Banished Words
LSSU's Banished Words List

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 2016 (and forty-first annu­al) edi­tion, for your read­ing enjoy­ment on this New Year’s Eve:

SOSo the word that received the most nom­i­na­tions this year was already ban­ished, but today it is being used dif­fer­ent­ly than it was in 1999, when nom­i­na­tors were say­ing, “I am SO down with this list!”  Nom­i­na­tions came from across the country.

“Cur­rent­ly, it is being overused as the first word in the answer to ANY ques­tion. For instance, “How did you learn to play the piano?” Answer: “So my dad was in a clas­si­cal music club…” – Bob For­rest, Tempe Ariz.

“Tune in to any news chan­nel and you’ll hear it. The word serves no pur­pose in the sen­tence and to me is like fin­ger­nails on a chalk­board. So, I sub­mit the extra, mean­ing­less, and overused word ‘so.’” – Scott Shack­le­ton, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“Politi­cians, espe­cial­ly, are using this word when asked a ques­tion and not answer­ing said ques­tion. It is used by all par­ties in Canada’s Fed­er­al elec­tion. – Karen New­ton, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

“Fre­quent­ly used to begin a sen­tence, par­tic­u­lar­ly in response to a ques­tion, this tire­some and gram­mat­i­cal­ly incor­rect replace­ment for “Like,” or “Um,” is even more irksome…It hurts my ears, every sin­gle time I hear it! – Thomas H. Weiss, Mt. Pleas­ant, Mich.

“So it’s get­ting real­ly annoy­ing. So can we please put a stop to this?” – David G. Simp­son, Lau­rel, Md.

“It has become wide­spread to the point of an epi­dem­ic,” said a sick­ened John from Philadel­phia, Penn.

CONVERSATION — Online pub­li­ca­tions invite us to “join the con­ver­sa­tion,” which is usu­al­ly more of a scream-fest.  Gayle from Cedarville, Mich. won­ders if “debate has become too harsh for our del­i­cate sen­si­bil­i­ties.  Now we are all encour­aged to have a ‘con­ver­sa­tion,’ and every­thing will some­what be mag­i­cal­ly resolved.”

“Over the past five years or so, this word has been increas­ing­ly used by talk­ing heads on radio, tele­vi­sion and in polit­i­cal cir­cles to describe every form of ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion known to mankind. It has replaced ‘dis­cus­sion,’ ‘debate,’ ‘chat,’ ‘dis­course,’ ‘argu­ment,’ ‘lec­ture,’ ‘talk’….all of which can pro­vide some con­text to the nature of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Per­haps the users feel that it is a word that is least like­ly to offend peo­ple, but I con­sid­er it to be impre­cise lan­guage that, over time, dumbs down the art of effec­tive dis­course.” – Richard Fry, Marathon, Ont.

“Used by every media type with­out excep­tion. No one lis­tens.” – Richard Seitz, Charleston, Ill.

“Have one, start one, engage in one.  Enough.” – Fred Rogers, Hous­ton, Tex.

We are invit­ed to “join the con­ver­sa­tion if we want to give an opin­ion. This expres­sion is overused and it is annoy­ing. Thanks for lis­ten­ing, eh.” – Deb­bie Irwin, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

PROBLEMATIC — “A cor­po­rate-aca­d­e­m­ic weasel word,” accord­ing to the Urban Dictionary.

“Some­where along the line, this word became a trendy replace­ment for ‘that is a prob­lem.’ I just hate it.” – Sharon Mar­tin, Hager­stown, Md.

“Any­thing that the speak­er finds vague­ly incon­ve­nient or unde­sir­able, such as an oppos­ing polit­i­cal belief or bad traf­fic. Con­trast things that are self-evi­dent­ly tak­en to be prob­lem­at­ic with, say, actu­al prob­lems like a hole in the ozone lay­er or a job loss.” – Adam Rosen, Asheville, N.C.

STAKEHOLDER A word that has expand­ed from describ­ing some­one who may actu­al­ly have a stake in a sit­u­a­tion or prob­lem, now being over-used in busi­ness to describe cus­tomers and others.

“Often used with ‘engage­ment.’ If some­one is dis­en­gaged, they’re not real­ly a stake­hold­er in the first place. LSSU, please engage your stake­hold­ers by adding this pre­ten­tious jar­gon to your list. – Gwen­dolyn Bar­low, Port­land, Ore.

Harley Carter of Cal­gary, Alber­ta, says he has heard it with anoth­er word pop­u­lar in busi­ness-speak, “social­ize,” which means to spread an idea around to see what oth­ers think of it.  “We need to social­ize this con­cept with our ‘stake­hold­ers.’”

“Dr. Van Hels­ing should be the only stake hold­er,” says Jeff Bae­nen of Min­neapo­lis, Minn.

PRICE POINTAnoth­er exam­ple of using two words when one will do.

“This allit­er­a­tive muta­tion seems to be replac­ing the word ‘price’ or ‘cost.’ It may be stan­dard busi­ness-speak, but must it con­t­a­m­i­nate every­day speech?” says Kevin Car­ney of Chica­go, who pro­vid­ed an exam­ple in the March 19, 2015 issue of the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine, pg. 1171, which says, “Although the ‘price point’ of effec­tive new drugs…may ini­tial­ly be out of reach for many patients…”

“It has no ‘point.’  It is just a ‘price.’” – Guy Michael, Cher­ry Hill, N.J.

SECRET SAUCE — “Usu­al­ly used in a sen­tence explain­ing the ‘secret’ in excru­ci­at­ing pub­lic detail. Is this a metaphor for busi­ness suc­cess based on the fast food indus­try?” – John Beck­ett, Ann Arbor, Mich.

“It has become too fre­quent in busi­ness dis­cus­sions. I am tired of it.” – Bill Evans, Clin­ton, Miss.

BREAK THE INTERNETA phrase that is annoy­ing online word-watch­ers around the world. 

“An annoy­ing bit of hyper­bole about the lat­est saucy pic­ture or con­tro­ver­sy that is already becom­ing trite.” – Tim Bed­nall, Mel­bourne, Vic­to­ria, Australia

“Mean­ing a post or video or what­ev­er will have so much Inter­net traf­fic that it will ‘break the inter­net.’ It’s being used for every head­line and video. Ridicu­lous.” – Matthew Squires, Auburn, Mich.

“I hope the list doesn’t ‘break the inter­net.’ (How else would I read it next year)?” – Dean Hin­richs, Kansas City, Mo.

WALK IT BACKA slow­er back-pedal?

“It seems as if every politi­cian who makes a state­ment has to ‘walk it back,’ mean­ing retract the state­ment, or explain it in labo­ri­ous detail to the extent that the state­ment no longer has any valid­i­ty or mean­ing once it has been ‘walked back.’” – Max Hill, Killeen, Tex.

PRESSER This short­ened form of “press release” and “press con­fer­ence” is not so impressive. 

“Not only is there no intel­li­gent con­nec­tion between the word “press­er” and its sup­posed mean­ing, this word already has a def­i­n­i­tion: a per­son or device that removes wrin­kles. Let’s either say ‘press con­fer­ence’ or ‘press release’ or come up with some­thing more orig­i­nal, intel­li­gent and inter­est­ing!” – Con­stance Kel­ly, West Bloom­field, Mich.

“This indus­try buzz­word has slipped into usage in news report­ing and now that they have start­ed, they can’t seem to stop using it.” – Richard W. Var­ney, Akron, Ohio.

MANSPREADINGA word that is famil­iar to those in big­ger cities, where seats on the bus or sub­way are some­times dif­fi­cult to find. 

“Men don’t need anoth­er dis­gust­ing-sound­ing word thrown into the vocab­u­lary to describe some­thing they do…You’re just tak­ing too much room on this train seat, be a lit­tle more polite…” – Car­rie Hansen, Cale­do­nia, Mich.

“The term itself is stu­pid, and the cam­paign and peti­tion writ­ten by men’s rights activists claim­ing that men need to take up more space due to their anato­my, and that anti-manspread­ing cam­paigns are ‘male-bash­ing,’ are ridicu­lous. The prob­lem is with peo­ple tak­ing up too much space on the sub­way or any pub­lic mode of trans­porta­tion. – Beth, Anchor­age, Alaska

VAPEVape and vap­ing are used to describe the act of ‘smok­ing’ e‑cigarettes (anoth­er strange word) since the prod­ucts emit vapor instead of smoke.

David Ervin of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., says he hopes the word “goes up in smoke.”

GIVING ME LIFEThe phrase refers to any­thing that may excite a per­son, or some­thing that caus­es one to laugh. 

“I sug­gest ban­ish­ing this hyper­bole for over-use,” says Ana Rob­bins, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“This list of ban­ished words is ‘giv­ing me life’!”

PHYSICALITYWe had to include one for the sports fans. John Kol­lig of Jamestown, N.Y., says this is overused by every sports broad­cast­er and writer.

“I am not sure who is respon­si­ble, but over the last 12–18 months you can­not watch a sport­ing event, lis­ten to a sports talk show on radio, or any­thing on ESPN with­out some­one using this term to attempt to describe an ath­lete or a con­test.” – Dan Beitzel, Per­rys­burg, Ohio

“Every time I hear them say it, I change the chan­nel.” – Bren­da Ruff­ing, Jack­son, Mich.

“What the heck does it mean?” – Lin­da Pardy, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

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

Once again, LSSU has com­piled a pret­ty strong list. We’re very pleased to see phys­i­cal­i­ty includ­ed, as we nom­i­nat­ed it for ban­ish­ment here a year ago.

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

NETFLIX AND CHILL — This phrase had an innocu­ous mean­ing when it was first used on social media years ago, but it has since evolved into slang. It means hook­ing up for sex. It gained its own Urban Dic­tio­nary entry this year and has rapid­ly become tir­ing. As one Twit­ter user joked ear­li­er this year: “Y’all guys need to come up with a new mat­ing call, that let’s watch net­flix and chill isn’t slick anymore.”

EXPLOSIVE PLAY — Sports­writ­ers and sports announc­ers have fall­en in love with this phrase, espe­cial­ly this past grid­iron sea­son. Its use has become inces­sant. For instance, on Twit­ter, a cou­ple of days ago, Eliot Shorr-Parks tweet­ed: “Pat Shur­mur says the Eagles have the play­ers to make explo­sive plays. When asked who, he said all of them.” The word explo­sive is an adjec­tive that pri­mar­i­ly means “to expand with force and noise because of rapid chem­i­cal change or decom­po­si­tion”. It can also mean “to burst forth vio­lent­ly or emo­tion­al­ly”. In the con­text of Amer­i­can foot­ball, when sports­cast­ers are gush­ing about an explo­sive play, they’re usu­al­ly just prais­ing a catch or run that moved a team’s offense down­field, often close to the endzone.

CHIP IN — It seems not a day goes by when we’re not asked to “chip in” to help a can­di­date, cam­paign, or orga­ni­za­tion in an end-of-the-year/quar­ter/­month fundrais­ing email.

All too often, the pitch­es are vague, neglect­ing to men­tion how exact­ly the request­ed con­tri­bu­tions will be put to use.

For exam­ple, only yes­ter­day, MoveOn asked, “Will you chip in to pow­er MoveOn mem­bers’ orga­niz­ing in 2016? Click here if you can.” Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton urged Hillary sup­port­ers to “chip in $1 before mid­night tomor­row” to help her cam­paign. And two days before that, Orga­niz­ing For Action made a sim­i­lar request. “We’re build­ing toward mak­ing the most out of next year, so chip in $5 or more today and be part of it”, read an email from OFA’s Sara El-Amine.

The overuse of this phrase sad­ly shows no sign of abat­ing, so we say it’s time to ban­ish it. Out with chip in!

YUCCIE — A ridicu­lous, sil­ly made up term coined by David Infante that’s sup­posed to be short for “Young Urban Cre­atives”. We hat­ed it from the moment we saw it used on Mash­able, and it deserves to be ban­ished before it has a chance to catch on. It’s that awful.

ACTIVE, FLUID SITUATION — Often heard dur­ing law enforce­ment press con­fer­ences aired live on net­work or cable tele­vi­sion. This phrase has become boil­er­plate filler, used to repeat­ed­ly ward off requests for infor­ma­tion when author­i­ties have yet to fin­ish an inves­ti­ga­tion into a mass shoot­ing or anoth­er devel­op­ing threat to pub­lic safe­ty. Accord­ing to Oxford, flu­id prin­ci­pal­ly means “a sub­stance that has no fixed shape and yields eas­i­ly to exter­nal pres­sure”. When author­i­ties say a sit­u­a­tion is flu­id, what they real­ly mean is, “We don’t have every­thing under con­trol yet.” But they’d rather not say that on cam­era, it seems.

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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One reply on “Banished Words for 2016”

  1. Sports……..
    big playability


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