Every New Year’s Day since 1976, Lake Superior State University has come out with its list of Banished Words on account of “Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.” Over the years, I’ve submitted numerous words for banishment and, in 2009, finally got recognized for one of my contributions. It was “First Dude.” I indulged in very good bubbles that New Year’s, and why not?
This year, I’ve compiled a long list of words and phrases which, in my opinion, richly deserve banishment from The Queen’s English. (I submitted a few of these to LSSU, and we’ll soon see if I was successful this year. Update: I made it! My nomination of “fan base” was accepted, along with my comment.)
Here’s the entire list, divided into categories describing their offensiveness. (Fans of Grantland.com might recognize that I’ve cribbed the idea of categories from their writers’ “Trade Value” series.)
Some of these words are on LSSU’s Banished Words lists from years past, but because they continue to pollute the language, I’ve included them in my list.
Group A: Skateboard English
Awesome, cool, and dude. Banishing this trifecta would silence 50 million people, and consequently improve the language in a classic example of “addition by subtraction.”
Buzz and vibe. Both are officially classified as noise pollution.
Group B. Pop Goes the Psychologist
___ Derangement Syndrome. Armchair psychology at its worst.
Conflicted. “Confused,” but with 50 percent more syllables.
Mindset. In mind tennis, a mindset consists of six mind games.
Role model. Most aren’t.
Group C. Past Their Sell-By Date
___ is the new ___. No longer new, and no longer acceptable.
Get your ___ on. The older the speaker, the sillier this sounds.
Groovy. This word earns a one-way bus ticket back to the 1960s.
Off the hook. Out of the lexicon.
New normal. Old cliche.
Group D. The PowerPoint Plague
Empower. Pull the plug on this boardroom cliche.
Engaged. Unacceptable unless a diamond ring changes hands.
Evangelist. If your name isn’t Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John from the Bible, you aren’t one.
Incentivizing. So syllable-clotted it stumbles over itself.
Paradigm. Won first prize in the “Name the New 20-Cent Piece” contest.
Group E. Whip Word Inflation Now
Ambassador. If you’re not an accredited diplomat, don’t call yourself this.
Discourse. Where disc golf is played.
Journey. Reserved for actual travel narratives. Or the band fronted by Steve Perry.
Overarching. What happens when you open too many McDonald’s.
Reimagined. Long-winded way of saying “new.”
Group F. Lower Education
Life lessons. What other kind are there?
Mentor. The Ohio town on Lake Erie can keep its name. At least for now.
Teachable moment. Your first lesson should be this: avoid cliches.
Group G. Preferred by Pompous Twits
Moral compass. Found on Page 39 of the Sharper Image catalogue of Overused Metaphors.
Scenario. The newest game from your state’s lottery.
Support system. Formerly known as “family and friends.”
Thought leaders. If you follow a thought leader, you’re not much of a thinker.
Touchstone. Not to be confused with Barney Rubble.
Group H. Go Ahead. Blame Oprah For These
Embrace. When did ideas acquire physical existence?
Inspire I aspire for this word to expire.
Issues. What lazy people use instead of “defects”, “problems”, “controversies”, etc.
Reach out. Users of this phrase owe the Four Tops an apology.
Group I. Bad Science
Exponential. Innumerati non carborundum.
Optics. Political consultants’ bloated term, which means “that looks terrible.”
Solutions. Once upon a time, we sold goods and services. Now we sell “solutions.”
Group J. Two-Faced and One-Dimensional
Personal responsibility. Right wing-ese for “if you aren’t rich, you deserve all the consequences of the mistakes you make.”
Tough love. An oxymoron which, in plain English, means “meanness I can justify.”
With all due respect. A genteel way of saying “f*** you.”
Group K. Escaped From The Locker Room
Fan base. An era of $500 tickets requires a $50 phrase for “fans.”
Game-changer. There’s a cliche penalty flag on the field.
Go-to guy. Long overdue for its unconditional release.
Mano-a-mano. Spanish for dummies.
Man up. The only phrase ever banned for steroid abuse.
Group L. On General Principles
Ethos. A new brand of Greek yogurt?
Impactful. My wisdom teeth hurt when I hear this word. And they were taken out 30 years ago.
Reality check. Returned, NSF.
Self-awareness. Drained of all meaning thanks to flagrant over-use.
Group M. The Worst of the Worst
It is what it is. Users of this phrase should be beaten about the head and shoulders with a hardbound copy of Who Moved My Cheese?
Photo by Dave Worley released under a Creative Commons license.