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 2017 (and forty-sec­ond annu­al) edi­tion, for your read­ing enjoy­ment on this New Year’s Eve:

YOU, SIR - Hails from a more civ­i­lized era when duels were the like­ly out­come of dis­agree­ments. Today, we suf­fer on-line trolls and Inter­net shaming.

FOCUS — Good word, but overused when con­cen­trate or look at would work fine. See 1983’s ban­ish­ment of, We Must Focus Our Atten­tion.

Bête NOIRE — After con­sult­ing a list­ing of syn­onyms, we gath­er this to be a bug­bear, pet peeve, bug-boo, pain, or pest to our nominators.

TOWN HALL MEETING — Can­di­dates sel­dom debate in town halls any­more. Needs to be shown the door along with “soc­cer mom(s)” and “Joe Six­pack” (banned in 1997).

POST-TRUTH — To para­phrase the late Sen­a­tor Daniel Patrick Moyni­han, we are enti­tled to our own opin­ions but not to our own facts.

GUESSTIMATE — When guess and esti­mate are nev­er enough.

831 — A tex­ting encryp­tion of, I love you: 8 let­ters, 3 words, 1 mean­ing. Nev­er encrypt or abbre­vi­ate one’s love.

HISTORIC — Thrown around far too much. What’s con­sid­ered as such is best left to his­to­ri­ans rather than the con­tem­po­rary media.

MANICURED — As in a man­i­cured lawn. Golf greens are the clos­est grass comes to being manicured.

ECHO CHAMBER — Lath­er, rinse, and repeat. After a while, every­thing sounds the same.

ON FLEEK — Any­thing that is on-point, per­fect­ly exe­cut­ed, or look­ing good. Needs to return to its gen­e­sis: per­fect­ly groomed eyebrows.

BIGLY — Did the can­di­date say “big league” or utter this 19th-Cen­tu­ry word that means, in a swelling blus­ter­ing man­ner? Who cares? Kick it out of the echo chamber!

GHOST — To abrupt­ly end com­mu­ni­ca­tion, espe­cial­ly on social media. Is it rejec­tion angst, or is this word real­ly as overused as word-ban­ish­ment nom­i­na­tors con­tend? Either way, our com­mit­tee feels the pain.

DADBOD — The flab­by oppo­site of a chis­eled-body male ide­al. Should not empow­er dads to pur­sue a seden­tary lifestyle.

LISTICLE — Num­bered or bul­let­ed list cre­at­ed pri­mar­i­ly to gen­er­ate views on the Web, LSSU’s word-ban­ish­ment list excluded.

“GET YOUR DANDRUFF UP” — The Com­mit­tee is not sure why this mala­prop­ism got nom­i­na­tors’ dan­der up in 2016.

SELFIE DRONE — In what could be an omi­nous devel­op­ment, the self­ie — an irri­tat­ing habit of con­stant­ly pho­tograph­ing and post­ing one­self to social media — is being hand­ed off to a fly­ing cam­era. How can this end badly?

FRANKENFRUIT — Anoth­er food group co-opt­ed by “franken­food.” Not to be con­fused with oth­er forms of genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied language.

DISRUPTION — Nom­i­na­tors are exhaust­ed from 2016’s dis­rup­tion. When human­i­ty looks back on zom­bie buzz­words, they will see dis­rup­tion bump­ing into oth­er overused syn­onyms for change.

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

We were among those who nom­i­nat­ed dis­rup­tion, bigly, and echo cham­ber, and are very pleased to see them includ­ed by LSSU fo 2017. Thanks, selec­tion committee!

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:

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN/MAGA — This obnox­ious slo­gan of Don­ald Trump’s misog­y­nis­tic, xeno­pho­bic 2016 cam­paign topped our list of phras­es most deserv­ing of ban­ish­ment for 2017. It implies that the Unit­ed States was at one point a great coun­try, but isn’t any longer. If Amer­i­ca is not a great coun­try now, then when was it? In the 1950s, when black peo­ple were being oppressed by Jim Crow and not many work­places were wel­com­ing of women? Or in the 1890s, the height of the Gild­ed Age, when a few Amer­i­cans were get­ting filthy rich at the expense of every­one else? The fact is, we can­not return to the past, and we should­n’t want to. As pro­gres­sives, we don’t want to take Amer­i­ca back. We want to take it for­ward. Begone, MAGA!

ALT-RIGHT — Remem­ber how apol­o­gists for the Bush admin­is­tra­tion tried to intro­duce the term enhanced inter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques a few years ago? It was their way of avoid­ing say­ing the word tor­ture. Alt-right is a term sim­i­lar­ly unde­serv­ing of inclu­sion in our lex­i­con. Let’s just call these peo­ple what they real­ly are: white supremacists.

THAT BEING SAID — Unnec­es­sary filler. This cousin of Hav­ing said that and That said (ban­ished by LSSU in 2003) has become overused in writ­ing, often appear­ing as a tran­si­tion. It’s time to give it a rest.

____ PORN — As in cloud porn, cab­in porn, food porn, geek porn, and so on… which each hap­pen to be named dis­cus­sion boards on Red­dit’s para­dox­i­cal­ly and inap­pro­pri­ate­ly named Safe for Work Porn Net­work. Giv­en that porn is a term that means sex­u­al­ly explic­it con­tent, why would any­one want to label their col­lec­tion of archi­tec­ture pho­tos archi­tec­ture porn? Or their col­lec­tion of wildlife videos ani­mal porn? Or — worst of all — a col­lec­tion of inter­est­ing por­traits of human beings human porn? Do a search for any word in front of porn in any search engine, and the results will always include links to sex­u­al­ly explic­it con­tent, because that is what porn is com­mon­ly under­stood to be. Porn is sim­ply not an appro­pri­ate descrip­tor for any­thing else.

SOFT TARGET — Often heard being uttered on tele­vi­sion news fol­low­ing ter­ror­ist attacks, this is a catch-all phrase for gath­er­ing places and build­ings that are hard to pro­tect from the likes of mass shoot­ers.  In a mil­i­tary con­text, the soft target/hard tar­get dichoto­my may make sense. But this phrase does­n’t belong in the civil­ian world, because every place and set­ting in a free soci­ety such as ours is arguably a “soft tar­get”. Let’s ban­ish this phrase from civil­ian use. If ser­vice­mem­bers have a use for it while per­form­ing their jobs, that’s per­fect­ly fine.

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