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!