Here it is: Banished word list for 2015


Every year Lake Superior State University, after accepting nominations all year, publishes its official list of banished words for the upcoming year. The banished words for 2015, with some of the accompanying comments:


“Meaning ‘before anyone else.’ How stupid! Stop calling your boyfriend ‘bae’.” — Evie Dunagan, Manheim, Penn.

polar vortex

“Less than a week into the new year and it’s the most overused, meaningless word in the media,” said Ross.


“This word is totally over-used and mis-used. What they really mean is ‘tip’ or ‘short cut,’ but clearly it is not a ‘hack,’ as it involves no legal or ethical impropriety or breach of security.” – Peter P. Nieckarz Jr., Sylva, N.C.

skill set

“Why use two words when one will do? We already have a perfectly good word in ‘skills’ (ending with an s, not a z).” – Chip Lupo, Columbia, S.C.


“Because I am tired of hearing swag to describe anything on the face of the planet. By the way, your website is so ‘swag.'” – Alex, Roanoke, Va.


“I crave good sleep, too, but that does not make me a sleepie. News flash: We ALL like food.” – Graydeon DeCamp, Elk Rapids, Mich.

curate / curated

“A pretentious way of saying ‘selected.’ It’s enormously overused.” – Kristi Hoerauf, San Francisco, Calif.


“A horrible word that conflates the real meaning of friendship with usually hidden motivations to get at the other person’s pockets.” – Mary Been, Sidnaw, Mich.


“Short-form for ‘crazy’ and sometimes just one ‘cra.’ I hear kids (including my 6 yr. old) saying it all the time, e.g. ‘That snowstorm yesterday was ‘cra-cra.'” – Esther Proulx, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

enhanced interrogation

“A shameful euphemism for torture.” – David Bristol, Byron Center, Mich.


“It’s used all too frequently on news programs, as in, ‘What is your ‘takeaway’ on (a given situation.’ ‘What is our ‘takeaway’ on Congress’ vote?’ ‘Is there any ‘takeaway’ on the recent riots?’ I have heard Jon Stewart use it. I’ve heard Charlie Rose use it, as well as countless numbers of news talking heads, usually for all the wrong reasons. For me, a takeaway is a sports term, where one team is controlling the ball (or puck) and the other steals it, or took it away – a ‘takeaway.’ In the U.K., ‘takeaway’ food is known as ‘to go’ here in the Colonies. – John Prokop, Oakland, Calif.


“Nothing more self-aggrandizing than sport team fans referring to themselves as a nation! What’s next? My team – Continent, World, Galaxy, Universe!” – Curt Chambers, Seattle, Wash.

I’m not terribly impressed with this year’s list, which seems notably shorter than in past years (I say that without checking).

Only recently did I notice bae and decide to look it up (Urban Dictionary to the rescue!). Knowing what it means only makes me more determined to never use it. It’s one of those icky Hollywood celebrity type words that make me cringe.

Polar vortex is a legitimate meteorological term. And will continue to be. The problem lies with all the people who immediately started misusing it (and undoubtedly the first to do so were cable news anchors).

Yes, hack is overused and misused. It should be reserved for the specific computer-related activity to which it refers.

Skill set, curate, and enhanced interrogation are all pretentious words meant to disguise or elevate their actual meaning. Enhanced interrogation is particularly odious and has been around for far more than a year. It and the torture to which it refers should be banished from the planet.

Swag has changed so much that I don’t even pretend to know what it means now. The last time I used it, it meant the free stuff, samples, etc., you get at a business convention. I suppose that dates me by a few years.

I’ve heard foodie a lot the last few years, without ever really knowing exactly what it meant. I’d begun to think it was some special sort of food expert. How disappointing to learn it’s just someone who loves good food. If that’s all, then it definitely belongs on the list (and I’m definitely a foodie).

Friend-raising? I’ve never heard the term. No loss, apparently.

Cra-cra. Seriously? Wasn’t that on the list several years ago? It certainly should have been. To me it’s akin to fingernails on a blackboard. (I know, I know, it’s been chalkboard for years. So sue me.) And just for the record, it should be spelled cray -cray.

I hadn’t really noticed an overuse of takeaway, but now that it’s been mentioned, I’ll probably hear it every time I turn on the TV.

And finally, I have a major gripe with the way -nation is listed. It’s not a suffix! It’s not hyphenated. Packer nation, Sooner nation, etc. It’s a noun. That said, I’ve never minded it’s use … as long as it refers to my team. It does sound really silly when it refers to someone else’s team.

It’s not too soon to start submitting your nominations for next year’s list. At least make a note of the URL. It’s a great place to let off steam when somebody uses that word once too often and you are ready to explode.

8 thoughts on “Here it is: Banished word list for 2015

  1. A ‘swag’ has a lot of meaning in Australia, it’s used in our unofficial National Anthem “Waltzing Matilda ” A Matilda is another name for his swag ‘Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, under the shade of a colabar tree’ ( ) A swag is his rolled up bedroll and all his belongs attached thereto, theres a delightful picture of a swaggie/swagman on that link.

    Takeaway has the same meaning here as in England, see I told you we are still colonials, I shall now burst into a rousing chorus of ‘A wild colonial boy’

    We use hack quite a lot to mean cut away at something, and hacking refers to a bad cough.
    And now you might like to singalong with this

    If you watch this you will see an Australian Road Train.

    1. I’d forgotten about hack meaning a rather messy chopping or cutting of something. The meaning they are talking about here was perhaps better explained by the person who said, “I have seen articles about life hacks, home improvement hacks, car hacks, furniture hacks, painting hacks, work hacks and pretty much any other hack you can think of.” There’s even a website called Lifehacker; it’s just assorted tips for how to do a variety of things.

      I’d forgotten about your Waltzing Matilda swagman. Thanks for the definition. I never knew what a swagman was.

    1. I went back and checked. There have only been 12 or 13 words in each of the last three years. Seems like an awfully short list, given the huge changes in the language from year to year and what seems like an endless flood of … um … “unfortunate” neologisms. Hard to ignore it all after so many years of editing.

  2. … thanks for the url. I just submitted ‘iconic’ after mentally screaming at Hoda & Al Roker yesterday, using it describing several floats in the Rose Parade. Seems i cannot hear or read a media story without that word. (i feel better now, well, until the next one!) 😱

  3. Eww. I imagine the following is one of the aforementioned objectionable uses of “hack.” Came across this while researching best way to store bananas: “Readers weighed in with a few banana hacks of their own, and we tried them out.”

... and that's my two cents