Banished! Leave These Words Behind

Do you get sick of hearing the same words over and over? Take “fail,” for instance. It was the in word last year, and believe me, I knew it with my kids uttering it at every possible opportunity. I began to feel about the word “fail” the way my father felt about the word “awesome” when I was a teenager: It lost all of its original meaning by misuse and overuse.

Thankfully, Lake Superior State University has released a list of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness for 37 years. And the 2012 List is out! Fellow English speakers, take note. The following words are considered passé by the Powers That Be (or actually the people who nominated them and the professors who compiled the list).

Amazing – Guilty, I suppose, since I named this day Amaze-ing Words Wednesday. Do I at least get credit for the word play of “maze” in there with my Threading the Labyrinth blog title?

Baby Bump – I had a baby bump for about two seconds, after which it was a basketball embedded in my abdomen. Back when I was carrying, however, maternity clothes were not stretched across tummies like saran wrap, so fewer people noticed the “bump” until it was no longer bumpy but just plain big.

Shared Sacrifice – I have noticed that those most likely to encourage shared sacrifice have a lot more stuff than I do. Why is that?

Occupy – The best suggestion I heard regarding the Occupy movement was to Occupy Disney World. Now there’s a cause I could go for!

Blowback – I’m betting the listmakers will get some blowback for including this word in the Stop-It list.

Man Cave – If only men would settle for a cave. Instead, most husbands I know want a whole room with electronic equipment, cushy furniture, and easy access to the food sources in the home. Seeing as my husband has just moved his computer into my writing room, I’d use this phrase ad infinitum if I could get him a man cave. (Just kidding, honey. I love that you’re here. ;))

The New Normal – I hear this one all the time. But whatever normal you’re in is new to you – unless you did this life before.

Pet Parent – I had never heard this phrase. Maybe because I have a cat. You’re not really a pet parent to a cat so much as an unappreciated roommate.

Win the Future – This phrase makes it sound like you scratch off the lotto card and the right numbers get you a future. The future isn’t a tangible thing you can win really. Moreover, is anyone actually suggesting we lose the future?

Trickeration – Never heard this one either. Apparently, it’s a fave of sports announcers.

Ginormous – Another guilty expression on my face. I have made the ginormous enormous mistake of using this word instead of more appropriate, and recognized by a dictionary, terms.

Thank You in Advance – Does saying this absolve a person of later sending a thank you note? Does it presume that the person on the other end will do what you want?

Don't you dare use these words.

What’s perhaps more interesting is what words appeared on previous lists. Have we gotten better at our use of the following?

Dialogue – 1976
Perfectly candid – 1977
Medication – 1978  (What happened to “medicine”?)
Energy Crisis – 1979
Do-able – 1980
Campaign Rhetoric – 1981
Classic – 1982
State of the Art – 1983
User-friendly – 1984
Mandate – 1985
(List unavailable online) – 1986
Wellness – 1987 (Instead of simply “health”?)
(List unavailable online) – 1988
Babyboomers – 1989
Best Kept Secret – 1990
Longer Hours – 1991 (By definition, an hour cannot get longer. But you can work more hours.)
Bottom Line – 1992
(List unavailable online) – 1993
Dysfunctional – 1994
Target Audience – 1995
Been There, Done That – 1996
Multi-tasking – 1997
Giving 110 percent – 1998
Courtesy Call – 1999
24/7 – 2000
Begs the Question – 2001
Bi-partisanship – 2002
Must-see TV – 2003
Metrosexual – 2004
Enemy Combatant – 2005 (Is there any such thing as a non-enemy combatant?)
Dawg – 2006
Awesome – 2007 (It made the 1984 list for a one-year moratorium. But the word and its misuse stuck around.)
Random – 2008
Carbon Footprint – 2009
Too Big to Fail – 2010 (“Stimulus” also made the list.)
Epic – 2011

If you want to see the history of the banished words list, be sure to visit the LSSU website. You can find most of the previous lists there as well.

What words or phrases are overused or lack meaning? Which ones do you wish we would ban?

One big shout-out to writer Erin Brambilla who pointed the banished words list out to me! Be sure to check out her website. Her blog is among my favorites.

Speaking the Queen’s English (Or At Least Her Servant’s Bloody English)

“England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”

George Bernard Shaw

If you’ve watched BBC comedies or attempted to look for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in a British bookstore, you quickly discover that there are language differences between the two major countries that speak primarily English.  We mostly understand one another – even with thick Brooklyn or Cockney accents – but the words aren’t always the same. 

For instance, you’d better change your search to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone since that is the original title of J.K. Rowling’s first book.   A friend of my mother’s read the British edition with its references to Harry and Ron receiving home-knit jumpers from Mrs. Weasley.   The British “jumper” is the American “sweater.”  There were several word changes made for the American edition to clear up those terms that don’t make a lot of sense to us in the States. 

Here are some other British words with American descriptions: 

A Fish Called Wanda, John Cleese as Barrister

A lorry is a truck.

A pram is a baby carriage or stroller.

A biscuit is a cookie.

A nutter is a crazy person.

A barrister is a lawyer.

A flat is an apartment.

A lift is an elevator.

A bonnet is a car hood.

A chip is a French fry.

A queue is a line.

A bum is a behind.

A holiday is a vacation.

Daft is stupid.

Telly is the television or TV.

The loo is the bathroom. 

But you may have known most or all of those.  How about more obscure ones? 

Ask for a rubber to get an eraser.

Antenatal is prenatal.

Braces are suspenders.

A chemist is a pharmacist.

A dummy is a pacifier.

A wally is a nerd.

A rubber is an eraser.

A spanner is a wrench.

An estate agent is a realtor.

A waistcoat is a vest.

Cheers means thank you.

A mobile is a cell phone.

A torch is a flashlight.

A jumble sale is a yard sale (called garage sale where I live).

Trainers are athletic or tennis shoes.

Pants are underwear (say trousers in the UK instead).

A people carrier is a minivan (sounds right to me).

A banger is a sausage.

A brolly is an umbrella. 


T.R. Wolf has quite a few more examples in his UK vs. US English videos.  The English Club online also has a BritSpeak dictionary with American-British translations. 

The slang of our two countries is even more difficult to decipher!   Hugh Laurie played a game on Ellen Degeneres’s show trying to figure out the particular jargon of the other’s home country.

By the way, I knew absolutely none of the slang – American or British.  

Can you think of any other English words that vary in American and British usage?  What do you think about the differences in our language?  Do you find Brits or Americans had to understand at times?  Do you watch British television shows or movies or read books with word variations?