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Words: Banished and Best of 2009

by DaniGirl on January 14, 2010 · 3 comments

in Wordplay

It’s a great week for content here at the Mothership. Earlier in the week, we had a righteous (but, as always, entirely civil) debate about parenting, and today we have some word geekery. All we need is a cute kid anecdote and we’ve hit the “my favourite things” trifecta!!

I’ve blogged about Lake Superior State University’s Banished Words list each year from 2006 through 2008, so of course I had to bring you the 2009 list. Rather than list them for you, I just cut-and-paste LSSU’s press release. The bolded terms are, of course, the banished words.

Word czars at Lake Superior State University unfriended 15 words and phrases and declared them shovel-ready for inclusion on the university’s 35th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

“The list this year is a teachable moment conducted free of tweets,” said a Word Banishment spokesman who was chillaxin for the holidays. “In these economic times, purging our language of toxic assets is a stimulus effort that’s too big to fail.”

Former LSSU Public Relations Director Bill Rabe and friends created “word banishment” in 1975 at a New Year’s Eve party and released the first list on New Year’s Day. Since then, LSSU has received tens of thousands of nominations for the list, which includes words and phrases from marketing, media, education, technology and more.

Other terms nominated for banishment included sexting, App, transparency and bromance.

One can’t help but notice the congruence of “Tweet” being on one group’s Banished Words list while being named the Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society.

Other nominees for ADS’s 2009 Word of the Year were:

-er A suffix used in such words as birther, someone who questions whether Obama was born in the United States; deather, someone who believes the government has death panels in its healthcare reform plan; Tenther, someone who believes the Federal government is mostly illegal because it usurps rights which belong to the States, in violation of the 10th Amendment; and truther, someone who doubts the official account of the 9/11 attacks.
fail A noun or interjection describing something egregiously unsuccessful. Usually used as an interjection: “FAIL!”
H1N1 The virus that causes swine flu.
public option A government-run healthcare insurance program, desired by some to be part of the country’s healthcare reform.
Dracula sneeze Covering one’s mouth with the crook of one’s elbow when sneezing, seen as similar to popular portrayals of the vampire Dracula, in which he hides the lower half of his face with a cape.

And of course, since we changed not only years but decades this past New Years Eve, we have a Year of the Decade list from the American Dialect Society, too. The winner, quite rightly IMHO, is google. Note the small “g” – it’s google the verb, as in to search the Internet, and not Google the company. Also-rans in the Word of the Decade contest were: blog, 9-11, green, text, war on terror and Wi-Fi.

(In the ADS press release, they have a list of prior winners. In January 2000, the Word of the Decade was web, the Word of the Twentieth Century was jazz and the Word of the Millennium was she.)

I always find the banished words more fun than the favourited ones (oh look, there’s another term that didn’t exist 10 years ago: favourite as a verb) and not only because the ADS’s list is a little too, um, Americanized for my taste. Frankly, I hadn’t even heard of some of the terms they nominated.

So speak up, bloggy peeps. What words or phrases would you banish if you could and why? Or, take the other road and tell me what you think the most influential word of the decade should be. (Personally, I’d ban the words “why” and “no” exclusively because my toddler has worn my nerves to stubble by using them as a torture device.)


Okay, so retro is cool, right? And retro is basically recycling old stuff and making it new again, often by those who missed it the first time around, right? Grand, so I’m totally retro in finally remembering on St Patty’s Day that I forgot to put up my annual posts in January about the word of the year and the banished word of the year. I’m so kewl it hurts.

Right then. Word of the year for 2008 from our friends at the American Dialect Society is “bailout”. Excellent choice, IMHO.

In its 19th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted “bailout” as the word of the year. In the specific sense used most frequently in 2008, bailout refers to the rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry.

The winner was selected by popular vote, following nominations from the public. Subcategories include Most Useful (Barack Obama)(!), Most Unnecessary (moofing), Most Euphemistic (scooping technician), Most and Least Likely to Succeed (shovel-ready and PUMA, respectively), and Most Creative:

WINNER: recombobulation area: An area at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee in which passengers that have just passed through security screening can get their clothes and belongings back in order.

long photo: A video of 90 seconds or less. Used by the photo-sharing web site Flickr.

skadoosh: A nonsense interjection popularized by Jack Black in the movie Kung Fu Panda.

rofflenui: A blended New Zealand English-Maori word that means “rolling on the floor laughing a lot.”

Ironically — or perhaps not so much — “bailout” was also on the list of words nominated for banishment by Lake Superior State University’s “34th annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.”

Bailout was defeated, however, and the banishment crown went to “the ubiquitous ‘Green’ and all of its variables, such as ‘going green,’ ‘building green,’ ‘greening,’ ‘green technology,’ ‘green solutions’ and more.”

Not a bad choice, even if I do support the movement in principle. What should really be banished is the use of “green” as a marketing term. THAT would make me happy!

If I were to banish any one word from the English language, it would be “utilize.” I can’t tell you how much it makes me cringe to see this word “utilized” when good old “used” would do just fine. Maybe that’s because it’s usually “utilized” by officious users who never pass over a five dollar word when a nickel word would do, and by people who think turning any prose from active to passive voice is a stroke of creative genius. ( /rant)

What say ye, bloggy peeps? What words or phrases would you banish, should you suddenly find yourself King or Queen of the Language?

(And, can I just add one more quick coda to say how proud — and, honestly, a little surprised — I was yesterday when Tristan correctly used the subjunctive tense in the phrase “if I were allowed to” as opposed to “if I was allowed to”. Yay for internalizing obscure grammar rules!!!)


The most annoying thing about this time of year is the endless recaps, reviews and predictions for the new year. Yawn.

The best thing about this time of year is the linguistic analyses of word trends in the past year. I am such a word geek!

For instance, we have from the New York Times, this capricious and completely subjective list of some of the best slang of 2007. From LOLCATS to astronaut diapers, I’m feeling mighty hip to have at least a passing familiarity with these and about half a dozen other terms on the list. There’s plenty here for us online obsessives, quelle surprise. I liked these ones:

Life-streaming: “to make a thorough, continuous digital record of your life in video, sound, pictures and print.” (But, erm, isn’t this already called “blogging”?)

E-mail bankruptcy: “what you’re declaring when you choose to delete or ignore a very large number of e-mail messages after falling behind in reading and responding to them.” (Ha! I’d been doing this, rather surreptitiously and with great guilt. Somehow I feel more justified in doing it knowing it’s enough of an epidemic to have an official term for it!)

Bacn: “impersonal e-mail messages that are nearly as annoying as spam but that you have chosen to receive: alerts, newsletters, automated reminders and the like.”

Kinnear: “to take a candid photograph surreptitiously, especially by holding the camera low and out of the line of sight. Coined in August by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee of the Yarn Harlot blog when she attempted to take a photograph during an encounter with the actor Greg Kinnear at an airport.” (I favour this one because I love the idea of a blogger coining a word that makes an NYT year-end list, especially one as clever and likeable – and Canadian! – as the Yarn Harlot!)

So now that you can talk the hip talk of 2008, make sure you don’t make the faux pas of using one of the Banished Words of 2008, as compiled annually by Lake Superior State University (I love this list and blogged about it in 2007 and 2006 too!)

This one pains me, because my speech is peppered with some of these terms. Heck, “back in the day” is the title of my archives; I’ve been known to utter an appreciative “Sweeeeet!” or two; and, “Webinar” is a huge part of what I’m doing at work right now. But I’m happy to bid a permanent adieu to “emotional”, “under the bus” and especially “random” – that last one has always grated on my nerves.

The comments have always been fun on this post. What words or phrases would YOU banish this year?


It’s a new year, and time for us to take a look at the annual list of banned words, courtesy Lake Superior State University. We did this last year, too, remember?

Every year, LSSU takes votes from contributors on the words and phrases that should be banished and compiles them to a year-end list. The list is clever, but it’s the pithy comments from contributors that make it worth reading. The banished words for 2007 include:

  • NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS — Heard in movie advertisements. Where can we see that, again?
  • ARMED ROBBERY/DRUG DEAL GONE BAD — From the news reports. What degree of “bad” don’t we understand?
  • COMBINED CELEBRITY NAMES — Celebrity duos of yore — BogCall (Bogart and Bacall), Lardy (Laurel and Hardy), and CheeChong (Cheech and Chong) — just got lucky.
  • BOASTS — See classified advertisements for houses, says Morris Conklin of Lisboa, Portugal, as in “master bedroom boasts his-and-her fireplaces — never ‘bathroom apologizes for cracked linoleum,’ or ‘kitchen laments pathetic placement of electrical outlets.'”

Last year, you suggested we ban ‘my bad’, among other terms. And lookit that, I just realized the always-prescient Marla predicted one of this year’s banned words!

So whaddaya think? Do you agree with the list this year? What words or phrases would you banish from the vernacular?


2006 Banished Words

by DaniGirl on January 3, 2006 · 16 comments

in Uncategorized

Lake Superior State University in Michigan has released its annual list of banned words and phrases. This year chose 17 of the more than 2000 nominations they received. Phew, none of them seem to form a part of my regular vernacular. Here’s the list:

  • Surreal
  • Hunker down
  • Person of interest
  • Community of learners
  • Up-or-down vote (I’m not sure I even know what this means)
  • Breaking news
  • Designer breed
  • FEMA (notable quote: “If they don’t do anything, we don’t need their acronym.”
  • First-time caller (notable quote: “I am serious in asking: who in any universe gives a care?”)
  • Pass the savings on to you!
  • 97 per cent fat-free
  • An accident that didn’t have to happen
  • Junk science
  • Git-r-done (again, I think I missed something on this one)
  • Dawg
  • Talking points (I may be out of a job if this one gets banned)
  • Holiday tree (I say a big ‘hallellujah’ to this one!)

It’s fun (in the geekiest definition of the word) to flip through their archives and see the banished words of years past (they’ve been at this since 1976). 1990’s list included fax and messenger as verbs (“Could you fax me that?”), so I don’t think the banishment ‘took’!

What words or phrases would you banish? I’m thinking “whatever” has definitely had more than its 15 minutes of fame, and we’ve had more than our share of “(insert trend here) is the new black”. I’m sure there are more, but I have two preschoolers crawling on me and I haven’t had my first coffee yet. I’m amazed I can still type in sentences!