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 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!

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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3 replies on “Banished Words for 2019”

  1. Mag­nif­i­cent. A lot of use­ful infor­ma­tion here for lin­guists. I’m send­ing it to a few pals.

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