you aren't guilty of
using one of these words
once or twice of too many
times to count, then you
are a far, far better
person than I am.
Language is fluid but
sometimes it does seem to
form stagnant pools of
abused, misused or
overused words and
this year's list of banned words
Lake Superior State University
and see if you should plead guilty.
Think they missed one, then submit
your favorite reviled word to next
issues annual list of words to be banished
December 31st, 2007
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- The wordsmiths at Lake
Superior State University are giving back to English
speakers everywhere with their
33rd annual List
of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse,
Overuse and General Uselessness.
On Dec. 31, 1975, former LSSU Public Relations
Director Bill Rabe and his colleagues cooked up an idea
to banish overused words and phrases and issue a list on
New Year's Day. Much to the delight of language
enthusiasts everywhere, the list has stayed the course
into a fourth decade.
This year's list derives from thousands of
nominations received through the
university's website. Word-watchers
target pet peeves from everyday speech, as well as from
the news, education, technology, advertising, politics,
sports and more. A committee makes a final cut in late
December. The list is released on New Year's Day.
Over the years, some copycat lists have made an
appearance, but LSSU's list was first.
This year, in a gesture of humanitarian relief, the
committee restores "truthiness," banned on last year's
list, to formal use. This comes after comedians and
late-night hosts were thrown under the bus and rendered
speechless by a nationwide professional writers' strike.
The silence is deafening.
In this spirit, LSSU presents its 2008 list, a
perfect storm of overused and abused words and phrases
that pops organic, to a post-9/11 world decimated by
It is what it is.
PERFECT STORM -- "Overused by the pundits on
evening TV shows to mean just about any coincidence."
--Lynn Allen, Warren, Michigan.
"I read that 'Ontario is a perfect storm,' in
reference to a report on pollution levels in the Great
Lakes. Ontario is the name of one of the lakes and a
Canadian province. This guy would have me believe it's a
hurricane. It's time for 'perfect storm' to get rained
out." -- Bob Smith, DeWitt, Michigan.
"Hands off book titles as cheap descriptors!" --
David Hollis, Hamilton, New York.
WEBINAR -- A seminar on the web about any number
of topics. "Ouch! It hurts my brain. It should be
crushed immediately before it spreads." -- Carol, Lams,
"Yet another non-word trying to worm its way into the
English language due to the Internet. It belongs in the
same school of non-thought that brought us e-anything
and i-anything." -- Scott Lassiter, Houston, Texas.
WATERBOARDING -- "Let's banish 'waterboarding' to
the beach, where it belongs with boogie boards and
surfboards." -- Patrick K. Egan, Sault Ste. Marie,
ORGANIC -- Overused and misused to describe not
only food, but computer products or human behavior, and
often used when describing something as "natural," says
Crystal Giordano of Brooklyn, New York. Another
advertising gimmick to make things sound better than
they really are, according to Rick DeVan of Willoughby,
Ohio, who said he has heard claims such as "My business
is organic," and computers having "organic software."
"Things have gone too far when they begin marketing
T-shirts as organic." -- Michelle Fitzpatrick, St.
"'Organic' is used to describe everything, from
shampoo to meat. Banishment! Improperly used!" -- Susan
Clark, Bristol, Maine.
"The possibility of a food item being inorganic,
i.e., not being composed of carbon atoms, is nil." --
John Gomila, New Orleans, Louisiana.
"You see the word 'organic' written on everything
from cereal to dog food." -- Michael, Sacramento,
"I'm tired of health food stores selling products
that they say are organic. All the food we eat is
organic!" -- Chad Jacobson, Park Falls, Wisconsin.
WORDSMITH/WORDSMITHING -- "I've never read
anything created by a wordsmith - or via wordsmithing -
that was pleasant to read." -- Emily Kissane, St. Paul,
AUTHORED -- "In one of former TV commentator
Edwin Newman's books, he wonders if it would be correct
to say that someone 'paintered' a picture?" -- Dorothy
Betzweiser, Cincinnati, Ohio.
POST 9/11 -- "'Our post-9/11 world,' is used now,
and probably used more, than AD, BC, or Y2K, time
references. You'd think the United States didn't have
jet fighters, nuclear bombs, and secret agents, let
alone electricity, 'pre-9/11.'" -- Chazz Miner, Midland,
SURGE -- "'Surge' has become a reference to a
military build-up. Give me the old days, when it
referenced storms and electrical power." -- Michael F.
Raczko, Swanton, Ohio.
"Do I even have to say it? I can't be the first one
to nominate it . . . put me in line. From Iraq to Wall
Street to the weather forecast, 'surge' really ought to
recede." -- Mike Lara, Colorado.
"This word came out in the context of increasing the
number of troops in Iraq. Can be used to explain the
expansion of many things (I have a surge in my waist)
and it's use will grow out of control . . .. The new
Chevy Surge, just experience the roominess!" -- Eric
McMillan, Mentor, Ohio.
GIVE BACK -- "This oleaginous phrase is an
emergency submission to the 2008 list. The notion has
arisen that as one's life progresses, one accumulates a
sort of deficit balance with society which must be
neutralized by charitable works or financial outlays.
Are one's daily transactions throughout life a form of
theft?" -- Richard Ong, Carthage, Missouri.
"Various media have been featuring a large number of
people who 'just want to give back.' Give back to whom?
For what?" -- Curtis Cooper, Hazel Park, Michigan.
'BLANK' is the new 'BLANK' or 'X' is the new 'Y' --
In spite of statements to the contrary, 'Cold is
(NOT) the new hot,' nor is '70 the new 50.' The idea
behind such comparisons was originally good, but we've
all watched them spiral out of reasonable uses into
ludicrous ones and it's now time to banish them from
use. Or, to phrase it another way, 'Originally clever
advertising is now the new absurdity!'" -- Lawrence
Mickel, Coventry, Connecticut.
"Believed to have come into use in the 1960s, but it
is getting tired. The comparisons have become absurd."
-- Geoff Steinhart, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
"'Orange is the new black.' '50 is the new 30.'
'Chocolate is the new sex.' 'Sex is the new chocolate.'
'Fallacy is the new truth.' -- Patrick Dillon, East
BLACK FRIDAY -- "The day after Thanksgiving that
retailers use to keep themselves out of the 'red' for
the year. (And then followed by "Cyber-Monday.") This is
counter to the start of the Great Depression's use of
the term 'Black Tuesday,' which signaled the crash of
the stock market that sent the economy into a tailspin.
-- Carl Marschner, Melvindale, Michigan.
BACK IN THE DAY -- "Back in the day, we used
'back-in-the-day' to mean something really historical.
Now you hear ridiculous statements such as 'Back in the
day, people used Blackberries without Blue Tooth.'" --
Liz Jameson, Tallahassee, Florida.
"This one might've already made the list back in the
day, which was a Wednesday, I think." -- Tim Bradley,
Los Angeles, California.
RANDOM -- Popular with teenagers in many places.
"Over-used and usually out of context, e.g., 'You are so
random!' Really? Random is supposed to mean 'by chance.'
So what I said was by chance, and not by choice?" --
Gabriel Brandel, Farmington Hills, Michigan.
"Outrageous mis- and overuse, mostly by teenagers,
e.g., 'This random guy, singing this random song . . ..
It was so random.' Grrrrr." -- Leigh, Duncan, Galway,
"Overuse on a massive scale by my fellow youth. Every
event, activity and person can be 'sooo random' as of
late. Banish it before I go vigilante." -- Ben Martin,
Adelaide, South Australia.
"How can a person be random?" -- Emma Halpin,
Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom.
SWEET -- "Too many sweets will make you sick. It
became popular with the advent of the television show
'South Park' and by rights should have died of natural
causes, but the term continues to cling to life. It is
annoying when young children use it and have no idea
why, but it really sounds stupid coming from the mouths
of adults. Please kill this particular use of an
otherwise fine word." -- Wayne Braver, Manistique,
"Youth lingo overuse, similar to 'awesome.' I became
sick of this one immediately." -- Gordon Johnson,
DECIMATE -- Word-watchers have been calling for
the annihilation of this one for several years.
"Used today in reference to widespread destruction or
devastation. If you will not banish this word, I ask
that its use be 'decimated' (reduced by one-tenth)." --
Allan Dregseth, Fargo, North Dakota.
"I nominate 'decimate' as it applies to Man's and
Nature's destructive fury and the outcome of sporting
contests. Decimate simply means a 10% reduction -- no
more, no less. It may have derived notoriety because the
ancient Romans used decimation as a technique for
prisoner of war population reduction or an incentive for
under-performing battle units. A group of 10 would be
assembled and lots drawn. The nine losers would win and
the winner would die at the hands of the losers -- a
variation on the instant lottery game. Perhaps 'creamed'
or 'emulsified' should be substituted. -- Mark Dobias,
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
"The word is so overused and misused, people use it
when they should be saying 'annihilate.' It's so bad
that now there are two definitions, the real one and the
one that has taken over like a weed. -- Dane, Flowery
"'Decimate' has been turned upside down. It means 'to
destroy one tenth,' but people are using it to mean 'to
destroy nine tenths.' -- David Welch, Venice, Florida.
EMOTIONAL -- "Reporters, short on vocabulary,
often describe a scene as 'emotional.' Well sure, but
which emotion? For a radio reporter to gravely announce,
'There was an emotional send off to Joe Blow' tells me
nothing, other than the reporter perceived that the
participants acted in an emotional way. For instance: I
had an emotional day today. I started out feeling tired
and a bit grumpy until I had my coffee. I was distraught
over a cat killing a bird on the other side of the
street. I was bemused by my reaction to the way nature
works. I was intrigued this evening to add a word or two
to your suggestions. I was happy to see the words that
others had posted. Gosh, this has been an emotional day
for me." -- Brendan Kennedy, Quesnel, British Columbia,
POP -- "On every single one of the 45,000
decorating shows on cable TV (of which I watch many)
there is at LEAST one obligatory use of a phrase such as
... 'the addition of the red really makes it POP.' You
know when it's coming ... you mouth it along with the
decorator. There must be some other way of describing
the addition of an interesting detail." -- Barbara,
IT IS WHAT IT IS -- "This pointless phrase,
uttered initially by athletes on the losing side of a
contest, is making its way into general use. It
accomplishes the dual feat of adding nothing to the
conversation while also being phonetically and
thematically redundant." -- Jeffrey Skrenes, St. Paul,
"It means absolutely nothing and is mostly a cop out
or a way to avoid answering a question in a way that
might require genuine thought or insight. Listen to an
interview with some coach or athlete in big-time sports
and you'll inevitably hear it." -- Doug Compo, Brimley,
"It seems to be everywhere and pervade every section
of any newspaper I read. It reminds me of 'Who is John
Galt?' from 'Atlas Shrugged.' It implies an acceptance
of the status quo regardless of the circumstances. But
it is what it is." -- Erik Pauna, Mondovi, Wisconsin.
"Only Yogi Berra should be allowed to utter such a
circumlocution." -- Jerry Holloway, Belcamp, Maryland.
"This is migrating from primetime 'reality
television' and embedding itself into otherwise
articulate persons' vocabularies. Of course it is what
it is, otherwise it wouldn't be what it would have
been!" -- Steve Olsen, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario,
UNDER THE BUS -- "For overuse. I frequently hear
this in the cliche-filled sports world, where it's used
to describe misplaced blame, e.g., After Sunday's loss,
the fans threw T.O. under the bus." -- Mark R. Hinkston,
"Please, just 'blame' them." -- Mike Lekan,
"Just wondering when someone saying something
negative became the same as a mob hit. Since every
sportscaster in the US uses it, is a call for the media
to start issuing a thesaurus to everyone in front of a
camera." -- Mark Bockhaus, Appleton, Wisconsin.
Lake Superior State University is located in Sault
Ste. Marie, Michigan, along the U.S./Canada
Complete list of banished
words through 2007
(This is a long list and
a large file. Allow
time to download.)
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