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 2015 (and for­ti­eth annu­al) edi­tion, for your read­ing enjoy­ment on this New Year’s Day:

BAEOne of the top nominees.

“Mean­ing ‘before any­one else.’ How stu­pid! Stop call­ing your boyfriend ‘bae’.” — Evie Duna­gan, Man­heim, Penn.

“It’s overused. I heard some­one refer to their ramen noo­dles as ‘bae’! If I was putting some­one ‘before any­thing else,’ I would respect them enough to use their name.” — S. Thoms, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“The most annoy­ing term of affec­tion to show up in years. Also, the con­cept ‘before any­body else,’ devel­oped AFTER the word became pop­u­lar. Rea­son enough for it to be banned. – Blan Wright, Sug­ar Hill, Ga.

“A dumb, annoy­ing word.” — James Beck­er, Hol­ly, Mich.

“I’d rather be called ‘babe’ than ‘bae’ any day.” — Alex­sis Out­wa­ter, Bron­son, Mich.

POLAR VORTEXLSSU got a head start on this one last spring, when it burned a snow­man named Mr. Polar Vor­tex dur­ing its 44th annu­al Snow­man Burning.

“Was­n’t it called ‘win­ter’ just a few years ago? — Dawn Far­rell, Kana­ta, Ont., Canada

“Enough with the over-sen­sa­tion­al­ized words to describe weath­er!” — A. Prescott, Oshawa, Ont., Canada

“I think most, if not all can agree that we would pre­fer to avoid the polar vor­tex in the future, both in name and in embod­i­ment.” — Chris­tine Brace, West­min­ster, Md.

“What hap­pened to ‘cold snap’? Not descrip­tive enough?” –Trevor Fen­ton, Edin­burgh, U.K.

Ken­neth Ross of Glas­ton­bury, Conn., and Bob Prid­dy of Jef­fer­son City, Mo., were among many who saw this storm­ing in last January.

“Less than a week into the new year and it’s the most overused, mean­ing­less word in the media,” said Ross.

Prid­dy not­ed that it quick­ly jumped from the weath­er fore­cast to oth­er areas, as he said he knew it would: “Today’s St. Louis Post-Dis­patch edi­to­ri­al­izes about a ‘polit­i­cal vortex.’ ”

HACKBan­ished for over-use and mis-use.

“Sud­den­ly things that once would have been called ‘tips’ are now being called ‘hacks.’ It can’t be because the one word is short­er or eas­i­er to say; and the actu­al accept­ed mean­ings of ‘hack’ have noth­ing to do with sug­ges­tions for doing tasks bet­ter or more effi­cient­ly — quite the oppo­site, real­ly.” – Shar­la Hulsey, Sac City, Iowa.

“This word is total­ly over-used and mis-used. What they real­ly mean is ‘tip’ or ‘short cut,’ but clear­ly it is not a ‘hack,’ as it involves no legal or eth­i­cal impro­pri­ety or breach of secu­ri­ty.” – Peter P. Nieckarz Jr., Syl­va, N.C.

“I just received an e‑mail for a book called ‘Mar­riage Hacks.’ I have seen arti­cles about life hacks, home improve­ment hacks, car hacks, fur­ni­ture hacks, paint­ing hacks, work hacks and pret­ty much any oth­er hack you can think of. There are prob­a­bly even hack­ing hacks.” – Chellsea Mas­troine, Can­ton, Ohio.

“Life hack, this hack, that hack…stop with the hacks!” — Tim Jack­son, Crys­tal Lake, Ill.

SKILL SET — “Why use two words when one will do? We already have a per­fect­ly good word in ‘skills’ (end­ing with an s, not a z).” – Chip Lupo, Colum­bia, S.C.

“A skill is a skill — that is it. Phras­es such as ‘I have the skill set to do that prop­er­ly’ or any­thing resem­bling that phrase, shows the speak­er is seri­ous­ly lack­ing skills in the art of con­ver­sa­tion. Please try this, ‘I have the skill… do you have the skills… this requires cer­tain skills… he is very skilled… that was a skill­ful maneu­ver… See? No need for a skill set.” – Stephanie Hamm-Wieczkiewicz, Lit­field Park, Ariz.

SWAGMany nom­i­na­tions over the years.

“The word ‘swag’ has become a shape­less, mean­ing­less word used in var­i­ous forms (such as ‘swag­gy’) but with no real depth.” – Bai­ley Ander­son, Wash­ing­ton, Iowa.

“Whether it’s a ‘free gift’ (ban­ished in 1988) or droopy cloth­ing, this word is nei­ther use­ful nor fan­cy.” – Jeff Drake, Saint Albans, West Va.

“The word has become so overused that it is not ‘swag’ to not use the word ‘swag.’ ” – Devin, Far­well, Mich.

“Because I am tired of hear­ing swag to describe any­thing on the face of the plan­et. By the way, your web­site is so ‘swag.’ ” – Alex, Roanoke, Va.

FOODIEMany nom­i­na­tions over the past sev­er­al years. Is it a Michi­gan thing?

“It’s ridicu­lous. Do we call peo­ple who like wine ‘winies’ or beer lovers ‘beeries’?” – Ran­dall Cham­ber­lain, Tra­verse City, Mich.

“ ‘Some­one who enjoys food’ applies to every­one on Earth. What’s next? ‘Oh, I’m an airie; I just love to breathe.’ ‘Could we do it at 11, instead? I’m kind of a sleepie.’ ” – Andy Poe, Mar­quette, Mich.

“I crave good sleep, too, but that does not make me a sleepie. News flash: We ALL like food.” – Gray­deon DeCamp, Elk Rapids, Mich.

“I’ve heard of cooks and chefs, and gourmets and gour­mands, but what the heck is a ‘food­ie’? A per­son who likes food? A per­son who eats food? A per­son who knows what food is? Sounds like ‘food­ie’ is a syn­onym for ‘every­body.’ Food­ies around the world agree; let’s ban­ish this term.” – Steve Szi­lagyi, Mason, Mich.

CURATE / CURATED — “It used to have a spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance reserved main­ly for fine art and muse­ums. Now every­thing is curat­ed. Month­ly food and cloth­ing sub­scrip­tion box­es claim to be fine­ly ‘curat­ed.’ Instead of abus­ing curat­ed, why don’t they say what they real­ly mean: ‘We did an online search and post­ed the first 25 items we found’ or the ‘curat­ed selec­tion of items in your box this month are a mix of paid place­ments and prod­ucts that have failed to sell else­where.’ ” – Saman­tha McCormick, Kirk­land, Wash.

“Exam­ple on the ‘Net today: ‘Get a curat­ed box of high-end treats and toys (all tai­lored to the size of your pup) shipped right to your dog­gie door.’ — I have heard and read the word ‘curat­ed’ far too many times this year.” – Deb, Port­land, Ore.

“A pre­ten­tious way of say­ing ‘select­ed.’ It’s enor­mous­ly overused.” – Kristi Hoer­auf, San Fran­cis­co, Calif.

FRIEND-RAISING — “A hor­ri­ble word that con­flates the real mean­ing of friend­ship with usu­al­ly hid­den moti­va­tions to get at the oth­er per­son­’s pock­ets.” – Mary Been, Sid­naw, Mich.

“The word sug­gests that we devel­op rela­tion­ships not for the sim­ple val­ue of the per­son we call ‘friend,’ for the plea­sure of being in a com­mu­ni­ty of peo­ple and for the sim­ple joys of shar­ing bonds of affec­tion and com­mon care, but that we instead devel­op these rela­tion­ships out of some sort of expec­ta­tion of a mon­e­tary reward.” – Col­lette Coullard, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

CRA-CRAThat’s just crazy.

Ear­ly in 2014, Steve Kauf­man of Hous­ton, Tex., could be heard scream­ing, “I’ve only heard it twice and already know by the end of the year I’ll want to scream.”

“Short-form for ‘crazy’ and some­times just one ‘cra.’ I hear kids (includ­ing my 6 yr. old) say­ing it all the time, e.g. ‘That snow­storm yes­ter­day was ‘cra-cra.’ ” – Esther Proulx, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“I’m sick of hear­ing myself say this! Must be banned!” – Rox­anne Wer­ly, Tra­verse City, Mich.

ENHANCED INTERROGATION — “A shame­ful euphemism for tor­ture.” – David Bris­tol, Byron Cen­ter, Mich.

TAKEAWAY — “It’s used all too fre­quent­ly on news pro­grams, as in, ‘What is your ‘take­away’ on (a giv­en sit­u­a­tion.’ ‘What is our ‘take­away’ on Con­gress’ vote?’ ‘Is there any ‘take­away’ on the recent riots?’ I have heard Jon Stew­art use it. I’ve heard Char­lie Rose use it, as well as count­less num­bers of news talk­ing heads, usu­al­ly for all the wrong rea­sons. For me, a take­away is a sports term, where one team is con­trol­ling the ball (or puck) and the oth­er steals it, or took it away — a ‘take­away.’ In the U.K., ‘take­away’ food is known as ‘to go’ here in the Colonies. – John Prokop, Oak­land, Calif.

-NATION — A suf­fer­ing sports suffix.

“Pure­ly with ref­er­ence to a spe­cif­ic teams’ fans, this word needs to go. It’s the fol­low­ing of a sports fran­chise, not a group seek­ing inde­pen­dence, recog­ni­tion and legit­i­ma­cy; Not even if it’s the Cubs.” – Tim Wilcox, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Canada

“Although a devout Wis­con­sin sports fan, I do not belong to Pack­er-Nation, Bad­ger-Nation, Phoenix-Nation, or Brew­er-Nation. Fur­ther, I am not aware of any team or mas­cot that has the car­ry­ing capac­i­ty to be a nation.” – Kel­ly Fraw­ley, Wau­na­kee, Wisc.

“Noth­ing more self-aggran­diz­ing than sport team fans refer­ring to them­selves as a nation! What’s next? My team — Con­ti­nent, World, Galaxy, Uni­verse!” – Curt Cham­bers, Seat­tle, Wash.

“Both pol­i­tics and sports teams have overused this n‑word to describe their fans or view­ers.” – Ken Hor­nack, Ormond Beach, Fla.

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

This is a com­pelling list; kudos to LSSU for a job well done. We’re very pleased to see enhanced inter­ro­ga­tion (a Bush/Chenyism) includ­ed. It should have been ban­ished a decade ago or more. Ah, well… bet­ter late than never.

Food­ie, swag, hack, and bae are also very deserv­ing of banishment.

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

CHIPPY — Heard fre­quent­ly dur­ing broad­casts of hock­ey games. It refers to unsports­man­like, bel­liger­ent play char­ac­ter­ized by fights and ejec­tions. Chip­py also has a num­ber of oth­er mean­ings, espe­cial­ly accord­ing to Urban Dic­tio­nary. What’s wrong with rough? It’s a per­fect­ly ser­vice­able word that most peo­ple understand.

(IF YOU) WORK HARD AND PLAY BY THE RULES… — This tired mantra seems to get recy­cled every year at elec­tion time by Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­sul­tants and strate­gists. Pop­u­lar­ized in the 1990s by Bill Clin­ton, it keeps find­ing its way into the speech­es of Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates, and it needs to be ban­ished. The real­i­ty is, the rules are rigged, and Amer­i­cans don’t need to be admon­ished to work hard… they already do!

As Kevin Car­son apt­ly not­ed, “The only peo­ple who get rich play­ing by the rules are the peo­ple who make the rules.” Anat Shenker-Oso­rio adds in Don’t Buy It: “The world works dif­fer­ent­ly for each per­son depend­ing on race, class, gen­der, geog­ra­phy, place of birth, and sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion. Yet, by using the phrase play by the rules, we insist on pre­serv­ing the fan­ta­sy that mer­i­toc­ra­cy deter­mines suc­cess in America.”

INTERNET OF THINGS — This annoy­ing buz­zphrase, pro­mot­ed by  futur­ists, refers to the idea that appli­ances and gad­gets of all kinds will increas­ing­ly be linked togeth­er and acces­si­ble over the Inter­net, whether they be ther­mostats, refrig­er­a­tors, wash­ing machines, home secu­ri­ty sys­tems, cof­feemak­ers… any­thing that can be improved with microchips. The Inter­net, how­ev­er, has always been a net­work link­ing things (most­ly com­put­ers) together.

The notion that every object we have needs to have an IP address and be reach­able over the Inter­net is a fool­ish one. There are extreme­ly seri­ous secu­ri­ty, pri­va­cy, and ener­gy ram­i­fi­ca­tions involved with turn­ing tril­lions of objects into Inter­net-capa­ble devices. And we ought to be dis­cussing those ram­i­fi­ca­tions, framed around the ques­tion: Do we real­ly want or need an Inter­net with tril­lions of con­nect­ed objects?

PHYSICALITY — Talk­ing heads on ESPN and oth­er net­works seem obsessed with this word, which refers to the state or qual­i­ty of being phys­i­cal. Con­sid­er this recent Fox Sports head­line: Phys­i­cal­i­ty, atti­tude changed Pack­ers defense dur­ing rise in NFL rank­ings. It sore­ly needs a rest… as do all of the bod­ies of the grid­iron play­ers who are fin­ish­ing up their 2014 high school, col­lege, or pro seasons.

PICK-SIX — Anoth­er overused, made up phrase that has entered the sports lex­i­con. Are col­or com­men­ta­tors and ana­lysts real­ly so lazy they can’t just say inter­cep­tion returned for a touch­down?

BOOTS ON THE GROUND — This one was heard a lot this year, espe­cial­ly towards the end of sum­mer, as Pres­i­dent Oba­ma announced that the Unit­ed States would car­ry out airstrikes against Islam­ic State, but would not put boots on the ground. What’s wrong with just say­ing deploy troops? Inci­den­tal­ly, on the ground was ban­ished by LSSU in 2003 due to overuse in the mass media. One of the nom­i­na­tors point­ed out that humans live on the ground, not sus­pend­ed in the air or hun­dreds of fath­oms beneath the sur­face of the ocean.

SEND A MESSAGE — An increas­ing­ly abused euphemism for tak­ing some sort of action, like vot­ing in an elec­tion. Plen­ty of emails gen­er­at­ed by cam­paigns this past elec­tion sea­son vague­ly urged recip­i­ents to send a mes­sage to the oppo­si­tion by click­ing a link to sign a peti­tion or give mon­ey. Orga­ni­za­tions and cam­paigns would be bet­ter served by being open with their sup­port­ers about the point of their calls to action. It’d be refresh­ing to see an email that admit­ted that the pri­ma­ry pur­pose of ask­ing peo­ple to sign on to a peti­tion was not to send a mes­sage, but rather to grow the orga­ni­za­tion’s email list.

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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5 replies on “Banished Words for 2015”

  1. If I had one phrase to oblit­er­ate it would be “Have a good one”. A good what? Thank you, but I already do. Oh, you mean a good day. Why did­n’t you say so?

  2. I had no idea this exist­ed. Real­ly cool! I’m going to have to check out lists for pre­vi­ous years. 

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