Words banished for 2017


Here it is, the list of words and phrases banished for 2017. No doubt you’ve looked forward to it for a year. Or maybe two, since I neglected to post it last year.

Lake Superior State University collects the words, submitted by readers throughout the year, and compiles a list of those most frequently nominated. Also on their website are all the previous years’ words. Some words/phrases are so disliked that they’ve appeared on several lists.

The next time you realize a particular word is really starting to annoy you, submit it to LSSU. Doing so will alleviate a bit of frustration (I speak from experience) and it might even show up on next year’s list.

“Overused words and phrases are a ‘bête noire’ for thousands of users of the ‘manicured’ Queen’s English,” said an LSSU spokesperson, who released the ‘historic’ list during a town hall meeting. “We hope our modest ‘listicle’ will figure ‘bigly’ in most ‘echo chambers’ around the world.”

Banished for 2017:

  • You, Sir Hails from a more civilized era when duels were the likely outcome of disagreements. Today, we suffer on-line trolls and Internet shaming.
  • Focus – Good word, but overused when concentrate or look at would work fine.  See 1983’s banishment of, We Must Focus Our Attention.
  • Bête Noire – After consulting a listing of synonyms, we gather this to be a bugbear, pet peeve, bug-boo, pain, or pest to our nominators.
  • Town Hall Meeting – Candidates seldom debate in town halls anymore. Needs to be shown the door along with “soccer mom(s)” and “Joe Sixpack” (banned in 1997).
  • Post-Truth – To paraphrase the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, we are entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts.
  • Guesstimate – When guess and estimate are never enough.
  • 831 – A texting encryption of, I love you: 8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning. Never encrypt or abbreviate one’s love.
  • Historic – Thrown around far too much. What’s considered as such is best left to historians rather than the contemporary media.
  • Manicured – As in a manicured lawn. Golf greens are the closest grass comes to being manicured.
  • Echo Chamber – Lather, rinse, and repeat. After a while, everything sounds the same.
  • On Fleek – Anything that is on-point, perfectly executed, or looking good. Needs to return to its genesis: perfectly groomed eyebrows.
  • Bigly – Did the candidate say “big league” or utter this 19th-Century word that means, in a swelling blustering manner? Who cares? Kick it out of the echo chamber!
  • Ghost – To abruptly end communication, especially on social media. Is it rejection angst, or is this word really as overused as word-banishment nominators contend? Either way, our committee feels the pain.
  • Dadbod – The flabby opposite of a chiseled-body male ideal. Should not empower dads to pursue a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Listicle – Numbered or bulleted list created primarily to generate views on the Web, LSSU’s word-banishment list excluded.
  • “Get your dandruff up . . . ” – The Committee is not sure why this malapropism got nominators’ dander up in 2016.
  • Selfie Drone – In what could be an ominous development, the selfie – an irritating habit of constantly photographing and posting oneself to social media – is being handed off to a flying camera. How can this end badly?
  • Frankenfruit – Another food group co-opted by “frankenfood.” Not to be confused with other forms of genetically modified language.
  • Disruption – Nominators are exhausted from 2016’s disruption. When humanity looks back on zombie buzzwords, they will see disruption bumping into other overused synonyms for change.

*Word cloud created at www.wordl.net

28 thoughts on “Words banished for 2017

    1. “Listicle” and “on fleek” drive me nuts. But maybe that’s because I live in the middle of the country. I think a lot of these words originate on the coasts. As an aside, if they’re going to include “post-truth” they ought to include “fake news” as well.

    1. I think unconscious decisions are made all the time and people just don’t realize it. Think about sleeping on a knotty problem, then waking with a decision in mind. And I think that’s what I’m doing, in a way, when I procrastinate as long as possible before making a decision. It sort of lets the best decision rise to the top. I know that probably doesn’t make much sense, but there it is.

    1. By all means submit them. But check the list of past words, too. Could be someone beat you to it. Or not. I can’t imagine how “guesstimate” got on the list this year. That word has been in common usage in my family for as long as I can remember. I would argue with the university that a “guesstimate” is much more specific than they say, and not just a combination of two words. An “estimate” is based on some information, some numbers already available. A “guess” is just a wild idea with no basis. A “guesstimate” is something less than an “estimate,” being based on a scrap of information but not enough for a true “estimate.” Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  1. Always interesting, so thanks. I’m thinking, however, that if all the fuzzy and faddish words and expressions were actually banished, it would be less easy to distinguish quality expression from mere quill-driving. Also, the stock price of Twitter would fall with a resounding thud. Not to worry, however. Evolution is relentless in eventually sorting this stuff out.

    1. I think we have more than enough words at our disposal to sort rubbish from quality expression. Twitter is driving a lot of the silly short forms (I’ve never seen “831” used, but I don’t use Twitter), as are the many literacy-challenged people who use it. And the media create and support a lot of the rubbish; journalists and reporters seem so poorly educated these days, it makes me weep. My pet peeve is reporters who use “cop talk” as though it’s normal conversation — “busted” instead of “arrested,” “take down” instead of catch or apprehend, etc., or who are just plain wrong, as in “get your dandruff up.” Far from letting fuzzy, faddish words die, the media perpetuate them.

  2. An interesting group of words but I do feel chastened to learn of words that are being banned even before I have had a chance to use them! I have never run across 831, on fleek, or listicle. In the case of the last of those, though, one knows immediately what it must mean, and here, I’d argue it’s not the word itself that should be banned, but the penomenon it stands for.

    1. I’ve no objections to lists. They are often the clearest way to present information. But yes, the listicle phenomenon, usually a gimmick to attract readers or viewers, is just another shortcut or excuse to avoid writing something more extensive. It does lend itself to social media’s love of shortcuts and communcating in as few words as possible.

      I’d heard “on fleek” often enough to be annoyed by it. It sounds very “valley girl” to me, or maybe hiphop. At the very least, foreign to my way of speaking. I’ve never seen “831” and would never have guessed its meaning. It reminds me of one of those strange codes teenagers invent to obscure meaning from the prying eyes of parents. Time Magazine published a list last year. In reading it, I just discovered that the one and only Mister Rogers used “143” to mean “I love you.”

      Ugh, I am so not “with it.”

  3. Some of these words I’ve never come across, sadly you’ve ruined my ignorance.

    I now feel I must start using them; “But where do I start?” says he scratching his left listicle!

    😈 :bear:

    1. Oh please do us all a favor and remain ignorant. Consider yourself lucky to have not encountered these words. We are hoping to banish them (but I must give you credit for being awfully funny!).

    1. It is a rather unnecessary flourish, isn’t it? I guess it never bothered me because I grew up an age of fountain pens and worked all my life in printing.

  4. Well I checked the list and can’t believe ‘nonsensical’ and ‘katzenjammer’ aren’t on it. Admittedly they are fun words to use but nevertheless…. 🙁

    1. You think those words have been misused and overly used this year? “Nonsensical” is pefectly legitimate if used correctly, and I haven’t heard “katzenjammer” since I was a kid. Other than referring to the old cartoon Katzenjammer Kids, when and how has the word been used?

      1. I wasn’t speaking for the masses when I mentioned the subject two words, simply personal opinion which, if necessary for submittal to your post, I believe complied with the third paragraph of your post…

        The next time you realize a particular word is really starting to annoy you, submit it to LSSU. Doing so will alleviate a bit of frustration (I speak from experience) and it might even show up on next year’s list.”

  5. I’m with you on guesstimate which is actually useful and accurate.
    We can only wish people go back to using words in places that reflect their actual meanings. The only problem with that is 1. the language is always changing and 2. it’s difficult for those who do not have much of a vocabulary to start with and pick words to use by how they sound/seem important. Scripted lessons, chanting, and parroting answers in schools are not helping vocabulary use or development…So lost cause.

    1. I agree that language is always changing, and should, but the changes are not always for the better. When the majority of the populace adopts and continues to use (or misuse) a word for a long enough period of time, grammar overlords may eventually, gradually, yield the field. We’re seeing that now with literally, which has been misused by so many for so long that grammarians are beginning to admit defeat and accept the misuse as legitimate. Spineless, I say. Spineless!!

      1. Here’s part of the problem. One research group I was attached to (Behavior science and how the brain learns) advised/monitored for the state several edu groups that received edu grants. This particular group was responsible for making sure state standards was met K-12 and was supposed to create materials/demo lessons/interventions to improve instruction and learning. When pointed out that they were ignoring lack of vocabulary and accepting misuses by students without correction, they said they knew but couldn’t do anything about it. As it was a simple drill to relearn correct usage, we politely asked why. And were told “Oh we don’t want to make the children/teachers feel bad because they are saying it wrong….and (whispering) we might be accused of being, well, you know…”
        At which we said, “How are the kids going to learn and improve if they aren’t taught the correct way?” They just shrugged and looks sad faced.
        Realized I didn’t want anything to do with that whole arena and transferred. No way I was going to work with those who were in charge but would not follow through.
        Now those kids are grown and think they know – and don’t know they don’t. Because those charged with teaching them didn’t want them to feel sad.
        Gads. It’s far worse than any of you think.

      2. Just another sterling example of how badly our education system is failing our kids. Can we not even confer basic literacy!!?? No wonder so many reporters and “journalists” sound uneducated. They are!

  6. The most misused word in the ablative case strikes me as being ‘by’, as in ‘come by my place’ or ‘come sit by me’. Unfortunately it can’t be banned, because of its legitimate uses.

    1. I wasn’t aware those were misuses of the word by. And I had to consult Google to bone up again on ablative case. (I haven’t been in a grammar class since the late 1950s.) I did find one source that said the use of by to mean “beside” was acceptable.

      1. No, of course not. After all, many of the words in the list are perfectly acceptable in most cases. It’s their use or misuse in certain contexts that earned them a place on the list.

      2. Or over-use. The ‘dandruff’ one would be amusing, once. After that it irritates.
        Perhaps a ‘ghost’ in-spectre is needed to control that usage.

      3. Yep, I neglected to include over-use. In fact, that’s the only real sin. A one-time use or misuse is easy to ignore.

        Ghost in-spectre. Clever!

... and that's my two cents