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Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Banished Words for 2019

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 2019 (and forty-fourth annual) edition, for your reading enjoyment on this New Year’s Day:

WHEELHOUSE, as in area of expertise – Chris, Battle Creek, Michigan: “It’s not in my wheelhouse to explain why dreadful words should be banished!”; Currie, Ottawa, Ontario (Canada): “Irritating, has become a cliché, annoys me, offence to the English language, etc.”; Kevin, Portland, Oregon: “It’s an awkward word to use in the twenty-first century. Most people have never seen a wheelhouse.”

IN THE BOOKS…, as in finished or concluded – Sandy, White Lake Township, Michigan: “It seems everyone’s holiday party is in the books this year, and it’s all there for friends to view on social media, along with the photos of the happy party attendees.”

WRAP MY HEAD AROUND – Linda, Bloomington, Minnesota: “Impossible to do and makes no sense.”

PLATFORM – Michael, Alameda, California: “People use it as an excuse to rant. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have become platforms. Even athletes call a post-game interview a ‘platform.’ Step down from the platform, already.”

COLLUSION, as in two or more parties limiting competition by deception – John, Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan: “We all need to collude on getting rid of this word.”

OTUS family of acronyms such as POTUS, FLOTUS, SCOTUS – David, Kinross, Michigan: “Overused useless word for the President, Supreme Court, First Lady.”

GHOSTING – Carrie, Caledonia, Michigan: “Somebody doesn’t want to talk with you. Get over it. No need to bring the paranormal into the equation.”

YEET, as in to vigorously throw or toss – Emily, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan: “If I hear one more freshman say “yeet,” I might just yeet myself out a window.”

LITIGATE – Ronald, Fredericton, New Brunswick (Canada): “Originally meant to take a claim or dispute to a law court… appropriated by politicians and journalists for any matter of controversy in the public sphere.”

GRAPPLE – David, Traverse City, Michigan: “People who struggle with ideas and issues now grapple with them. I prefer to grapple with a wrestler or an overgrown tree. ”

ESCHEW – Mary, Toronto, Ontario (Canada), “Nobody ever actually says this word out loud, they just write it for filler.”

CRUSTY – Hannah, Campbellsville, Kentucky:, “This has become a popular insult. It’s disgusting and sounds weird. Make the madness stop.”

OPTICS – Bob Tempe, Arizona: “The trendy way to say ‘appearance’.”

LEGALLY DRUNK – Philip, Auburn, Indiana: “You’re a little tipsy, that’s all. That’s legally drunk. People who are ticketed for drunk driving are actually ‘illegally drunk,’ and we should say so.”

THOUGHT LEADER – Matt, Superior, Colorado: “Thoughts aren’t ranked or scored. How can someone hold a thought-lead, much less even lead by thought?”; Paul, Ann Arbor, Michigan: “If you follow a thought leader, you’re not much of a thinker.”

IMPORTANTLY – Constance, Pace, Texas: “Totally unnecessary when ‘important’ is sufficient. ‘More importantly’ (banned in 1992) apparently sounds more important but is also senseless.”

ACCOUTREMENTS – Leslie, Scottsdale, Arizona: “Hard to spell, not specific, and anachronistic when ‘accessories’ will do.”

MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR TIME… – José, Ozark, Arkansas: “Not that we haven’t had six or seven back-to-back most important elections of our time.”

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

Most important election of our time and wrap my head around are the best entries on this year’s list. Fine work, selection committee! This list is in the books.

Or is it? 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:

SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE — An insult frequently used by right wing commentators which has offensive connotations. It has become “the epithet of choice for right-wingers to fling at anyone who could be accused of being too easily offended,” ThinkProgress observed last year. This insult is employed frequently on Twitter and Facebook by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and people who have been influenced by the thinking of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Its history dates back to the 1860s; right wingers in those times used it to disparage abolitionists. It received the most votes for banishment this year.

YOU DO YOU — This sarcastic retort, often deployed on social media by people who have lost interest in an argument (or can’t figure out what else to say when disagreeing with someone in a comment thread), has become very tiresome and repetitive. We could all do with less rudeness in polarized times. Take a hike, you do you!

BACK-BREAKING — Increasingly heard during gridiron game commentaries, as in, that run into the endzone was a back-breaking play. Really? Back breaking is commonly understood to mean physically demanding. And all sports are physically demanding. Gridiron is actually more than merely demanding, considering the severe toll it takes on players’ bodies. It should be noted that over the years, a few unfortunate gridiron players have become paralyzed from plays that truly were back-breaking in a literal sense. Impressive, clever, nimble, brilliant, and slick are just a few possible words announcers could use instead to describe plays that they’re admiring from the booth.

WE SHOULD LIVE WITHIN OUR MEANS — A tiresome saying uttered by Republican candidates and elected officials when they are trying to justify their opposition to making investments that our society needs. Families have to live within their means; so should the government, the argument goes. But this is nonsense. Families make investments that are beyond their means all the time in order to afford the essentials of life, like shelter and transportation. Any household that has ever taken out a home mortgage, or a car loan, or relied on credit cards in between a job to pay the bills are living beyond their means. Republicans, just acknowledge you’re philosophically opposed to certain functions of government. We don’t need the lectures on fiscal responsibility from a party that doesn’t practice what it preaches.

SHE SHED — The feminine equivalent of man cave, which LSSU rightly banished six years ago. Can’t we just call these areas what they are? Hobby room, craft shed, home theater, wood shop, garage and so on all work better as descriptors than she shed or man cave … and as a bonus, are completely gender neutral. (Striving for bias free language isn’t mandatory, but it helps people feel more welcome and included.)

PLEASE LISTEN CAREFULLY AS OUR MENU HAS CHANGED — This very common prerecorded refrain can be heard during the greeting many companies play for people calling in to their 1-800 (or equivalent) customer support numbers. The supposition that callers (even repeat callers) have knowledge or familiarity with the menu structure is erroneous, as that’s simply not information that most people consider important. Memo to companies across America: Since we don’t remember your old phone menu, it’s irrelevant if you’ve changed it. This phrase needs to be permanently retired; a better practice for facilitating phone menu navigation is simply to automatically repeat the options a second time for callers who wish to hear them again.

Previously banished by NPI:


  • Alternative Facts
  • Thoughts and Prayers
  • Zero Sum Game
  • Hive Mind
  • Woke
  • Not/Shouldn’t Be A Partisan Issue


  • Make America Great Again/MAGA
  • Alt-Right
  • That Being Said
  • ____ Porn
  • Soft Target


  • Netflix and Chill
  • Explosive Play
  • Chip In
  • Yuccie
  • Active, Fluid Situation


  • Chippy
  • (If You) Work Hard And Play By The Rules
  • Internet of Things
  • Pick Six
  • Physicality
  • Boots On The Ground
  • Send A Message


  • Amazeballs/Balls to the Wall
  • FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
  • Presh
  • Debt Ceiling
  • Entitlements


  • Adorkable
  • -GEDDON contruct (e.g. Snowmageddon)
  • Literally
  • Mommy Porn
  • Superstorm
  • Meh


  • Guru
  • Some Would Say/Some Say
  • Job Creator
  • Two-Thirds Majority
  • Let Me Be Perfectly Clear
  • Offer Only Available For A Limited Time
  • Incentivize


  • Your Call is Important To Us (an almost identical phrase was banished by Lake Superior State University in 1996)
  • Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle

What words would you like to see banished that aren’t on this year’s list – or LSSU’s all time list? Let us know in the comments. And Happy New Year!

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  1. Really great list! Wheelhouse is *so* overused…

    # by Susan Highmore :: January 2nd, 2019 at 7:09 PM
  2. Magnificent. A lot of useful information here for linguists. I’m sending it to a few pals.

    # by Rachelle Seward :: January 9th, 2019 at 4:06 AM

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