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 captaindad.org, 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!

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.

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