michael, Haslett, Mich.

“Every passing storm or event is tagged as ice-ageddon or snow-pocalypse. There’s a limited supply of …ageddons and …pocalypses; I believe it’s one, each. When running out of cashews becomes nut-ageddon, it’s time to re-evaluate your metaphors.” – Rob, Sellersville, Penn.


Politicians never fail to disappoint in providing fodder for the list.

INTELLECTUALLY / MORALLY BANKRUPT — Used by members of each political party when describing members of the other.

Cal of Cherry Hill, NJ wonders, “Are there intellectual creditors?”

OBAMACARE — A wandering prefix (see 2010’s “Obama-“) finally settles down. We thought it might rival “fiscal cliff,” the most-nominated phrase on the 2013 list, but it didn’t come close.

“Because President Obama’s signature healthcare law is actually called the [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act. The term has been clearly overused and overblown by the media and by members of Congress.” – Ben of Michigan

“What more can I say?” – Jane, McKinney, Tex.


ADVERSITY — Heard often in the world of football.

“Facing adversity is working 50 hours a week and still struggling to feed your kids. Facing third and fifteen without your best receiver with tens of millions in the bank, is not.” – Kyle, White Lake, Mich.

FAN BASE — Why use one word when apparently two are twice as better?

“From the world of sports comes the latest example of word inflation. What’s wrong with the word ‘fans’?” – Paul, Canton, Mich.

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

This year’s list is a superb set. We nominated the “-ageddon” suffix for banishment a year ago, and are very pleased to see it on the list, along with “Obamacare” and “intellectually/morally bankrupt”. It is absolutely fitting that the list begins with “selfie” and “twerk” – easy the most obnoxious phrases of the year.

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

AMAZEBALLS and BALLS TO THE WALL — Nominated by readers of the NPI Advocate. Amazeballs is the latest silly iteration of amazing (banished for 2012) while balls to the wall is an expression originally used by fighter pilots that means to accelerate at top speed. The “balls” refer to the knobs on the control stick and the “wall” is the panel the knobs rest against when the throttle is pushed all the way forward. Since the phrase full throttle means the same thing and is more widely understood, balls to the wall is banished, except for within fighter pilot circles, since pilots know it’s not a bit of sexual innendo. As for amazeballs, there’s just no good reason why that phrase should exist.

FOMO — Like its cousin YOLO (You Only Live Once, banished by LSSU last year), this abstruse four letter acronym, which stands for “Fear of Missing Out” is becoming too pervasive for our liking, especially considering how it is being used. An example sentence on Urban Dictionary reads, “I can’t decide if I should go out tonight, but I know that if I don’t I know I’ll get chronic fomo.” Need we say more?

PRESH — This sad excuse for a word apparently has multiple meanings. It can be shorthand for precious, or it can be a synonym for awesome (banished several years ago) and cool. But as a piece of slang, what value does it have? Even J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gollum character can manage to utter all of the syllables in precious, which isn’t a long word. Let’s keep precious and banish presh from our vocabulary.

DEBT CEILING — This phrase, one of the biggest misnomers in U.S. politics today, has been waiting for banishment since 2011, when Republicans manufactured a midsummer fiscal crisis. The phrase refers to the artificial limit that only allows the Department of the Treasury to pay the nation’s bills up to a certain point. The debt ceiling is anachronistic and unneeded, since Congress already has the power of the purse. Lawmakers have the authority to adjust revenue and expenditures as they see fit. These days, the debt ceiling serves no purpose except to allow irresponsible Republicans to bring us to the brink of default. Time to get rid of it.

ENTITLEMENTS — Often used by pundits on cable television, right wing media, and sadly even elected Democrats like President Obama to refer to public services like Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. In reality, all of these services are forms of deferred pay that workers have earned through a lifetime of work. The word entitlements evokes a right wing frame that obscures this truth. It needs to go.

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!

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