Banished words

This year’s banished words, phrases

Banished words
Custom word cloud created at

How I’ve missed it in past years is beyond me, but there is an annual Banished Words List produced by Lake Superior State University. This year’s list:

  • fiscal cliff
  • kick the can down the road
  • double down
  • job creators/creation
  • passion/passionate
  • YOLO (You Only Live Once)
  • spoiler alert
  • bucket list
  • trending
  • superfood
  • boneless wings
  • guru

The LSSU list includes comments about each of the words, which are suggested throughout the year by contributors (submit here). Fiscal cliff was the number one submission this year and in my book all the other words/phrases pale in comparison. Had I known about the submission process, I’d have submitted it myself — over and over and over.

The first banished list was issued on New Year’s Day 1976 as a publicity stunt for the little-known university. It turned into an annual event, with a new list released every January 1. Suggestions include pet peeves from everyday speech as well as from news, education, technology, advertising, politics and more, submitted throughout the year by people like me whose last nerve gets frayed by overused and misused words and phrases. A panel selects the top words in late December.

Other recent lists:


  • amazing
  • baby bump
  • shared sacrifice
  • occupy
  • blowback
  • man cave
  • the new normal
  • pet parent
  • win the future
  • trickeration
  • ginormous
  • thank you in advance

I’m delighted to see baby bump on the list; I hate the term. It’s too creepy cutesy and somehow disrespectful. And I’m not sure I’ve ever heard trickeration. Certainly not often enough to nominate it for banishment. Also, I’ll have to plead guilty to occasionally referring to myself as mother to my pets, but pet owners do that sometimes. I’m guessing the term was submitted by someone who never had a pet.


  • viral
  • epic
  • fail
  • wow factor
  • a-ha moment
  • back story
  • BFF
  • man up
  • refudiate
  • mama grizzlies
  • the American people
  • I’m just sayin’
  • Facebook/Google as verbs
  • live life to the fullest

Definitely a Sarah Palin influence in this one. And I’m glad to see her get re-JECTED. That’s another word I need to nominate — basketball announcers yelling that when they mean “blocked.” It’s been bugging me for years, but if I start in on sportscasters’ use and abuse of the language, I’ll never stop. And viral … as a former medical editor, viral drove me nuts when it first appeared as an adjective for items spreading rapidly through social media, but I’ve since grown used to it. After all, we old farts can fight progress only so long …

There’s an alphabetical list of all the banished words to date (delighted to see my detested hunker down made the list a few months after Katrina hit New Orleans). Some words have been on the list twice: ask for it by name, awesome (I plead guilty to using this a lot), the bottom line, brainstorm/brainstorming, classic, enclosed please find, exact same, first time ever, if you will, incidences, infotainment, irregardless, myself, on a roll, parenting, proactive, very unique, viable alternative, webinar (eww, this one really irritates me), world class, yuh know. Apparently one banishment was not enough for these words and phrases, although it seems pointless to me to list grammatical errors (irregardless, very unique). Those will always be with us. It seems one has to read the appropriate year’s list, with its explanatory comments, to understand why some words (eg, myself) were suggested for banishment. Context is everything.

A few words refuse to be stamped out and have made the list three times: basically, bureaucrap (never heard this one), filmed before a live studio audience, live audience, ongoing. The two live audience phrases came up in the same years, ’83, ’87, and ’90. Someone watching too much TV?

Bots? Definitely suggested by a non-techie

Communicastor? Yep, I’d have complained about that one too, if I’d ever heard it. Admittedly I live in a cave, but this sounds like something that should have crossed an old editor’s radar at some point.

Lots of bad grammar, slang, awkward neologisms … and some perfectly good words that must have been nominated simply because someone was having a bad day. Again, context is everything.

But In Diesem Unseren Lande? I have no idea.

I suppose I could google it …

36 thoughts on “This year’s banished words, phrases

  1. Had just mentioned to a friend that if I heard Fiscal Cliff one more time I was going to bitch-slap them. Ten minutes later this list appeared on the news. Laughed my freaking head off. YOLO was just bonus Pints.
    Have a great New Year!

      1. I think “fiscal cliff” must be on everyone’s list. Of course, if we took it away from the media, they’d be left speechless.

        Happy New Year to you too!

  2. I submit:

    1. A varied vocabulary, good grammar and careful self expression will always distinguish thinkers who deserve respect from those who don’t. The presence of the bad does not eliminate the good.
    2. “In Diesem Unseren Lande” means, “In this our land”. Huh?
    3. My nomination for the all-time worst phrase is “you know”. My brain always reacts to this by thinking, “If you think I already know what you’re saying, why are you wasting time telling me again?” It seems to be a crutch for people who either can’t summon up the energy to accurately express themselves or who want me to guess what they might be thinking.
    4. As trite and inaccurate as it is, “fiscal cliff” has been useful in engaging the attention of the body politic to what is at stake. Something is making the House Republicans compromise on their anti-tax ideology and I think it has to be voter pressure. Without a sense of the fiscal cliff it wouldn’t be happening. Next up: “deficit ceiling”, or, “The Ceiling”. Yuk.

    1. “Yu know” has been listed, yu know. So, yu know, like lots of people agree with you, yu know?

      Admittedly the mere words “fiscal cliff” now make my blood pressure go up. That adds to the fury I feel toward our do-nothing knuckle-dragging Congress.

  3. I’d love for massive to be banished in reference to something big (unless we’re really talking about the mass of something). So sick of that word. Bring in brobdingnagian!

    1. What a troublemaker you are. People would never be able to spell that without referring to a dictionary and/or a thesaurus, and half the population doesn’t know or care that such things exist.

      1. It’s one of the best words! And thanks to Big Bang Theory, more people know of it 😀
        (hopefully this is the right clip…I can’t actually watch the video for some silly reason)

        1. Embedding is disabled for some reason (tried to fix it and failed) but I watched it on YouTube. Although I remember this scene, I’d forgotten the repetition of brobdingnagian (which I had to type twice to get right). I’ll probably remember the word now, but I’m still not sure I’ll be able to spell it without checking a dictionary.

  4. The one that stands out to me is “man cave.” I hate that term. I can’t exactly state why because I’m not real sure. But descriptions that come to mind are ignorant, sexist, just plain stupid, and neanderthalish. What? I know Romney et al wanted to take us back to the cavemen times, but didn’t realize hip talk did too. And I have my own “woman’s cave” and no one allowed in. Just dogs. Ha!

  5. Hey what do you know? I decided that “guru” was my top most annoying term of 2012. It’s so not like me to be in step with the rest of the world! But I will not dwell on that fact as long as we eradicate “guru” from our lexicon.

  6. I didn’t know this list existed, either. This is great! I am going to re-blog and link a few people to it, if you don’t mind..because all of my librarian friends are going to love the idea of a banned words list!

  7. Reblogged this on dr mariam ashraf and commented:
    How many of these words do YOU overuse? I’m not a fan of “YOLO” but I hear it all the time. I’ll be happy to see less of “BFF”, “gone viral”, “trending”, and “baby bump”. People are obsessed with the celebs and their baby bumps…. or is it a bloated tummy?? I don’t know and I don’t care. Can I add “OMG”, “LOL”, and “cray cray” to the list of banished words? Any that I’m missing?

    1. I plead guilty to using OMG and LOL occasionally in very informal typed comments or emails. What really bugs me is in actual conversation when someone says the letters “O-M-G” instead of saying “oh my gawd” or whatever. Either way it’s only three syllables!

      1. Agreed! Saying “O-M-G” is a pet peeve of mine. Sometimes I’ll intentionally say it to my friends who overuse it, to be sarcastic. I don’t know if they get the sarcasm!

    1. Ah yes, I hear that so often that I usually don’t think about it. LIttle girls wear panties. But that diminutive form should be replaced with something else for women … and too often it isn’t. Just another way to demean women.

... and that's my two cents