Banish These Words and Phrases!

no fiscal cliff (2)Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday! Today, however, we are discussing some less-than-amazing words. Every year, Lake Superior University releases its List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. Here’s a look at the 2013 list and my thoughts on each entry.


Fiscal cliff
. How many of you have heard that the United States is on a fiscal cliff so many times that you secretly wish someone would push the politicians over already? This phrase gives perfectly good cliffs–from which you usually see stunning views–a bad name. Moreover, the word “fiscal” is only used in government and business contexts. We should step away from that “fiscal cliff,” or at least find a phrase that is simple, like “money crisis,” or perhaps trendy, like “financial apocalypse.”

Kick the can down the road. Kicking the can down the road means pushing an issue a little further out so you don’t have to deal with it for a few steps. At this point, however, some political issue cans have surely been kicked down not one road, not one highway, but around the world…twice. We’re sick of them “kicking the can,” and we’re sick of hearing about it.

Double down. I’m not a card player, but I understand this to be a Blackjack term meaning that you can double your bet after receiving your first two cards. Instead, this phrase is now used as increasing your efforts or focus (MacMillan). Does anyone else get a little nervous that a gambling term is used with such frequency among the people holding our tax money?

Job creators. Have you noticed that no one is an “employer” anymore? They are “job creators,” as if they gathered up some dust, formed it into jobs, and said, “Let there be workers!” Yes, I understand that entrepreneurs typically work hard and take risks to establish businesses that employ others. But on the other hand, they aren’t creating jobs out of thin air; they are hiring people to meet work demands they cannot fill by themselves. Somehow the phrase “job creator” connotes a pedestal status that the rest of us “created” are not comfortable with. I’m quite content with “employer” or “boss.”

Passion. Apparently, people are claiming that they are passionate about everything from ridding the world of hunger to their particular brand of lipstick. I happen to like the word “passion,” but we might want to make sure we know what it means before throwing it around all willy-nilly. It is “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate” or “strong amorous feeling or desire; love; ardor.” However, it connotes a level of enthusiasm, zeal, and even obsession. So use it sparingly. Make sure you really are passionate about your passions.

YOLO. I had to look this up. I’d never seen or heard that one! But it stands for “You Only Live Once.” I suspect this is getting high usage as an excuse for doing something you wouldn’t do if you paused long enough to use your full brain capacity. On the other hand, you do only live once, so make it good.

Spoiler Alert. I see this a lot. I actually appreciate being warned by someone who is about to give away an ending. I hate when someone ruins a book or movie that way! On the other hand, do we have another phrase we can use? Or should we stop spoiling the endings so often?

Bucket list. This is a popular euphemism for a “to-do list before I die” which gained popularity after the film of the same name with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson (The Bucket List, 2007). I have such a list, but I call it my 40 After 40 (forty things I decided to do after I turned 40 years old). Others call it a “life list”–which sounds more positive than “bucket list.” Who wants to be constantly thinking about their inevitable “kick the bucket” day, like it’s looming over you and you must get some things done before it arrives?

Trending. Trend used to be a noun. Now it’s a verb. Enough said.

Superfood. Here’s another one I haven’t heard. Maybe it’s because my cooking is meh, so no one ever uses the word “super” with “food” in my house. However, the Oxford English Dictionary defines superfood as “a food considered especially nutritious or otherwise beneficial to health and well-being.” Do we eat so many foods bad for us that blueberries are now considered “superfood”?

Boneless wings. Numerous restaurants have cropped up in recent years like Wings-N-More, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Wingstop. However, chicken wings have been a staple at Hooters for years (yes, I can hear all of the jokes now about the staple being breasts not wings at Hooters, thank you very much). Yanking out the bones has brought us “boneless wings”–which are all the rage. But while they are boneless, they are not wings (NYT). They are usually chunks of chicken breast. So that just makes these “chicken tenders” or “chicken nuggets” by another name.

Guru. The word “expert” has given way to “guru.” We get this word from the Hindi guru, which means teacher or priest (etymonline.com). In English, it has come to refer to anyone with specialized knowledge of any kind. But it’s like these famous quotes from The Incredibles (2004):

Helen (Mrs. Incredible): Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: Which is another way of saying no one is.

Syndrome (the villain): And when I’m old and I’ve had my fun, I’ll sell my inventions so that everyone can have powers. Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super…no one will be.

Our overuse of the word “guru” has watered it down, made it less special. I like that author Kristen Lamb has rejected efforts to brand her as a “social media guru”; instead, she is known as “Social Media Jedi.” Let’s get creative, people!

What other words or phrases would you like to see banished? What words are trending so much that you want to double-down on your passionate efforts to send them off a cliff? And what do you think of the above list?

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24 thoughts on “Banish These Words and Phrases!

  1. Wonderful post, Julie. I love the words you selected out of the 2013 list. I just heard “yolo” the other day from my daughter and had NO idea what she was talking about and didn’t ask. Now I know. And, yes, often if one stopped and thought about it, maybe the “yolo moment” would pass unnoticed and best forgotten.

    1. Yes, our teens sometimes speak a whole other language. I remember being ready for “epic” and “random” to disappear from their conversation. We’ll see how long YOLO lasts!

  2. Great list, Julie. It seems we have a talent for creating cliches in a few months’ time. Let’s hope these don’t last as long as the old “tried and true” ones.

    1. It almost feels like a bunch of media people get together in a room and decide, “This year, we’re going to use double down until their ears explode.” LOL.

  3. I votw to remove “Lindsey Lohan” from our vocabulary. I don’t even follow celebrity news, and I’m sick of seeing her name! So with you on fiscal cliff, too. And as someone employed in the defense industry, I’d love to see “sequestration” go bye-bye as well!

    1. As soon as I read that, I thought of other names we could add to the list. How about no more mention of Snooki? LOL.

      Do you think anyone can define “sequestration”? Who picked that arcane word?

  4. I would also like us to stop using the word “hero” for everything from Seal Team Six to the man who sees a wreck and calls 911 as he drives past it. The word has become meaningless. I’ve never met a real hero who wanted the word anywhere next to them, anyway.

    I’m with Jennette on the “Lindsey Lohan” and I would add all things Kardashian to the list.

    Thanks for the smile.

    1. Great point about the word “hero,” Piper! Yes, it is vastly overused. It’s gotten to the point that calling 9-1-1 in an emergency makes you a hero. And here I thought that was just being a responsible citizen.

  5. I learned a few new phrases today. While we’re banishing these, let’s banish “Oh my!”. You know, “Werewolves and Vampires and Witches…oh my!”. I loathe this phrase, and I can’t even explain why. lol

  6. Love this.

    As a teacher, I hear YOLO too often.

    I must say, though, that I love how we change parts of speech. Shakespeare did so much of it (Olympics –> Olympian, elbow (n) -> elbow (v), flaw (n) -> flawed (adj)) that I think it’s natural and a fun evolution of English. If it was good enough for the Bard… 😉

    1. I’m actually okay with “trending.” It’s just that the change sometimes happens overnight and becomes the primary part of speech when yesterday it was virtually unknown.

      I love your Shakespeare examples, Leanne! He did so much to expand and layer our language.

  7. This is quite fascinating. I’ve heard the term “trending” being used in commercials now. You know I even heard on the radio today that someone has created a soup bowl with a dock for your i-phone so you can still watch your screen while you’re eating, but “it doesn’t protect against splashing” so eat carefully. WTH?!

  8. The yolo one cracks me up. I first heard it in the car when my daughter put a rap song on the radio. Of course I made fun of the word and the (lame) rhyming. And added something about the candy rolo. So now rolo is our yolo. 🙂

    1. There’s a poem or limerick in there somewhere, Coleen.
      There once was a candy named Rolo
      I didn’t want to eat it solo
      But my friend said to me
      With an expression of glee
      “C’mon, girl, eat it, YOLO!”
      LOL

  9. Arrrrggghhh. Yeah I hate bucket list. It seems to be so demeaning towards someone’s potential. Going forward is another that bugs me, along with evangelist.

    Good laugh Julie.

    Cheers

  10. I agree with YOLO, even though I haven’t heard it and already can’t remember what it means. Really, I only like the acronyms that I come up with. Like when I was ready to leave my last job (and the state) my motto was GTFO. But all those letters people use in writing that I’m supposed to understand? It’s like playing Wheel of Fortune, and I was never good at that. I also agree with Piper. Everything Kardashian should be banned. And both Baby Bump and Bump Watch. What’s next? Are people going to be looking for our Taco Lumps after lunch?

  11. If anyone ever put a block on the phrase ‘come to terms with’ I think every print and media journalist would be rendered mute. Whenever there’s a disaster anywhere in the world you can bet someone somewhere is struggling to come to terms with it. Drives me nuts. Great post, Julie!

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