Ban These Words & Phrases (Because We’re Sick of Them)

Once again, Lake Superior State University has released its List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. This tradition began in 1976 and has continued as a service to word lovers everywhere.

Following is the 2014 list with my thoughts on each word/phrase LSSU suggests banning, because we are collectively sick of hearing them:

Selfie. I remember when I finally got a smartphone that allowed me to flip the lens so that I could more easily take a picture of myself. No longer did I have to hold my arm out to Timbuktu, pray that I got the angle right, and snap a less-than-flattering photo to upload to social media or send to a friend. Because of course, someday, for some reason, you have to take a “selfie” — a self-snapped photo of yourself. Especially if you’re prime minister of Denmark and sitting in between the POTUS and the British prime minister.

Obama selfie

Twerk. Do we just get to banish the word or the whole practice of twerking? Miley Cyrus brought the spotlight to this word in 2013, with her wild performance at the MTV Video Music Awards as she “danced” with Robin Thicke. But my favorite story of twerking in 2013 involved Jimmy Kimmel, and the unbelievable scam he and his crew pulled on YouTube watchers and news media everywhere.

Hashtag. Thanks to Twitter and other social media sites, hashtags turned the pound sign (#) into something entirely different. Companies, organizations, celebrities, and party people come up with hashtags that range from product titles to profanity. And it’s even moved into conversation, with people trying to emphasize a point by prefacing it with “hashtag.” Seriously? Not everything should be a hashtag.

Twittersphere. I’m not sure why Twitter got picked on. There’s been a movement to make everything into a “sphere” these days: the blogosphere, the Twittersphere, the Facebooksphere, the atmosphere (oh wait, that’s a real one). But you get the point.

Mister Mom. I didn’t know this was overused. Or even used. Indeed, the last time I’ve really considered this phrase is when Michael Keaton put out a film by that title in 1983.

"Mr. Mom" movie poster

T-Bone. This is a verb description of an automobile accident, apparently overused in news reports. I guess it’s overused in traffic reports, though I don’t listen to those since I work from home and don’t commute. But now, this is overuse of “t-bone”:

___ on Steroids. If something is super-big, it’s obviously on performance-enhancing drugs. Didn’t we learn that with Barry Bonds home run record and Alex Rodriguez’s ego?

-Ageddon and -Pocalypse. These endings get added to words to manufacture a sense of crisis. But as I’ve pointed out, “Armageddon” and “Apocalypse” have real backgrounds in all of that end-of-the-world, grab-your-granny-and-hide stuff. Whereas running out of chocolate should not create a “chocopocalypse”; you’ll be okay.

Intellectually/Morally Bankrupt. This phrase occurs often in the world of politics. Thus, its unbelievable overuse.

Obamacare. It’s going to be difficult to keep away from this one, since this health care bill finally goes into full effect this year. Actually, I’m in favor of all bill titles having a character limit, like what exists in the Twittersphere. If you name something the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” you should expect others to give it a nickname that will actually fit in a hashtag.

Adversity. Specifically used in sports. The objections to its constant use apparently involve frustration that athletes are said to overcome “adversity” to make the professional leagues, when some feel their stories don’t ring as true on the adversity scale as, say, starving children and wounded soldiers. I can’t say this one bugs me so much, but that’s probably because I haven’t watch a full game of anything in maybe two years.

Fan Base. The problem here is the word “base” — like fans are all gathered a base camp awaiting their hero. Certainly, “fans” gets the point across and saves you one word. So I can see why this phrase would irritate some.

Be sure to check out the 2014 list with comments from its creators and their lists from previous years. It’s fun to see what they’ve suggested banning, and I mostly agree with their lists. LSSU also takes nominations of overused words and phrases all year long, so if you’ve got a word or phrase you’re sick of hearing, go ahead and nominate it for the next list!

What words were you glad to see on Lake Superior State University’s Banished Words list? What words would you like to add?

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23 thoughts on “Ban These Words & Phrases (Because We’re Sick of Them)

  1. I agree with banning some of these words like twerk/twerking or selfie. But some should just be used in the context they’re suppose to be, like adversity. That should be reserved for huge set backs or challenges, not for having a hard time getting a ball through a line of scrimmage.

  2. In South Africa using “-gate” as a suffix to refer to government scandals, you know, like Watergate? Apparently people in SA don’t know that “Watergate” is the name of the building where the dark deeds took place. People here think Watergate was a scandal involving rivers and dams (okay, not really, but that’s what I extrapolate from the fact that a local scandal involving travel vouchers for government officials was dubbed “Travelgate”, one about bribery in awarding weapons contracts “Weapongate”, one about a wealthy Indian family who are friends with the president using a high security air force base to fly in guests for their daughter’s wedding “Guptagate” and one involving our president using public funds to upgrade his private home “Nkandlagate”). Drives me nuts.

    Have you seen Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s hashtag-video?

    (PS you wrote Jimmy Fallon above the Jimmy Kimmel video)

    1. LOL! I think the Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake Hashtag video is hilarious! It actually made me stop and wonder if people were using hashtag in their everyday language. Then I remembered that I have heard people say OMG and LOL in conversation, so it’s entirely possible.

      Julie, if you haven’t seen the hashtag vid, here it is!

    2. Thanks so much for correcting my Fallon/Kimmel faux pas! I’m sure they get sick of that. I did fix it in the post. 🙂

      I agree that -gate is used far too much as a suffix. It happens here in the U.S. as well. I often wonder if people know it was just the name of a hotel, not some deeper meaning. Thanks for suggesting that one, KokkieH!

  3. Many of these words are “preaching to the choir” for me. There are one or two where, used appropriately, I see no reason to ban.

    If this unusually cold winter keeps going, I may have to share “Chiberia” as a potential ban word for the folks from Chicago…LOL!

    1. I agree with you, Kitt. I honestly don’t hear adversity or t-bone used much in my world.

      Before we ban “Chiberia,” we should try to ban the weather that’s causing the overuse of that word. Stay warm, all!

  4. Yup – done with twerking and selfie. The others don’t bother me. I’m also so done with baby bump. Whenever I hear those words I think of a tumor or abnormal growth in a woman’s stomach. Yuck.

    Adversity? Never heard of that one as it relates to slang. I use it the way it was intended, the old-fashioned way and I hope no one has an adversity to me using it that way. No wait. That’s wrong. No one has an aversion to me using it that way? Okay. maybe that one should go bye-bye, too.

    As always, thanks for keeping the English language in proper working order. At least out here in the blogosphere – blogland – blog world. Well, you get the idea.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  5. This is a good post, Julie. As Patricia said, “baby bump” does remind me of an abnormality of some kind. What really bugs me is when someone uses “actually” before a sentence, where did that come from?? Here is an idea for a post along these lines. I really get tired of hearing people drop the “F” bomb and the “S” word as if they are a just a common benign form of everyday language. Have a great week and weekend. 🙂

    1. My father also complains about “basically” being used at the first of many sentences. I think I’m guilty of both the “actually” and “basically” infractions. *sigh* Those words are overused.

      And you know, I feel the same way about the F-bomb. If you use it all the time, it doesn’t even have the same sting that it did before. I’m personally given to finding other options than cussing, though.

  6. Selfies are really scary sometimes. When you log onto Facebook and the first thing you see is a selfie of a person that looks like they really should have put on a little make-up, or chose a different angle or something; that is why selfies are sometimes scary as…!

    1. Yeah, I think “selfie” no longer has such a positive connotation. I certainly appreciate the ability to take a picture oneself; for instance, I used that on a vacation last year to show I really was standing in front of ___ in Las Vegas and I didn’t have to ask someone else to take my pic. But some people seem almost obsessed with selfies — taking constant photos of themselves in all manner of poses and uploading them for the world to see. I don’t know that’s bad; I just don’t get it.

      Thanks, Mike!

  7. Oh, yes, please. Don’t forget “my bad” on that list. The first time I heard it, I was teaching English. That was a long time ago now, and it’s still around. *twitch*

  8. I have to add “super” to the list. Everything is “super smooth,” “super exciting,” “super flavorful….” and on and on. It’s one of those “empty” words.

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