Banished Words List By Year

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At the end of the day

Sometimes a word needs to be re-banished, and this is one of them. Many comments note that it is overused and meaningless, often employed as a rhetorical device that attempts to encapsulate the complexities of a situation summarily, lacking nuance and depth.


From the comments: “The use of this term is cringe-worthy.” The irony is served hot, as the very term “cringe-worthy” finds itself under the spotlight. It’s like a word caught in its own cringe-worthy moment. Now, as we usher in the new year, it’s time to decide if this linguistic drama deserves an encore or if we should bid “cringe-worthy” adieu to make room for fresh, less cringe-inducing expressions in 2024.


The term “hack” has increasingly become a popular buzzword, frequently utilized to impart an aura of innovation or sophistication to various subjects. Its widespread adoption in multiple contexts, extending beyond its initial technological context, has the potential to lessen its inherent significance. Using it everywhere, even beyond its tech roots, could make it lose its magic.


This one appeared on the list in 2009, so perhaps it’s time for another attempt to point out its overuse and lack of meaning in most situations. Despite its initial recognition as a word worthy of distinction, its repeated application in contexts that don’t merit such acclaim challenges its genuine iconic status. It’s like that one-hit wonder playing on loop.


Especially as a verb, why use this word when we have a perfectly good word that makes more sense: “affect”? Overusing it not only takes away its pizzazz but also robs other words of their spotlight.


The use of this word for things that are not truly being obsessed over makes it a good candidate for rethinking how we use the word. The casual use of “obsessed” to describe routine interests or preferences underscores a potential misappropriation of the term, prompting a reconsideration of its application. Should one be obsessed with a new kitchen gadget or a new shade of paint? This year’s contributors think not.


Rizz, derived as a shortened form for “charisma,” gained prominence as Oxford’s word of the year and has become a familiar presence in the realm of social media discourse. The ubiquity of this term prompts contemplation on whether it retains its relevance. With language doing the cha-cha of change, we’re wondering if this word still rocks the charisma scene or if it’s time for a language remix.

Side hustle

The term “side hustle” has gained widespread use, prompting considerations about its impact on how we perceive economic challenges. It may be worth reflecting on whether its prevalence inadvertently downplays the genuine reality of the situation. While ‘side-hustle’ adds flair to our language, our contributors feel that the only hustle is the one needed to get to their second job.


While perfectly acceptable in specific contexts, “slay” has transcended its original meaning and infiltrated situations where its usage no longer aligns with its intended significance. Its transition from a specialized term denoting exceptional accomplishment to a commonplace expression for any achievement prompts scrutiny into its misapplication, particularly in the characterization of routine or mundane actions. Now, it’s sprinkled everywhere—from wearing a stylish outfit to tackling the art of parallel parking.

Wait for it

If we’re watching the video, then we’re already waiting for it, right? While “wait for it” is trying to be the hype master, let’s question if it’s adding extra sparkle or just stating the obvious?



Banished in 1996, but deserves a repeat nope given its overuse. Usurped the simple “yes,” laments a contributor. Another condemned it as “the current default to express agreement, endemically present on TV in one-on-one interviews.” Frequently “said too loudly by annoying people who think they’re better than you,” bemoaned an aggrieved observer. “Sounds like it comes with a guarantee when that may not be the case,” cautioned a wary watchdog.


“Not everything is amazing; and when you think about it, very little is,” a dissenter explained. “This glorious word should be reserved for that which is dazzling, moving, or awe-inspiring,” to paraphrase another, “like the divine face of a newborn.” Initially banished for misuse, overuse, and uselessness in 2012. Its cyclical return mandates further nixing of the “generic,” “banal and hollow” modifier—a “worn-out adjective from people short on vocabulary.”

Does that make sense?

Submitters rejected the desire, perhaps demand, for clarification or affirmation as filler, insecurity, and passive aggression. “Why say it, if you must ask? It just doesn’t make sense!” tsk-tsked one. In this call for reassurance or act of false modesty, enquirers warp respondents into “co-conspirators,” deduced another. Needy, scheming, and/or cynical. Let me be clear, judges opined: Always make sense; don’t think aloud or play games! Misuse, overuse, and uselessness.


Nominators are not crazy by arguing that overuse disconnects the term from the real concern it has identified in the past: dangerous psychological manipulation that causes victims to distrust their thoughts, feelings, memories, or perception of reality. Others cited misuse: an incorrect catchall to refer generally to conflict or disagreement. It’s too obscure of a reference to begin with, avowed sundry critics, alluding to the 1938 play and 1940/44 movies.


The acronym for Greatest of All Time gets the goat of petitioners and judges for overuse, misuse, and uselessness. “Applied to everyone and everything from athletes to chicken wings,” an objector declared. “How can anyone or anything be the GOAT, anyway?” Records fall; time continues. Some sprinkle GOAT like table salt on “anyone who’s really good.” Another wordsmith: ironically, “goat” once suggested something unsuccessful; now, GOAT is an indiscriminate flaunt.

Inflection point

Mathematical term that entered everyday parlance and lost its original meaning. This year’s version of “pivot,” banished in 2021. “Chronic throat-clearing from historians, journalists, scientists, or politicians. Its ubiquity has driven me to an inflection point of throwing soft objects about whenever I hear it,” a quipster recounted. “Inflection point has reached its saturation point and point of departure,” proclaimed another. “Pretentious way to say turning point.” Overuse and misuse.


Sleuth confession: “It makes my hair hurt.” As well it should—because it’s not a word. At most, it’s a nonstandard word, per some dictionaries. “Regardless” suffices. Opponents disqualified it as a double negative. One conveyed that the prefix “ir” + “regardless” = redundancy. “Take ‘regardless’ and dress it up for emphasis, showcasing your command of nonexistent words,” excoriated an exasperated correspondent, adding, “Why isn’t this on your list?” Misuse.

It is what it is

Banished in 2008 for overuse, misuse, and uselessness: “pointless,” “cop-out,” “Only Yogi Berra should be allowed to utter such a circumlocution.” Its resurgence prompted these insights: “Well, duh.” “No kidding.” “Of course it is what it is! What else would it be? It would be weird if it wasn’t what it wasn’t.” “Tautology.” “Adds no value.” “Verbal crutch.” “Excuse not to deal with reality or accept responsibility.” “Dismissive, borderline rude.”

Moving forward

Misuse, overuse, and uselessness. “Where else would we go?” wondered a sage—since we can’t, in fact, travel backward in time. “May also refer to ‘get my way,’ as in, ‘How can we move forward?’ Well, guess what? Sometimes you can’t,” another wit stated. Politicians and bosses often wield it for “semantic legitimacy” of self-interest, evasion, or disingenuousness. Its next of kin, “going forward,” banished in 2001, also received votes.

Quiet quitting

Trendy but inaccurate. Not an employee who inconspicuously resigns. Instead, an employee who completes the minimum requirements for a position. Some nominator reasons: “normal job performance,” “fancy way of saying ‘work to rule,’” “nothing more than companies complaining about workers refusing to be exploited,” “it’s not a new phenomenon; it’s burnout, ennui, boredom, disengagement.” On the precipice for next year’s Banished Words List as well for ongoing misuse and overuse.


Asking for a friend

Misuse and overuse through deceit—because the friend is a ruse. This cutesy phrase, often deployed in social media posts in a coy attempt to deter self-identification, isn’t fooling anyone. Paraphrasing one sage, “Once used to avoid embarrassment, as in, ‘Do you know a good proctologist? I’m asking for a friend.’ Sometimes an occasional sitcom joke. Now an overused tag with absolutely no relationship to its antecedent.”

At the end of the day

Twenty-plus years after original banishment of this phrase in 1999, the day still isn’t over for this misused, overused, and useless expression. “Many times things don’t end at the end of the day—or even the ramifications of whatever is happening,” observed a sage. Others consider “day” an imprecise measure. Today? Present times? Banishment in 1999: overused synopsis of a conversation or debate, often by politicians and pundits.

Circle back

Treats colloquy like an ice skating rink, as if we must circle back to our previous location to return to a prior subject. Let’s circle back about why to banish this jargon. It’s a conversation, not the Winter Olympics. Opined a grammarian, “The most overused phrase in business, government, or other organization since ‘synergy’”—which we banished in 2002 as evasive blanket terminology and smarty-pants puffery.

Deep dive

“The only time to dive into something is when entering a body of water, not going more in-depth into a particular subject or book,” admonished a petitioner. Another stipulated that people who float the phrase aren’t near pool, lake, ocean, or sea; thus, rather than dive deeply, they flounder shallowly. An editing whiz wondered, “Do we need ‘deep’? I mean, does anyone dive into the shallow end?”

New normal

Overused catchall for ways COVID-19 affects humankind—and banishment finalist last year for similar reasons. “Those clamoring for the days of old, circa 2019, use this to signal unintentionally that they haven’t come to terms with what ‘normal’ means,” a monitor elucidated. “After a couple of years, is any of this really ‘new’?” another speculated. Banished in 2012 for imprudence, defeatism, and apathy stemming from societal missteps.

No worries

Nominated by writers nationwide for misuse and overuse, this phrase incorrectly substitutes for “You’re welcome” when someone says “Thank you.” A further bungling relates to insensitivity. “If I’m not worried, I don’t want anyone telling me not to worry,” a contributor explicated. “If I am upset, I want to discuss being upset.” Despite its meaninglessness, the term is recommended to emailers by Google Assistant.

Supply chain

Word-watchers noticed the frequent, unfortunate appearance of this phrase toward the end of this year as the coronavirus persisted. “It’s become automatically included in reporting of consumer goods shortages or perceived shortages. In other words, a buzzword,” concluded one analyst. “Supply chain issues have become the scapegoat of everything that doesn’t happen or arrive on time and of every shortage,” noticed another. The adverse result: overuse ad nauseam.

That being said

Nominators cited this phrase as verbal filler, redundant justification, and pompous posturing. For instance, “however” or “but—even “that said”—does the job as a transition instead of the wordiness. “Go ahead and say what you want already!” demanded one entrant. That being said, its usefulness is certainly in doubt. As a commentator philosophized, “At the end of the day, if you will, it already has been.”

Wait, what?

Most frequently found in text or on social media, this ubiquitous imperative question is a failed “response to a statement to express astonishment, misunderstanding, or disbelief,” explained a wordsmith. “I hate it,” added another, because the command query is an inexact method to convey the utterer’s uncertainty or surprise. “I don’t want to wait,” either, continued the second impassioned nominator. Misuse and overuse.

You’re on mute

People switched from in-person exchanges to virtual meetings to follow the social distancing protocol of COVID-19, and the unwitting deafening silence happens on both sides of the camera. Overuse and uselessness, then, due to ineptitude. A discerning submitter encapsulated the issue: “We’re two years into remote working and visiting. It’s time for everyone to figure out where the mute button is.” Or as a quipster summarized, “Hello? Hello?”


COVID-19 (COVID, coronavirus, Rona)

A large number of nominators are clearly resentful of the virus and how it has overtaken our vocabulary. No matter how necessary or socially and medically useful these words are, the committee cannot help but wish we could banish them along with the virus itself. Coincidentally, this list arrives as does a vaccine—the committee hopes this proves a type of double whammy.

I know, right?

An amusing phrase flooding social media, “I know, right?” is a relatively new construction to convey empathy with those who have expressed agreement. But as one wordsmith put it, if you know, why do you need to ask if it’s correct or seek further approval? Another grammarian suggested that the desire for confirmation connotes insecurity. In other words, it’s reiterating something already seconded.

In an abundance of caution (various phrasings)

Yes, humanity needs to follow safeguards during COVID-19. The statistics are sobering: more than 342,000 deaths and more than 19 million confirmed cases in the U.S. and more than 1.8 million deaths and more than 82 million confirmed cases worldwide. But the phrasing about how to take preventative steps is vague. What is the standard measurement for caution, metric or U.S. standard?

In these uncertain times (various phrasings)

The committee agrees that COVID-19 has upended everyday life and wishes this weren’t so. But putting things into imprecise context doesn’t help matters. The blur dilutes reality and, to some, sounds like the beginning of a movie trailer. Keep as wide a berth of trite parlance as those who don’t wear masks in public. What exactly does it mean for times to be uncertain? Look at a clock!


What began as an anti-racist critique of the behavior of white women in response to Black and Brown people has become a misogynist umbrella term for critiquing the perceived overemotional behavior of women. As one nominator said about reasons for its banishment, “I would tell you why, but I’d sound like a Karen.” Another critic observed, “Offensive to all normal people named Karen.”


Reporters, commentators, talking heads, and others from the media reference how everyone must adapt to the coronavirus through contactless delivery, virtual learning, curbside pickup, video conferencing, remote working, and other urgent readjustments. That’s all true and vital. But basketball players pivot; let’s keep it that way.

Social distancing

This phrase is useful, as wearing a mask and keeping your distance have a massive effect on preventing the spread of infection. But we’d be lying if we said we weren’t ready for this phrase to become “useless.” With north of 50 nominations, many others clearly feel the same, and the tone of their reasoning ranged from impatient to heartfelt.


It’s a shortened version for “suspicious” in the video game Among Us. No committee members play, but our children who do explained that this multiplayer online social game is designed around identifying “sus” imposters so they can be “thrown into the lava.” Complainers a) ask: How much effort does it take to say the entire word; and b) request: If that can’t happen, confine the syllable to the gaming world.


It’s unheard of that a word would be repeated on the Banished Words List. Actually, it’s not. In the early years, words wound up repeated, although we try to avoid repetition nowadays. Despite the fact that “unprecedented” was banished in 2002, given that it was nominated many times this year for misuse in describing events that do have precedent, inclusion again seems warranted.

We’re all in this together

This phrase was likely intended as a way to keep everyone feeling safe and calm at the start of the pandemic. However, as the virus made its way across the globe and nation, it became clear that we are all dealing with COVID-19 in different ways and that we confront some vastly different challenges in coping with it. As with many words that show up on the list, its usefulness has faded.



One nominator described this word as an “obfuscation,” describing an “actual person doing something personal for another unknown person.” The committee agrees this word should be banned for well water … but not for sandwiches. – Nkenge Zola, Highland Park, Michigan; Bill McCune, Petoskey, Michigan


This one is a new insult for the non-millennials on the committee. Before we get chirped for being out of touch, as our nominator suggests, why don’t we leave it to the birds? – Abigail Ostman, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan


Like “artisanal,” this seems to be another attempt at making something more than it is, especially when used in reference to social media (or Banished Words Lists). As Barb from Ann Arbor says, “Save it for the museum.” – Barb, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Nkenge Zola, Highland Park, Michigan; Jerry Purdy, Portage, Michigan; and Samurel Press, Burlington, Vermont

I mean

It’s easy to see why this phrase was nominated, right? I mean … – John Leask, Alpena, Michigan


According to Urban Dictionary, “A word Instagram users use to describe themselves to make them feel famous and more important when no one really know who they are or care.” – Sylvia Gurinsky, Davie, Florida; Jeff Lewis, Ada, Michigan; Paul Bartunek, Los Angeles, California; Jacqueline Reardon, Burlington, New Jersey; diva_angel360


An abbreviation of “jealous,” the committee agrees with the nominator of this word who suggested that it’s better left for toast. – Mike Bassarab, Kalamazoo, Michigan


Surprisingly, this word hasn’t already been banished, but here it is, one of the few words in English that has begun to serve as its own antonym. Many of the nominators cite this word’s use for figurative expressions or emphasis, which is literally annoying. – Edward, Glendale, Arizona; Ryan Chenier, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Daniel Kirk, San Luis Obispo, California; Dale Martin, Novi, Michigan; Jack Pollard, Haslett, Michigan; Gary Wenger, Delta, British Columbia, Canada; Christy Borthick, Nashville, Tennessee; Pamela Naylor, Dover, Delaware; Jamie Rankin, Connellsville, Pennsylvania; Margaret, Los Angeles, California; and Jennifer W Berlin, Anthem, Arizona

Living my best life

The committee very much enjoys exercising its authority in banishing words annually–literally the capstone of our year–but as Eric says, apart from reincarnation, are there “options for multiple lives”? – Gary Wheelock, Wixom, Michigan; Eric Park, Rock Hill, South Carolina


A word used by foodies to describe the texture of food or drink in the mouth, which the committee feels should be banished entirely from food reality TV shows. As our nominator asks, “Where else, exactly, would you like to touch your food or beverage?” This one just doesn’t feel right in the mouth. – Jodi Miller, Gahanna, Ohio

OK, Boomer

This phrase caught on late this year on the Internet as a response from millennials to the older generation. Boomers may remember, however, that generational tension is always present. In fact, it was the Boomers who gave us the declaration: “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” – Curtis McDonald, Shelby Township, Michigan; Scott Eldridge, Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Devin Greaney, Cordova, Tennessee

Quid pro quo

This phrase received the most nominations this year, with a noticeable spike in November (gee, we wonder why …). The popularity of this phrase has the committee wondering what it should offer in exchange for next year’s nominations. – Mary Bilyeu, Toledo, Ohio; Deborah Rempala, Saint Clair Shores, Michigan; Julie Janiskee, Petoskey, Michigan; Deanna, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan; Jeff Lewis, Ada, Michigan; Lisa K Farrell, Los Angeles, California; Tana Baldwin, Petoskey , Michigan; Trudy Salo, Liberty Twp, Ohio; Tom Reilly, Bloomfield Twp, Michigan; Jeff Malcolm, Paw Paw, Michigan; Daniel Muldoon, Council Bluffs, Iowa; Kate TerHaar, Cedarville, Michigan; Mary J., Houston, Texas; Lori Moore, Kalamazoo, Michigan; Steve Carr, Marquette, Michigan; R. Osinski, Clinton Twp., Michigan; Dan Berardi, Arnprior, Ontario, Canada.


Another abbreviation, this time of “totally.” Totes overused. – Samantha Stuart, Walker, Michigan

Vibe / vibe check

A new use of the 60s term, “good vibes.” This one just doesn’t vibe with us anymore, unless the speaker is actually vibrating. – Leah Mockridge, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan and Carissa, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan



“Hard to spell, not specific, and anachronistic when ‘accessories’ will do.” – Leslie, Scottsdale, Arizona


as in two or more parties limiting competition by deception – John, Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan

“We all need to collude on getting rid of this word.”


“This has become a popular insult. It’s disgusting and sounds weird. Make the madness stop.” – Hannah, Campbellsville, Kentucky


“Nobody ever actually says this word out loud, they just write it for filler.” – Mary, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


“Somebody doesn’t want to talk with you. Get over it. No need to bring the paranormal into the equation.” – Carrie, Caledonia, Michigan


“People who struggle with ideas and issues now grapple with them. I prefer to grapple with a wrestler or an overgrown tree. ” – David, Traverse City, Michigan


“Totally unnecessary when ‘important’ is sufficient. ‘More importantly’ (banned in 1992) apparently sounds more important but is also senseless.” – Constance, Pace, Texas

In the books ...

As in finished or concluded – Sandy, White Lake Township, Michigan

“It seems everyone’s holiday party is in the books this year, and it’s all there for friends to view on social media, along with the photos of the happy party attendees.”

Legally drunk

“You’re a little tipsy, that’s all. That’s legally drunk. People who are ticketed for drunk driving are actually ‘illegally drunk,’ and we should say so.” – Philip, Auburn, Indiana


“Originally meant to take a claim or dispute to a law court . . . appropriated by politicians and journalists for any matter of controversy in the public sphere.” – Ronald, – Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

Most important election of our time ...

“Not that we haven’t had six or seven back-to-back most important elections of our time.” – José, Ozark, Arkansas


“The trendy way to say ‘appearance’.” – Bob Tempe, Arizona

OTUS family of acronyms such as POTUS, FLOTUS, SCOTUS

“Overused useless word for the President, Supreme Court, First Lady.” – David, Kinross, Michigan


“People use it as an excuse to rant. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have become platforms. Even athletes call a post-game interview a ‘platform.’ Step down from the platform, already.” – Michael, Alameda, California

Thought Leader

“Thoughts aren’t ranked or scored. How can someone hold a thought-lead, much less even lead by thought?”; Paul, Ann Arbor, Michigan., “If you follow a thought leader, you’re not much of a thinker.” – Matt, Superior, Colorado


As in area of expertise – Chris, Battle Creek, Michigan

“It’s not in my wheelhouse to explain why dreadful words should be banished!”- Currie, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

“Irritating, has become a cliché, annoys me, offence to the English language, etc.” – Kevin, Portland, Oregon

“It’s an awkward word to use in the 21st century. Most people have never seen a wheelhouse.”

Wrap my head around

“Impossible to do and makes no sense.” – Linda, Bloomington, Minnesota


as in to vigorously throw or toss – Emily, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“If I hear one more freshman say “yeet,” I might just yeet myself out a window.”



An impulsive typo, born into a 140-character universe, somehow missed by the autocorrect feature.


As in to dish out the latest rumor on someone. Let’s go back to ‘talks about’ and leave dishes in the cupboard.

Drill down

Instead of expanding on a statement, we “drill down on it.”

Fake news

Once upon a time stories could be empirically disproved. Now ‘fake news’ is any story you disagree with.

Gig economy

Gigs are for musicians and stand-up comedians. Now expanded to imply a sense of freedom and a lifestyle that rejects tradition in a changing economic culture. Runs a risk of sharecropping.

Hot water heater

Hot water does not need to be heated. ‘Water heater’ or ‘hot water maker’ will keep us out of hot water.


A frivolous word groping for something ‘effective’ or ‘influential.’

Let me ask you this

Wholly unnecessary statement. Just ask the question already.

Let that sink in

One could say shocking, profound, or important. Let that sink in.


Says nothing that ‘nothing’ doesn’t already. I’ll take a quarter-pound of something in mine.

Onboarding / offboarding

Creature from the HR Lagoon. We used to have hiring, training and orientation. Now we need to have an “onboarding” process. Firings, quitting, and retirements are streamlined into “offboarding.”


What is so disgraceful about owning a used car now and then?


Refers to an exaggerated quantity, as in tons of sunshine or tons of work. ‘Lots’ would surely suffice.


Misused word for analyze, consider, assess. Concepts or positions are not packed, so they don’t need to be unpacked.



A texting encryption of, I love you: 8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning. Never encrypt or abbreviate one’s love.

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.


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!


The flabby opposite of a chiseled-body male ideal. Should not empower dads to pursue a sedentary lifestyle.


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.

Echo chamber

Lather, rinse, and repeat. After a while, everything sounds the same.


Good word, but overused when concentrate or look at would work fine. See 1983’s banishment of, We Must Focus Our Attention.


Another food group co-opted by “frankenfood.” Not to be confused with other forms of genetically modified language.

“Get your dandruff up ... ”

The Committee is not sure why this malapropism got nominators’ dander up in 2016.


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.


When guess and estimate are never enough.


Thrown around far too much. What’s considered as such is best left to historians rather than the contemporary media.


Numbered or bulleted list created primarily to generate views on the Web, LSSU’s word-banishment list excluded.


As in a manicured lawn. Golf greens are the closest grass comes to being manicured.

On fleek

Anything that is on-point, perfectly executed, or looking good. Needs to return to its genesis: perfectly groomed eyebrows.


To paraphrase the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, we are entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts.

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?

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).

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.


Break the Internet

A phrase that is annoying online word-watchers around the world.

“An annoying bit of hyperbole about the latest saucy picture or controversy that is already becoming trite.” – Tim Bednall, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

“Meaning a post or video or whatever will have so much Internet traffic that it will ‘break the internet.’ It’s being used for every headline and video. Ridiculous.” – Matthew Squires, Auburn, Michigan

“I hope the list doesn’t ‘break the internet.’ (How else would I read it next year)?” – Dean Hinrichs, Kansas City, Missouri


Online publications invite us to “join the conversation,” which is usually more of a scream-fest. Gayle from Cedarville, Michigan wonders if “debate has become too harsh for our delicate sensibilities. Now we are all encouraged to have a ‘conversation,’ and everything will somewhat be magically resolved.”

“Over the past five years or so, this word has been increasingly used by talking heads on radio, television and in political circles to describe every form of verbal communication known to mankind. It has replaced ‘discussion,’ ‘debate,’ ‘chat,’ ‘discourse,’ ‘argument,’ ‘lecture,’ ‘talk’ … .all of which can provide some context to the nature of the communication. Perhaps the users feel that it is a word that is least likely to offend people, but I consider it to be imprecise language that, over time, dumbs down the art of effective discourse.” – Richard Fry, Marathon, Ontario, Canada

“Used by every media type without exception. No one listens.” – Richard Seitz, Charleston, Illinois

“Have one, start one, engage in one. Enough.” – Fred Rogers, Houston, Texas

We are invited to “join the conversation if we want to give an opinion. This expression is overused and it is annoying. Thanks for listening, eh.” – Debbie Irwin, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

Giving me life

The phrase refers to anything that may excite a person, or something that causes one to laugh.

“I suggest banishing this hyperbole for over-use,” says Ana Robbins, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“This list of banished words is ‘giving me life’!”


A word that is familiar to those in bigger cities, where seats on the bus or subway are sometimes difficult to find.

“Men don’t need another disgusting-sounding word thrown into the vocabulary to describe something they do … You’re just taking too much room on this train seat, be a little more polite …” – Carrie Hansen, Caledonia, Michigan

“The term itself is stupid, and the campaign and petition written by men’s rights activists claiming that men need to take up more space due to their anatomy, and that anti-manspreading campaigns are ‘male-bashing,’ are ridiculous. The problem is with people taking up too much space on the subway or any public mode of transportation. – Beth, Anchorage, Alaska


We had to include one for the sports fans. John Kollig of Jamestown, N.Y., says this is overused by every sports broadcaster and writer.

“I am not sure who is responsible, but over the last 12-18 months you cannot watch a sporting event, listen to a sports talk show on radio, or anything on ESPN without someone using this term to attempt to describe an athlete or a contest.” – Dan Beitzel, Perrysburg, Ohio

“Every time I hear them say it, I change the channel.” – Brenda Ruffing, Jackson, Michigan

“What the heck does it mean?” – Linda Pardy, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada


This shortened form of “press release” and “press conference” is not so impressive.

“Not only is there no intelligent connection between the word “presser” and its supposed meaning, this word already has a definition: a person or device that removes wrinkles. Let’s either say ‘press conference’ or ‘press release’ or come up with something more original, intelligent and interesting!” – Constance Kelly, West Bloomfield, Michigan

“This industry buzzword has slipped into usage in news reporting and now that they have started, they can’t seem to stop using it.” – Richard W. Varney, Akron, Ohio

Price point

Another example of using two words when one will do.

“This alliterative mutation seems to be replacing the word ‘price’ or ‘cost.’ It may be standard business-speak, but must it contaminate everyday speech?” says Kevin Carney of Chicago, who provided an example in the March 19, 2015 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, pg. 1171, which says, “Although the ‘price point’ of effective new drugs … may initially be out of reach for many patients …”

“It has no ‘point.’ It is just a ‘price.’” – Guy Michael, Cherry Hill, New Jersey


“A corporate-academic weasel word,” according to the Urban Dictionary.

“Somewhere along the line, this word became a trendy replacement for ‘that is a problem.’ I just hate it.” – Sharon Martin, Hagerstown, Maryland

“Anything that the speaker finds vaguely inconvenient or undesirable, such as an opposing political belief or bad traffic. Contrast things that are self-evidently taken to be problematic with, say, actual problems like a hole in the ozone layer or a job loss.” – Adam Rosen, Asheville, North Carolina

Secret sauce

“Usually used in a sentence explaining the ‘secret’ in excruciating public detail. Is this a metaphor for business success based on the fast food industry?” – John Beckett, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“It has become too frequent in business discussions. I am tired of it.” – Bill Evans, Clinton, Mississippi


A word that has expanded from describing someone who may actually have a stake in a situation or problem, now being overused in business to describe customers and others.

“Often used with ‘engagement.’ If someone is disengaged, they’re not really a stakeholder in the first place. LSSU, please engage your stakeholders by adding this pretentious jargon to your list. – Gwendolyn Barlow, Portland, Oregon

Harley Carter of Calgary, Alberta, Canada says he has heard it with another word popular in business-speak, “socialize,” which means to spread an idea around to see what others think of it. “We need to socialize this concept with our ‘stakeholders.’”

“Dr. Van Helsing should be the only stake holder,” says Jeff Baenen of Minneapolis, Minnesota


So the word that received the most nominations this year was already banished, but today it is being used differently than it was in 1999, when nominators were saying, “I am SO down with this list!” Nominations came from across the country.

“Currently, it is being overused as the first word in the answer to ANY question. For instance, “How did you learn to play the piano?” Answer: “So my dad was in a classical music club …” – Bob Forrest, Tempe Arizona

“Tune in to any news channel and you’ll hear it. The word serves no purpose in the sentence and to me is like fingernails on a chalkboard. So, I submit the extra, meaningless, and overused word ‘so.’” – Scott Shackleton, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“Politicians, especially, are using this word when asked a question and not answering said question. It is used by all parties in Canada’s Federal election. – Karen Newton, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

“Frequently used to begin a sentence, particularly in response to a question, this tiresome and grammatically incorrect replacement for “Like,” or “Um,” is even more irksome … It hurts my ears, every single time I hear it! – Thomas H. Weiss, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

“So it’s getting really annoying. So can we please put a stop to this?” – David G. Simpson, Laurel, Maryland

“It has become widespread to the point of an epidemic,” said a sickened John from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Vape and vaping are used to describe the act of ‘smoking’ e-cigarettes (another strange word) since the products emit vapor instead of smoke.

David Ervin of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, says he hopes the word “goes up in smoke.”

Walk it back

A slower back-pedal?

“It seems as if every politician who makes a statement has to ‘walk it back,’ meaning retract the statement, or explain it in laborious detail to the extent that the statement no longer has any validity or meaning once it has been ‘walked back.’” – Max Hill, Killeen, Texas



One of the top nominees.

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

“It’s overused. I heard someone refer to their ramen noodles as ‘bae’! If I was putting someone ‘before anything else,’ I would respect them enough to use their name.” — S. Thoms, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“The most annoying term of affection to show up in years. Also, the concept ‘before anybody else,’ developed AFTER the word became popular. Reason enough for it to be banned. – Blan Wright, Sugar Hill, Georgia

“A dumb, annoying word.” — James Becker, Holly, Michigan

“I’d rather be called ‘babe’ than ‘bae’ any day.” — Alexsis Outwater, Bronson, Michigan


That’s just crazy.

Early in 2014, Steve Kaufman of Houston, Texas, could be heard screaming, “I’ve only heard it twice and already know by the end of the year I’ll want to scream.”

“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, Michigan

“I’m sick of hearing myself say this! Must be banned!” – Roxanne Werly, Traverse City, Michigan

Curate / curated

“It used to have a special significance reserved mainly for fine art and museums. Now everything is curated. Monthly food and clothing subscription boxes claim to be finely ‘curated.’ Instead of abusing curated, why don’t they say what they really mean: ‘We did an online search and posted the first 25 items we found’ or the ‘curated selection of items in your box this month are a mix of paid placements and products that have failed to sell elsewhere.’” – Samantha McCormick, Kirkland, Washington

“Example on the ‘Net today: ‘Get a curated box of high-end treats and toys (all tailored to the size of your pup) shipped right to your doggie door.’ – I have heard and read the word ‘curated’ far too many times this year.” – Deb, Portland, Oregon

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

Enhanced interrogation

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


Many nominations over the past several years. Is it a Michigan thing?

“It’s ridiculous. Do we call people who like wine ‘winies’ or beer lovers ‘beeries’?” – Randall Chamberlain, Traverse City, Michigan

“‘Someone who enjoys food’ applies to everyone on Earth. What’s next? ‘Oh, I’m an airie; I just love to breathe.’ ‘Could we do it at 11, instead? I’m kind of a sleepie.’” – Andy Poe, Marquette, Michigan

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

“I’ve heard of cooks and chefs, and gourmets and gourmands, but what the heck is a ‘foodie’? A person who likes food? A person who eats food? A person who knows what food is? Sounds like ‘foodie’ is a synonym for ‘everybody.’ Foodies around the world agree; let’s banish this term.” – Steve Szilagyi, Mason, Michigan


“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, Michigan

“The word suggests that we develop relationships not for the simple value of the person we call ‘friend,’ for the pleasure of being in a community of people and for the simple joys of sharing bonds of affection and common care, but that we instead develop these relationships out of some sort of expectation of a monetary reward.” – Collette Coullard, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan


Banished for over-use and mis-use.

“Suddenly things that once would have been called ‘tips’ are now being called ‘hacks.’ It can’t be because the one word is shorter or easier to say; and the actual accepted meanings of ‘hack’ have nothing to do with suggestions for doing tasks better or more efficiently — quite the opposite, really.” – Sharla Hulsey, Sac City, Iowa

“This word is totally overused and misused. 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, North Carolina

“I just received an e-mail for a book called ‘Marriage Hacks.’ 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 are probably even hacking hacks.” – Chellsea Mastroine, Canton, Ohio

“Life hack, this hack, that hack … stop with the hacks!” — Tim Jackson, Crystal Lake, Illinois


A suffering sports suffix.

“Purely with reference to a specific teams’ fans, this word needs to go. It’s the following of a sports franchise, not a group seeking independence, recognition and legitimacy; Not even if it’s the Cubs.” – Tim Wilcox, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

“Although a devout Wisconsin sports fan, I do not belong to Packer-Nation, Badger-Nation, Phoenix-Nation, or Brewer-Nation. Further, I am not aware of any team or mascot that has the carrying capacity to be a nation.” – Kelly Frawley, Waunakee, Wisconsin

“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, Washington

“Both politics and sports teams have overused this n-word to describe their fans or viewers.” – Ken Hornack, Ormond Beach, Florida

Polar Vortex

LSSU got a head start on this one last spring, when it burned a snowman named Mr. Polar Vortex during its 44th annual Snowman Burning.

“Wasn’t it called ‘winter’ just a few years ago? — Dawn Farrell, Kanata, Ontario, Canada

“Enough with the over-sensationalized words to describe weather!” — A. Prescott, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

“I think most, if not all can agree that we would prefer to avoid the polar vortex in the future, both in name and in embodiment.” — Christine Brace, Westminster, Maryland

“What happened to ‘cold snap’? Not descriptive enough?” – Trevor Fenton, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Kenneth Ross of Glastonbury, Connecticut, and Bob Priddy of Jefferson City, Missouri, were among many who saw this storming in last January.

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

Priddy noted that it quickly jumped from the weather forecast to other areas, as he said he knew it would: “Today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorializes about a ‘political vortex.’”

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, South Carolina

“A skill is a skill — that is it. Phrases such as ‘I have the skill set to do that properly’ or anything resembling that phrase, shows the speaker is seriously lacking skills in the art of conversation. Please try this, ‘I have the skill … do you have the skills … this requires certain skills … he is very skilled … that was a skillful maneuver … See? No need for a skill set.” – Stephanie Hamm-Wieczkiewicz, Litfield Park, Arizona


Many nominations over the years.

“The word ‘swag’ has become a shapeless, meaningless word used in various forms (such as ‘swaggy’) but with no real depth.” – Bailey Anderson, Washington, Iowa

“Whether it’s a ‘free gift’ (banished in 1988) or droopy clothing, this word is neither useful nor fancy.” – Jeff Drake, Saint Albans, West Virginia

“The word has become so overused that it is not ‘swag’ to not use the word ‘swag.’” – Devin, Farwell, Michigan

“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, Virginia


“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, California


_______ on steroids

New! Improved! Steroidal!

“Please, does the service at my favorite restaurant have to be ‘on steroids’ (even though the meat may be)?” – Betsy, Los Angeles, California

–ageddon & –pocalypse

“Come on down, we’re havin’ car-ageddon, wine-ageddon, budget-ageddon, a sale-ageddon, flower-ageddon, and so-on-and-so-forth-ageddon! None of these appear in the Book of Revelations.” – Michael, Haslett, Michigan

“Every passing storm or event is tagged as ice-ageddon or snow-pocalypse. There’s a limited supply of … ageddons and … pocalypses; I believe it’s one, each. When running out of cashews becomes nut-ageddon, it’s time to re-evaluate your metaphors.” – Rob, Sellersville, Pennsylvania


Heard often in the world of football.

Fan base

Why use one word when apparently two are twice as better?

“Facing adversity is working 50 hours a week and still struggling to feed your kids. Facing third and fifteen without your best receiver with tens of millions in the bank, is not.” – Kyle, White Lake, Michigan

“From the world of sports comes the latest example of word inflation. What’s wrong with the word ‘fans’?” – Paul, Canton, Michigan


We used to call it the pound symbol. Now it is seeping from the Twittersphere into everyday expression. Nearly all who nominated it found a way to use it in their entries, so we wonder if they’re really willing to let go. #goodluckwiththat

“A technical term for a useful means of categorizing content in social media, the word is abused as an interjection in verbal conversation and advertising. #annoying!” – Bob, Grand Rapids, Michigan

“Typed on sites that use them, that’s one thing. When verbally spoken, hashtag-itgetsoldquickly. So, hashtag-knockitoff.” – Kuahmel, Gardena, California

“Used when talking about Twitter, but everyone seems to add it to everyday vocabulary. #annoying #stopthat #hashtag #hashtag #hashtag .” – Alex, Rochester, Michigan

“It’s #obnoxious #ridiculous #annoying and I wish it would disappear.” – Jen, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“#sickoftheword” – Brian, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Intellectually / morally bankrupt

Used by members of each political party when describing members of the other.

Mister mom

The 30-year anniversary of this hilarious 1983 Michael Keaton movie seems to have released some pent-up emotions. It received nearly as many nominations as “selfie” and “twerk” from coast to coast in the U.S. and Canada, mostly from men.

“It was a funny movie in its time, but the phrase should refer only to the film, not to men in the real world. It is an insult to the millions of dads who are the primary caregivers for their children. Would we tolerate calling working women Mrs. Dad?” says Pat, of Chicago, Illinois, who suggests we peruse the website captaindad.org, the manly blog of stay-at-home parenting.

“I am a stay-at-home dad/parent. And if you call me ‘Mr. Mom,’ I will punch you in the throat. – Zachary, East Providence, Rhode Island

“Society is changing and no longer is it odd for a man to take care of his children. Even the Wall Street Journal has declared, “Mr. Mom is dead” (Jan. 22, 2013). I think it is time to banish it.” – Chad, St. Peters, Missouri


A wandering prefix (see 2010’s “Obama-“) finally settles down. We thought it might rival “fiscal cliff,” the most-nominated phrase on the 2013 list, but it didn’t come close.

Cal of Cherry Hill, New Jersey wonders, “Are there intellectual creditors?”

“Because President Obama’s signature healthcare law is actually called the Affordable Care Act. The term has been clearly overused and overblown by the media and by members of Congress.” – Ben of New Jersey

“What more can I say?” – Jane, McKinney, Texas


Has the honor of receiving the most nominations this year.

“People have taken pictures of themselves for almost as long as George Eastman’s company made film and cameras. Suddenly, with the advent of smartphones, snapping a ‘pic’ of one’s own image has acquired a vastly overused term that seems to pop up on almost every form of social media available to us … .A self-snapped picture need not have a name all its own beyond ‘photograph.’ It may only be a matter of time before photos of one’s self and a friend will become ‘dualies.’ LSSU has an almost self-imposed duty to carry out this banishment now.” – Lawrence, Coventry, Connecticut. and Ryan, North Andover, Massachusetts

“Named ‘Word of the Year’ by Oxford Dictionary? Give me a break! Ugh, get rid of it.” – Bruce, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

“Myselfie disparages the word because it’s too selfie-serving. But enough about me, how about yourselfie?” – Lisa, New York, New York

“It’s a lame word. It’s all about me, me, me. Put the smartphone away. Nobody cares about you.” — David, Lake Mills, Wisconsin

Dayna of Rochester Hills, Michigan, laments how many people observe “Selfie Sunday” in social media, and Josh of Tucson, Arizona, asks, “Why can’t we have more selflessies?”


This common way of describing an automobile collision has now made it from conversation into the news reports. While the accident’s layout does, indeed, resemble its namesake cut of beef, we’d prefer to dispense with the collateral imagery and enjoy a great steak.

“As in ‘crashed into another car perpendicularly.’ Making a verb out of a cut of beef?” – Kyle, White Lake, Michigan

Twerk / twerking

Another word that made the Oxford Dictionaries Online this year.

Cassidy of Manheim, Pennsylvania said, “All evidence of Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance must be deleted,” but it seems that many had just as much fun as Miley did on stage when they submitted their nominations.

“Let’s just keep with ‘shake yer booty’ — no need to ‘twerk’ it! Hi ho, hi ho, it’s away with twerk we must go.” – Michael, Haslett, Michigan

Bob of Tempe, Arizona says he responds, “T’werk,” when asked where he is headed on Monday mornings.

“I twitch when I hear twerk, for to twerk proves one is a jerk — or is at least twitching like a jerk. Twerking has brought us to a new low in our lexicon.” – Lisa, New York, New York

“Time to dance this one off the stage.” – Jim, Flagstaff, Arizona

“The fastest overused word of the 21st century.” – Sean, New London, New Hampshire

“The newest dictionary entry should leave just as quickly.” – Bruce, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


To which we advise, keep all future nominations to fewer than 140 characters.

“There cannot possibly be any oxygen there.” – Matt of Toledo, Ohio


Boneless wings

“Can we just call them chicken (pieces)?” John McNamara, Lansing, Michigan

Bucket list

“The expression makes me cringe every time I hear it — and we’ve been hearing it for several years. I’m surprised it isn’t already in your master list. Let’s emphasize life and what we do during it. It’s such a grim way of looking at ‘what I want to do,’ and often it is in selfish terms.” Shea Hoffmitz, Hamilton, Ont.

“Getting this phrase on the Banished Word List is on my bucket list!” Frederick Fish, Georgia

Double down

“This blackjack term is now used as a verb in place of ‘repeat’ or ‘reaffirm’ or ‘reiterate.’ Yet, it adds nothing. It’s not even colorful. Hit me!” Allan Ryan, Boston, Mass.

“The next time I see or hear the phrase, I am going to double over.” Tony Reed, Holland, Michigan

“Overused within the last year or so in politics.” John Gates, Cumberland, Maine

“Better nip this in the bud – it’s already morphed into ‘quadruple down.’” Marc Ponto, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Fiscal cliff

As one might expect, this phrase received the most nominations this year. If Congress acts to keep the country from tumbling over the cliff, LSSU believes this banishment should get some of the credit.

“You can’t turn on the news without hearing this. I’m equally worried about the River of Debt and Mountain of Despair.”Christopher Loiselle, Midland, Michigan

“(We’ve) lost sight of the metaphor and started to think it’s a real place, like with the headline, ‘Obama, Boehner meeting on fiscal cliff’.” Barry Cochran, Portland, Oregon

“Tends to be used however the speaker wishes to use it, as in falling off the fiscal cliff, climbing the fiscal cliff, challenged by the fiscal cliff, etc. Just once, I would like to hear it referred to as a financial crisis.” Barbara CLIFF, Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

“Continually referred to as ‘the so-called fiscal cliff,’ followed by a definition. How many times do we need to hear ‘fiscal cliff,’ let alone its definition? Please let this phrase fall off of a real cliff!” Randal Baker, Seabeck, Washington

“Fiscal cliff, fiscal update, fiscal austerity … whatever happened to ‘economic’ updates? Fiscal has to go.” Dawn Farrell-Taylor, Ontario, Canada

“Makes me want to throw someone over a real cliff,” Donna, Johnstown, New York

“If only those who utter these words would take a giant leap off of it.” Joann Eschenburg, Clinton Twp., Michigan


“Unless you’re teaching transcendental meditation, Hinduism or Buddhism, please don’t call yourself a guru just because you think you’re an expert at something. It’s silly and pretentious. Let other people call you that, if they must.” Mitch Devine, Rancho Santa Margarita, California

Job creators/creation

“It implies supernatural powers — such as the ability to change the weather or levitate. Most new jobs pay less than the lost jobs to ensure stratospheric CEO compensation and nice returns on investments. I respectfully propose a replacement term that is more accurate — job depleters.” Mark Dobias, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“One of the most overplayed buzz terms of the 2012 presidential campaign. Apparently ‘lowering unemployment’ doesn’t have the same impact.” Dennis Ittner, Torrance, California

“Since jobs are only created by demand, consumers are the real job creators.” Scott Biggerstaff, Redlands, California

“It’s been overused and pigeon-holed into political arguments left, right, and center to the point that I don’t believe it has any real meaning.” Adam Myers, Cumming, Georgia.

“To belong to this tax-proof club, you don’t have to create a single job. All you need to do is be rich. In fact, many people who call themselves ‘job creators’ make their money by laying off people.” S. Lieberman, Seattle, Washington

“Uttered by every politician who wants to give big tax breaks to rich people and rich businesses …” Jack Kolars, North Mankato, Minnesota.

“If these guys are capitalists, as claimed, they are focused on reducing expenses and maximizing profit. Jobs are a large part of expenses. So, if anything at all, they minimize employment to maximize profits. Up is down, black is white. Job creators are really employment minimizers.” Bob Fandrich, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Kick the can down the road

“Usually used in politics, this typically means that someone or some group is neglecting its responsibilities. This was seized upon during the current administration and is used as a cliché by all parties … Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Tories, Whigs, Socialists, Communists, Fashionistas …” Mike Cloran, Cincinnati, Ohio

“I’m surprised it wasn’t on your 2012 list — were you just kicking the, um, phrase down the road to 2013?” T. Jones, Ann Arbor, Mich.

“I thought that perhaps you weren’t ready to deal with it. You just kicked that can down the road.” Rebecca Martz, Houston, Tex.

“I would definitely like to kick some cans of the human variety every time I hear politicians use this phrase to describe a circumstance that hasn’t gone their way.” Christine Tomassini, Livonia, Mich.

“Much the same as ‘put on the back burner,’ these two phrases still have heat and are still in the road. Kick this latest phrase down the road.” Michael F. Raczko, Swanton, Ohio

“I can’t turn on the TV any more without being informed that can-kicking has occurred. What’s wrong with the word ‘postpone’?” Kathryn, West Chester, Ohio


“Diabetes is not just Big Pharma’s business, it’s their passion! This or that actor is passionate! about some issue somewhere. A DC lobbyist is passionate! about passing (or blocking) some proposed law. My passion! is simple: Banish this phony-baloney word.” George Alexander, Studio City, California

“As in ‘that’s my passion.’ Please, let’s hope you mean ‘enthusiasm.’ ‘Passion’ connotes ‘unbridled,’ unmediated by reason and sound judgment. Passion is the stuff of Ahab, Hitler, and chauvinists of every stripe, and terrorists.” Michael T. Smith, Salem, Oregon

“Seared tuna will taste like dust swept from a station platform – until it’s cooked passionately. Apparently, it’s insufficient to do it ably, with skill, commitment or finesse. Passionate, begone!” Andrew Foyle, Bristol, UK

“My passion is (insert favorite snack food here). I’m passionate about how much I hate the words ‘passion’ and ‘passionate.’ Don’t wait for next year’s list!” David Greaney, Bedford, New Hampshire

Spoiler alert

“What was once a polite warning has turned into a declarative statement: I have just spoiled something for you. When news outlets print articles with headlines such as, ‘Huge upset in men’s Olympic swimming,’ with a diminutive ‘spoiler alert’ on the link to the rest of the article, I think it’s safe to say we’ve forgotten the meaning of the word ‘alert.’” Afton, Portland, Oregon.

“Used as an obnoxious way to show one has trivial information and is about to use it, no matter what.” Joseph Joly, Fremont, California


“It’s food. It’s either healthful or it’s not. There is no ‘super’ involved.” Jason Hansen, Frederic, Michigan


A trend is something temporary, thank goodness; however, it is not a verb, and I’m tired of news stations telling me what trite ‘news’ is ‘trending.’” Kyle Melton, White Lake, Michigan

“I’m sick of chirpy entertainment commentators constantly informing us of what ‘is trending right now.’ I used to like a good trend until this.” Nancy, Victoria, British Columbia

“Trending leaves me wondering ‘in what direction?’ It seems to mean ‘increasing in attention received’ or ‘frequency in which it is referenced.’” John Hannon, Springfield, Virginia


“Stands for ‘You Only Live Once’ and used by wannabe Twitter philosophers who think they’ve uncovered a deep secret of life. Also used as an excuse to do really stupid things, such as streaking at a baseball game with YOLO printed on one’s chest. I only live once, so I’d prefer to be able to do it without ever seeing YOLO again.” Brendan Cotter, Grosse Pte. Park, Michigan

“Used by teens everywhere to describe an action that is risky or unconventional, yet acceptable because ‘you only live once.’ Who lives more than once?” P.P., Los Angeles, California

“Just gives people, especially teens, a reason to do stupid things. I find it annoying and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here.” Daniel, Hickory, North Carolina

“Only a real yoyo would use the term ‘yolo.’” Sandra McGlew, White Lake, Michigan



Received the most nominations. LSSU was surprised at the number of nominations this year for “amazing” and surprised to find that it hadn’t been included on the list in the past. Many nominators mentioned over-use on television when they sent their entries, mentioning “reality” TV, Martha Stewart and Anderson Cooper. It seemed to bother people everywhere, as nominations were sent from around the US and Canada and some from overseas, including Israel, England and Scotland. A Facebook page – “Overuse of the Word Amazing” – threatened to change its title to “Occupy LSSU” if ‘amazing’ escaped banishment this year …

“It’s amazing that you haven’t added that word to your list over the years. Totally, absolutely, really amazing. Not quite astounding, but still amazing.” – Charles Attardi, Astoria, New York

“Although I am extremely happy to no longer hear the word ‘awesome’ used incorrectly and way too often, it appears to me it is quickly being replaced with ‘amazing.’ Pay attention and you will no doubt be amazingly surprised to find that I am right.” – Gregory Scott, Palm Springs, California

“People use ‘amazing’ for anything that is nice or heartwarming. In other words, for things that are not amazing.” – Gitel Hesselberg, Haifa, Israel

“Every talk show uses this word at least two times every five minutes. Hair is not ‘amazing.’ Shoes are not ‘amazing.’ There are any number of adjectives that are far more descriptive. I saw Martha Stewart use the word ‘amazing’ six times in the first five minutes of her television show. Help!” – Martha Waszak, Lansing, Michigan

“Banish it for blatant overuse and incorrect use … to stop my head from exploding.” – Paul Crutchfield, Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom

“The word which once aptly described the process of birth is now used to describe such trivial things as toast, or the color of a s-hirt.” – JP, Comox, British Columbia, Canada

“Anderson Cooper used it three times recently in the opening 45 seconds of his program. My teeth grate, my hackles rise and even my dog is getting annoyed at this senseless overuse. I don’t even like ‘Amazing Grace’ anymore. – Sarah Howley, Kalamazoo, Michigan

“The word has been overused to describe things only slightly better than mundane. I blame Martha Stewart because to her, EVERYTHING is amazing! It has lost its ‘wow factor’ and has reached ‘epic’ proportions of use. It’s gone ‘viral,’ I say! ‘I’m just sayin’!’ – Alyce-Mae Alexander, Maitland, Florida

Baby bump

Although nominated by many over the years, this phrase came in as a close second to “amazing” this year.

“This is a phrase we need to finally give birth to, then send on its way.” – Mary Sturgeon, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

“I’m tired of a pregnancy being reduced to a celebrity accessory. Or worse, when less-than-six-pack abs are suspected of being one.” – Afton, Portland, Oregon

I am so sick of that phrase! It makes pregnancy sound like some fun and in-style thing to do, not a serious choice made by (at the very least) the woman carrying the child.” – Susan, Takoma Park, Maryland

“Why can’t we just use the old tried-and-true ‘pregnant?’ I never heard anyone complain about that description.” – Eric, Poca, West Virginia


Sometimes exchanged with “pushback” to mean resistance.

“‘Blowback’ is used by corporate (types) to mean ‘reaction,’ when the word ‘reaction’ would have been more than sufficient. Example: ‘If we send out the press release, how should we handle the blowback from the community?’” – John, Los Angeles, California


“No need to make a gigantic (idiot) out of yourself trying to find an enormous word for ‘big.” – Coulombe, Sanford, Florida

“This combination of gigantic and enormous makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck every time I hear it. Each utterance reminds me of the high school drop-out that first used this offensive word in my presence. – Gina Bua, Vancouver, Washington

This word is just a made-up combination of two words. Either word is sufficient, but the combination just sounds ridiculous. – Jason, Andover, Maine

Man cave

“Overused by television home design and home buying shows, has trickled down to sitcoms, commercials, and now has to be endured during interactions with real estate people, neighbors and co-workers. – Jim, Flagstaff, Arizona

‘It is not just overused, it is offensive to we males who do not wish to hunker (another awful word, often misused) down in a room filled with stuffed animal heads, an unnecessarily large flat-screen TV and Hooters memorabilia. Not every man wants a recliner the size of a 1941 Packard that has a cooler in each arm and a holster for the remote. So please, assign ‘man cave’ to the lexicographic scrap heap where it so rightly belongs.” – David Hollis, Hubbardsville, New York


“‘Occupy Wall Street’ grew to become Occupy ‘insert name of your city here’ all over the country. It should be banished because of the media overuse and now people use it all the time, i.e. ‘I guess we will occupy your office and have the meeting there.’ ‘We are headed to Grandma’s house – Occupy Thanksgiving is under way.” – Bill Drewes, Rochester Hills, Michigan

“It has been overused and abused even to promote Black Friday shopping.” – Grant Barnett, Palmdale, California

“Why couldn’t they have used a more palatable kind, like pecan or peach?” –Bob Forrest, Tempe, Arizona

Pet parent

“Can a human being truly be a parent to a different species? Do pet ‘owners’ not love their pets as much pet ‘parents’ do? Are we equating pet ownership with slave holding? This cloyingly correct term is capable of raising my blood sugar. Lynn Ouellette, Buffalo, New York

Shared sacrifice

“Usually used by a politician who wants other people to share in the sacrifice so he/she doesn’t have to.” Scott Urbanowski, Kentwood, Michigan

Thank you in advance

“Usually followed by ‘for your cooperation,’ this is a condescending and challenging way to say, ‘Since I already thanked you, you have to do this.’” – Mike Cloran, Cincinnati, Ohio

The new normal

“The phrase is often used to justify bad trends in society and to convince people that they are powerless to slow or to reverse those trends. This serves to reduce participation in the political process and to foster cynicism about the ability of government to improve people’s lives. Sometimes the phrase is applied to the erosion of civil liberties. More often, it is used to describe the sorry state of the U.S. economy. Often hosts on TV news channels use the phrase shortly before introducing some self-help guru who gives glib advice to the unemployed and other people having financial difficulties. – Robert Brown, Raleigh, North Carolina


“Why? Why? Why? This one seems to be the flavor du jour for football analysts. What’s wrong with ‘trick’ or ‘trickery?’ No doubt, next year’s model will be ‘trickerationism.’” – Gene Bering, Seminole, Texas

“A made-up word used by football analysts to describe a trick play. Sounds unintelligent. Perhaps they’ve had a few too many concussions in the football world to notice.” – Carrie Hansen, Grayling, Michigan

Win the future

A political phrase worn wherever you look – to the left (President Obama) or the right (Newt Gingrich).

“On its very face, it’s an empty, meaningless phrase. It basically says that anyone who opposes anything meant to ‘win the future’ must want to ‘lose the future,’ which is highly unlikely. But, hey, you may already be a winner.” – Jim Eisenmann, Madison, Wisconsin


A-ha moment

“All this means is a point at which you understand something or something becomes clearer. Why can’t you just say that?” – Audrey Mayo, Killeen, Texas

Back story

“This should be on the list of words that don’t need to exist because a perfectly good word has been used for years. In this case, the word is ‘history,’ or, for those who must be weaned, ‘story.’” – Jeff Williams, Sherwood, Arkansas


“These chicks call each other BFF (Best Friends Forever) and it lasts about 10 minutes. Now there’s BFFA (Best Friends For Awhile), which makes more sense.” – Kate Rabe Forgach, Ft. Collins, Colorado


More than one nominator says the use of ‘epic’ has become an epic annoyance.

“Cecil B. DeMille movies are epic. Internet fallouts and opinions delivered in caps-lock are not. ‘Epic fail,’ ‘epic win’, ‘epic (noun)’ — it doesn’t matter; it needs to be banished until people recognize that echoing trite, hyperbolic Internet phrases in an effort to look witty or intelligent actually achieves the opposite.” – Kim U., Des Moines, Iowa

“Over-use of the word ‘epic’ has reached epic proportions. – Tim Blaney, Snoqualmie, Washington

“Anything that this word describes in popular over-usage is rarely ever ‘epic’ in the traditional sense of being heroic, majestic, or just plain awe-inspiring.” – Mel F., Dallas, Texas

“Standards for using ‘epic’ are so low, even ‘awesome’ is embarrassed.” – Mike of Kettering, Ohio

“I’m sure that when the history books are written or updated and stories have been passed through the generations, the epic powder on the slopes during your last ski trip or your participation in last night’s epic flash mob will probably not be included. This may be the root of this epic problem, but it seems as if during the past two years, any idea that was not successful was considered an ‘epic-fail.’ This includes the PowerPoint presentation you tried to give during this morning’s meeting, but couldn’t because of technical problems. Also, the ice storm of ‘epic proportions’ that is blanketing the east coast this winter sure looks a lot like the storm that happened last winter.” – DV, Seattle, Washington

Facebook/Google as verbs

“Facebook is a great, addicting website. Google is a great search engine. However, their use as verbs causes some deep problems. As bad as they are, the trend can only get worse, i.e. ‘I’m going to Twitter a few people, then Yahoo the movie listings and maybe Amazon a book or two.” – Jordan of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada


One nominator says, “what originally may have been a term for a stockbroker’s default is now abused by today’s youth as virtually any kind of ‘failure.’ Whether it is someone tripping, a car accident, a costumed character scaring the living daylights out a kid, or just a poor choice in fashion, these people drive me crazy thinking that anything that is a mistake is a ‘fail.’ They fail proper language!”

“Fail is not a noun. It is not an adjective. It is a verb. If this word is not banned, then this entire word banishment system is full of FAIL. (Now doesn’t that just sound silly?)” – Daniel of Carrollton, Georgia

“When FAILblog.org went up, it was a funny way to view videos of unfortunate people in unfortunate situations. The word fail is now used by people, very often just to tease others, when they ‘FAIL.’ Any time you screw up in life — a trip up the stairs, a bump into a wall, or a Freudian slip, you get that word thrown in your face.” – Tyler Lynch, Washington, Iowa

“Misused. Overused. Used with complete disregard to the ‘epic’ weight of the word. Silence obnoxious reality TV personalities and sullen, anti-establishment teenagers everywhere by banishing this word.” – Natalie of Burlington, Ontario, Canada

“It has taken over blogs, photo captions, ‘status’ comments. Anytime someone does something less than perfect, we have to read ‘FAIL!’ The word has failed us all.” – Aaron Yunker, Ishpeming, Michigan

I’m just sayin’

“‘A phrase used to defuse any ill feelings caused by a preceded remark,’ according to the Urban Dictionary. Do we really need a qualifier at the end of every sentence? People feel uncomfortable with a comment that was made and then ‘just sayin” comes rolling off the tongue? It really doesn’t change what was said, I’m just sayin’.” – Becky of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“I’m just sayin’…’I’m not sayin”’… Actually, you ARE saying … A watered-down version of what I just said or intended to say … .SAY what you are saying. DON’T SAY what you aren’t saying.”- Julio Appling, Vancouver, Washington

“Obviously you are saying it … you just said it!” – Catherine Wilson, Granger, Indiana

“And we would never have known if you hadn’t told us.” – Bob Forrest, Tempe, Arizona

“When a 24-hour news network had the misguided notion to brand this phrase as a commentary segment called, ‘Just sayin’, I thought I was going to retch.”-  Casey Conroy, Pleasant Hill, California

Live life to the fullest

“It’s an absurdity followed by a redundancy. First, things are full or they’re not; there is no fullest. Second, ‘live life’ is redundant. Finally, the expression is nauseatingly overused. What’s wrong with enjoying life fully or completely? The phrase makes me gag. I’m surprised it hasn’t appeared on the list before.” – Sylvia Hall, Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Mama Grizzlies

“Unless you are referring to a scientific study of Ursus arctos horribilis , this analogy of right-wing female politicians should rest in peace.” – Mark Carlson, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Man up

“A stupid phrase when directed at men. Even more stupid when directed at a woman, as in ‘Alexis, you need to man up and join that Pilates class!’” – Sherry Edwards, Clarkston, Michigan

“Another case of ‘verbing’ a noun and ending with a preposition that goes nowhere. Not only that, the phrase is insulting, especially when voiced by a female, who’d never think to say, ‘Woman up!’” – Aunt Shecky, East Greenbush, New York

“Can a woman ‘man-up,’ or would she be expected to ‘woman-up?’” – Jay Leslie, Portland, Maine

“Not just overused (a 2010 top word according to the Global Language Monitor) but bullying and sexist.” – Christopher K. Philippo, Glenmont, New York

“We had to put up with ‘lawyer up.’ Now ‘man up,’ too? A chest-thumping cultural regression fit for frat boys stacking beer glasses.” – Craig Chalquist Ph.D., Walnut Creek, California


“Adding this word to the English language simply because a part-time politician lacks a spell checker on her cell phone is an action that needs to be repudiated.” – Dale Humphreys, Muskegon, Michigan

Kuahmel Allah of Los Angeles, California wants to banish what he called ‘Sarah Palin-isms’: “Let’s ‘refudiate’ them on the double!”

The American people

“These politicians in Congress say ‘the American People’ as part of what seems like every statement they make! I see that others have noticed it, too, as various websites abound, including an entry on Wikipedia.” – Paul M. Girouard, St. Louis, Missouri

“No one in Washington can pontificate for more than two sentences without using it. Beyond overuse, these people imply that ‘the American people’ want/expect/demand all the same things. They don’t.” – Dick Hilker, Loveland, Colorado

“Aren’t all Americans people? Every political speech refers to the ‘American’ people as if simply saying ‘Americans’ (or ‘people’) is not enough.” – Deb Faust, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan


“Often used to describe the spreading of items on the Internet i.e. ‘The video went viral.’ It is overused. I have no objection to this word’s use as a way to differentiate a (viral) illness from bacterial.” – Jim Cance, Plainwell, Michigan

“This linguistic disease of a term must be quarantined.” – Kuahmel Allah, Los Angeles, California

“Events, photographs, written pieces and even occasional videos that attracted a great deal of attention once were simply highly publicized, repeated in news broadcasts, and talked about for a few days. Now, however, it is no longer enough to give such offerings their 15 minutes of fame, but they must be declared to ‘go viral.’ As a result, any mindless stunt or vapid bit of writing is sent by its creators whirling around the Internet and, once whirled, its creators declare it (trumpets here) ‘viral!’ Enough already! If anything is to be declared worthy enough to ‘go viral,’ clearly it should be the LSSU Banished Words list for 2011!” – Lawrence Mickel, Coventry, Connecticut

“I knew it was time when the 2010 list of banished words appeared in Time magazine’s, ‘That Viral Thing’ column.” – Dave Schaefer, Glenview, Illinois

“I didn’t mind much when ‘viral’ came to mean an under-handed tactic by advertising companies to make their ads look like pop culture. However, now anything that becomes popular on YouTube is suddenly ‘viral.’ I just don’t get it.” – Kevin Wood, Wallacetown, Ontario, Canada

“Every time I see a viral video on CNN or am asked to ‘Let’s go viral with this’ in another lame e-mail forwarded message, it makes me sick.” – Lian Schmidt, Bandon, Oregon

Wow factor

“This buzzword is served up with a heaping of cliché factor and a side order of irritation. But the lemmings from cable-TV cooking, whatever design and fashion shows keep dishing it out. I miss the old days when ‘factor’ was only on the math-and-science menu.” – Dan Muldoon, Omaha, Nebraska

“Done-to-death phrase to point out something with a somewhat significantly appealing appearance.” – Ann Pepper, Knoxville, Tennessee



“Must we b sbjct to yt another abrv? Why does the English language have to fit on a two-inch screen? I hate the sound of it. I think I’ll listen to a symph on the rad.” — Edward R. Bolt, Grand Rapids, Michigan

“Is there an ‘app’ for making this annoying word go away? Why can’t we just call them ‘programs’ again?” – Kuahmel Allah, Los Angeles, California


“Have we really reached the point where being friends has to be described in a pseudo-romantic context? Just stop it already!” — Greg Zagorski, Washington, D.C.

“I am sick of combined words the media creates to make them sound catchier. Frenemies? Bromances? Blogorrhea? I’m going to scream!” – Kaylynn, Alberta, Canada


Nominated for several years. We couldn’t chill about it anymore.

“Heard everywhere from MTV to ESPN to CNN. A bothersome term that seeks to combine chillin’ with relaxin’ makes me want to be ‘axin’ this word.” – Tammy, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“A made-up word used by annoying Gen-Yers.” – Chris Jensen, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

“Horrifying overuse, even in face-to-face conversation … It should receive bonus points for its ability to exhort the opposite reaction from the receiver.” – Bret Bledsoe, Cincinnati, Ohio


Long used by the media as a metaphor for positions of high authority, including “baseball czar” Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, appointed by team owners as commissioner-for-life in 1919. U.S. president Woodrow Wilson had an “industry czar” during World War I. Lesser-known “czar” roles in government during the last 100 years include: censorship, housing and oil czars in 1941; rubber czar in 1942; patronage czar (1945); clean-up (1952); missile (1954); inflation (1971); e-commerce (1998); bioethics, faith-based and reading czars (2001); bird flu (2004); democracy (2005); abstinence and birth control czars (2006); and weatherization czar (2008).

George W. Bush appointed 47 people to 35 “czar” jobs; Pres. Obama, eight appointments to 38 positions.

“First it was a ‘drug czar’ [banished in 1990]. This year gave us a ‘car czar.’ What’s next? A ‘banished words czar’?” — Michael F. Raczko, Swanton, Ohio

“We have appointed a czar of such-and-such; clearly that’s better than a ‘leader,’ ‘coordinator’ or ‘director’! — Derek Lawrence, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

“The president has been handing these “czar” positions out like party favors.” – Scott Lassiter, Houston, Texas

Friend as a verb

Came into popularity through social networking websites. You add someone to your network by “friending” them, or remove them by “unfriending” them.

“I’m certainly as much of a Facebook addict as the next person, but I’m getting a little weary of ‘friending’ people and being ‘friended’ by them. My daughter talks of ‘sending friend requests,’ which doesn’t rankle me as much, so maybe we should all take her lead.” – John Wetterholt, Crystal Lake, Illinois

“Befriend’ is much more pleasant to the human ear and a perfectly useful word in the dictionary.” – Kevin K., Morris, Oklahoma

In these economic times ...

Nominations concerning the economy started rolling in as the 2009 list was being put together last year, i.e. “bailout.” They kept coming this year, in these trouble economic times. ” South Park ” warned us about what would happen if we angered The Economy.

“Overused and redundant. Aren’t ALL times ‘these economic times’?” — Barb Stutesman, Three Rivers, Michigan

“In this economy, we can’t afford to be wastefuL … In this economy, we all need some security … In this economy, frogs could start falling from the sky … In this economy, blah blah blah … Overused for everything from trying to market products as inexpensive to simply explaining any and all behavior during the recession.” – Mark, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“When someone prefaces a statement with ‘in this economic climate,’ its starts to sound like a sales pitch, or just an excuse on which to blame every problem. And if a letter or e-mail message from your employer starts with this phrase, usually it means you’re not getting a raise this year.” – Dominic, Seattle, Washington

Obama-prefix or roots?

The LSSU Word Banishment Committee held out hope that folks would want to Obama-ban Obama-structions, but were surprised that no one Obama-nominated any, such as these compiled by the Oxford Dictionary in 2009, Obamanomics, Obamanation, Obamafication, Obamacare, Obamalicious, Obamaland … We say: Obamanough already.


Sending sexually explicit pictures and text messages through the cell phone.

“Any dangerous new trend that also happens to have a clever mash-up of words, involves teens, and gets television talk show hosts interested must be banished.” – Ishmael Daro, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada


“Apparently, the generally accepted definition of this phrase is to imply that a project has been completely designed and all that is left to do is to implement it … however, when something dies, it, too, is shovel-ready for burial and so I get confused about the meaning. I would suggest that we just say the project is ready to implement.” – Jerry Redington, Keosauqua, Iowa

“A relatively new term already overused by media and politicians. Bury this term, please.” – Pat Batcheller, Southgate, Michigan

“Do I really need a reason? Well, if so how about this: I just saw it in tandem with ‘cyber-ready’ and nearly choked on my coffee. It’s starting the ‘-ready’ jargon. Makes me ‘vacation-ready.’” – Karen Hill, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“Stick a shovel in it. It’s done.” – Joe Grimm, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan


“Everything in the news is about the stimulus packages … it is no longer a grant, it’s stimulus money, stimulus checks, etc. I think it is just being overused.” – Teri Heikkila, Rudyard, Michigan

“Overused by companies to advertise a promotion.” – David Willis, Houston, Texas

“What next, can I go down to the local bar and down a few drinks and call it a stimulus package?” – Richard Brown, Portland, Oregon

Teachable moment

What might otherwise be known as ‘a lesson.’

“It’s a condescending substitute for ‘opportunity to make a point,’” says Eric Rosenquist of College Station, Texas

“If everything’s a ‘teachable moment,’ we should all have teaching credentials, including the guy at the bar who likes to fight after one shot too many.” – Kuahmel Allah, Los Angeles, California

“This phrase is used to describe everything from potty-training to politics. It’s time to vote it out!” – Jodi, Youngstown, Ohio

Too big to fail

“Just for the record, nothing’s too big to fail unless the government lets it.” – Claire Shefchik, Brooklyn, New York

“Does such a thing exist? We’ll never know if a company is too big to fail, unless somehow it does fail, and then it will no longer be too big to fail. Make it stop!” – Holli, Raleigh, North Carolina

Toxic assets

We think we’re going to be sick.

“Whatever happened to simply ‘bad stocks,’ ‘debts,’ or ‘loans’?” — Monty Heidenreich, Homewood, Illinois

“What a wretched term!” – Lee Freedman, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan


“I can see clearly that this is the new buzzword for the year.” — Joann Eschenburg, Clinton Twp., Michigan

“In the lexicon of the political arena, this word is supposed to mean obvious or easily understood. In reality, political transparency is more invisible than obvious!” — Deb Larson, Bellaire, Michigan

“I just don’t see it.” – Joe Grimm, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan


And all of its variations … tweetaholic, retweet, twitterhea, twitterature, twittersphere …

“People tweet and retweet and I just heard the word ‘tweet’ so many times it lost all meaning.” – Ricardo, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Mikhail Swift of Hillman, Michigan says the tweeting is “pointless … yet has somehow managed to take the nation by storm. I’m tired of hearing about celebrity X’s new tweet, and how great of a tweeter he or she is.”

“I don’t know a single non-celebrity who actually uses it,” says Alex Thompson of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Jay Brazier of Williamston, Michigan says she supposes that tweeters might be “twits.”


Symbol for heart (less than sign and number 3)

Supposed to resemble a heart, or stand for the word ‘love.’ Used when sending those important text messages to loved ones. “Just say the word instead of making me turn my head sideways and wondering what ‘less than three’ means.” – Andrea Estrada, Chicago, Illinois


“Use of emergency funds to remove toxic assets from banks’ balance sheets is not a bailout. When your cousin calls you from jail in the middle of the night, he wants a bailout.” – Ben Green, State College, Pennsylvania

“Is it a loan? Is it a purchase of assets by the government? Is it a gift made by the taxpayers?” – Dave Gill, Traverse City, Michigan

“Now it seems as though every sector of the economy wants a bailout. Unfortunately, ordinary workers can’t qualify.” – Tony, McLeansville, North Carolina

“Don’t we love how Capitol Hill will bailout Wall Street, but not Main Street”? – Derrick Chamberlain, Midland, Michigan

Carbon footprint or carbon offsetting

“It is now considered fashionable for everyone, tree hugger or lumberjack alike, to pay money to questionable companies to ‘offset’ their own ‘carbon footprint.’ What a scam! Get rid of it immediately!”-  Ginger Hunt, London, England

Mike of Chicago, Illinois says that when he hears the phrase ‘carbon footprint,’ “I envision microscopic impressions on the surface of the earth where an atom of carbon forgot to wear its shoes.”

Christy Loop of Woodbridge, Virginia, says that ‘leaving a carbon footprint’ has become the new ‘politically incorrect.’ “How can we not, in one way or another, affect our natural environment?”

Desperate search

“Every time the news can’t find something intelligent to report, they start on a ‘desperate search’ for someone, somewhere.” – Rick A. Hyatt, Saratoga, Wyoming

First dude

“Skateboard English is not an appropriate way to refer to the spouse of a high-ranking public official.” – Paul Ruschmann, Canton, Michigan

Game changer

“It’s game OVER for this cliché, which gets overused in the news media, political arenas and in business.” – Cynthia, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan


The ubiquitous ‘Green’ and all of its variables, such as ‘going green,’ ‘building green,’ ‘greening,’ ‘green technology,’ ‘green solutions’ and more, drew the most attention from those who sent in nominations this year.

“This phrase makes me go green every time I hear it.” – Danielle Brunin, Lawrence, Kansas

“I’m all for being environmentally responsible, but this ‘green’ needs to be nipped in the bud.” – Valerie Gilson, Gales Ferry, Connecticut

“Companies are less ‘green’ than ever, advertising the fact they are ‘green.’ Is anyone buying this nonsense?” – Mark Etchason, Denver, Colorado

“If something is good for the environment, just say so. As Kermit would say, ‘It isn’t easy being green.’” – Kevin Sherlock, Hiawatha, Iowa

“If I see one more corporation declare itself ‘green,’ I’m going to start burning tires in my backyard.” – Ed Hardiman, Bristow, Virginia

“This spawned ‘green solutions,’ ‘green technology,’ and the horrible use of the word as a verb, as in, ‘We really need to think about greening our office.’” – Mike McDermott, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Icon or iconic

Overused, especially among entertainers and in entertainment news, according to Robyn Yates of Dallas, Texas, who says that “every actor, actress and entertainment magazine show overuses this.” One of the most-nominated words of the year.

“Everyone and everything cannot be ‘iconic.’ Can’t we switch to ‘legendary’ or ‘famous for’? In our entertainment-driven culture, it seems everyone in show business is ‘iconic’ for some reason or another. “- John Flood, Bray, Wicklow, Ireland

“It’s becoming the new ‘awesome’ – overused to the point where everything from a fast-food restaurant chain to celebrities is ‘iconic.’” – Jodi Gill, New Berlin, Wisconsin

“Just because a writer recognizes something does not make it an icon (a visual symbol or representation which inspires worship or veneration) or iconic. It just means that the writer has seen it before.” – Brian Murphy, Fairfield, Connecticut

Internet and texting blues -MONKEY

“Especially on the Internet, many people seem to think they can make any boring name sound more attractive just by adding the word ‘monkey’ to it. Do a search to find the latest. It is no longer funny.” – Rogier Landman, Somerville, Massachusetts

It’s that time of year again

Nominated by Kathleen Brosemer of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, for “general overuse and meaninglessness. When is it not ‘that time of year again?’ From Valentine’s sales to year-end charity letters, invitations to summer picnics and Christmas parties, it’s ‘that time’ of year again. Just get to the point of the solicitation, invitation, and newsletter and cut out six useless and annoying words.”


“The constant repetition of this word for months before the US election diluted whatever meaning it previously had. Even the comic offshoot ‘mavericky’ was terribly overused. A minimum five-year banishment of both words is suggested so they will not be available during the next federal election.” – Matthew Mattila, Green Bay, Wisconsin

“You know it’s time to banish this word when even the Maverick family, who descended from the rancher who inspired the term, says it’s being misused.” – Scott Urbanowski, Kentwood, Michigan

“I’m a maverick, he’s a maverick, wouldn’t you like to be a maverick, too?” – Michael Burke, Silver Spring, Maryland

Not so much

“I wish that the phrase was used not so much,” says Tom Benson of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who notes that it is used widely in news media, especially in sports, i.e. ‘The Gophers have a shot at the playoffs; the Chipmunks, not so much.’

“Casual language usage is acceptable. ‘Not so much?’ Not so much.” – David Hollis, Hubbardsville, New York.

“Do I like concise writing? Yes. Do I like verbose clichés? Not so much.” David W. Downing, St. Paul, Minnesota “A favorite of snarky critics and bloggers.” Jeff Baenen, Minneapolis, Minnesota


“Occurrences of this word are going up with gas prices. ‘Vacation’ does not mean ‘travel,’ nor does travel always involve vacation. Let’s send this word on a slow boat to nowhere.” – Dan Muldoon, Omaha, Nebraska

“The cost of petrol forces many families to curtail their summer voyages and a new word has sprung, idiotic and rootless …” – Michele Mooney, Los Angeles, California

Wall Street/Main Street

“When this little dyad first came into use at the start of the financial crisis, I thought it was a clever use of parallelism. But it’s simply overused. No ‘serious’ discussion of the crisis can take place without some political figure lamenting the fact that the trouble on Wall Street is affecting ‘folks’ on Main Street.” – Charles Harrison, Aiken, South Carolina

“The recent and continuing financial failings are not limited to ‘Wall Street,’ nor should one paint business, consumers, and small investors as ‘ Main Street .’ Topeka (where I work), and Lawrence (where I live), Kansas, have no named ‘ Main Street .’ How tiresome.” – Kent McAnally, Topeka, Kansas

“I am so tired of hearing about everything affecting ‘ Main Street .’ I know that with the ‘Wall Street’ collapse, the comparison is convenient, but really, let’s find another way to talk about everyman or the middle class, or even, heaven forbid, ‘Joe the Plumber.’” – Stacey, Knoxville, Tennessee

Winner of five nominations

“It hasn’t won an Academy Award yet. It has only been NOMINATED!” John Bohenek, Abilene, Tex.



“In one of former TV commentator Edwin Newman’s books, he wonders if it would be correct to say that someone ‘paintered’ a picture?” – Dorothy Betzweiser, Cincinnati, Ohio

Back in the day

“Back in the day, we used ‘back-in-the-day’ to mean something really historical. Now you hear ridiculous statements such as ‘Back in the day, people used Blackberries without Blue Tooth.’” – Liz Jameson, Tallahassee, Florida

“This one might’ve already made the list back in the day, which was a Wednesday, I think.” – Tim Bradley, Los Angeles, California

Black Friday

“The day after Thanksgiving that retailers use to keep themselves out of the ‘red’ for the year. (And then followed by “Cyber-Monday.”) This is counter to the start of the Great Depression’s use of the term ‘Black Tuesday,’ which signaled the crash of the stock market that sent the economy into a tailspin. – Carl Marschner, Melvindale, Michigan

‘BLANK’ is the new ‘BLANK’ or ‘X’ is the new ‘Y’

In spite of statements to the contrary, ‘Cold is (NOT) the new hot,’ nor is ’70 the new 50.’ The idea behind such comparisons was originally good, but we’ve all watched them spiral out of reasonable uses into ludicrous ones and it’s now time to banish them from use. Or, to phrase it another way, ‘Originally clever advertising is now the new absurdity!’” – Lawrence Mickel, Coventry, Connecticut

“Believed to have come into use in the 1960s, but it is getting tired. The comparisons have become absurd.” – Geoff Steinhart, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“‘Orange is the new black.’ ’50 is the new 30.’ ‘Chocolate is the new sex.’ ‘Sex is the new chocolate.’ ‘Fallacy is the new truth.’ – Patrick Dillon, East Lansing, Michigan


Word-watchers have been calling for the annihilation of this one for several years.

“Used today in reference to widespread destruction or devastation. If you will not banish this word, I ask that its use be ‘decimated’ (reduced by one-tenth).” – Allan Dregseth, Fargo, North Dakota

“I nominate ‘decimate’ as it applies to Man’s and Nature’s destructive fury and the outcome of sporting contests. Decimate simply means a 10% reduction – no more, no less. It may have derived notoriety because the ancient Romans used decimation as a technique for prisoner of war population reduction or an incentive for under-performing battle units. A group of 10 would be assembled and lots drawn. The nine losers would win and the winner would die at the hands of the losers – a variation on the instant lottery game. Perhaps ‘creamed’ or ’emulsified’ should be substituted. – Mark Dobias, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“The word is so overused and misused, people use it when they should be saying ‘annihilate.’ It’s so bad that now there are two definitions, the real one and the one that has taken over like a weed. – Dane, Flowery Branch, Georgia

“‘Decimate’ has been turned upside down. It means ‘to destroy one tenth,’ but people are using it to mean ‘to destroy nine tenths.’ – David Welch, Venice, Florida


“Reporters, short on vocabulary, often describe a scene as ’emotional.’ Well sure, but which emotion? For a radio reporter to gravely announce, ‘There was an emotional send off to Joe Blow’ tells me nothing, other than the reporter perceived that the participants acted in an emotional way. For instance: I had an emotional day today. I started out feeling tired and a bit grumpy until I had my coffee. I was distraught over a cat killing a bird on the other side of the street. I was bemused by my reaction to the way nature works. I was intrigued this evening to add a word or two to your suggestions. I was happy to see the words that others had posted. Gosh, this has been an emotional day for me.” – Brendan Kennedy, Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada

Give back

“This oleaginous phrase is an emergency submission to the 2008 list. The notion has arisen that as one’s life progresses, one accumulates a sort of deficit balance with society which must be neutralized by charitable works or financial outlays. Are one’s daily transactions throughout life a form of theft?” – Richard Ong, Carthage, Missouri

“Various media have been featuring a large number of people who ‘just want to give back.’ Give back to whom? For what?” – Curtis Cooper, Hazel Park, Michigan

It is what it is

“This pointless phrase, uttered initially by athletes on the losing side of a contest, is making its way into general use. It accomplishes the dual feat of adding nothing to the conversation while also being phonetically and thematically redundant.” – Jeffrey Skrenes, St. Paul, Minnesota

“It means absolutely nothing and is mostly a cop out or a way to avoid answering a question in a way that might require genuine thought or insight. Listen to an interview with some coach or athlete in big-time sports and you’ll inevitably hear it.” – Doug Compo, Brimley, Michigan

“It seems to be everywhere and pervade every section of any newspaper I read. It reminds me of ‘Who is John Galt?’ from ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ It implies an acceptance of the status quo regardless of the circumstances. But it is what it is.” – Erik Pauna, Mondovi, Wisconsin

“Only Yogi Berra should be allowed to utter such a circumlocution.” – Jerry Holloway, Belcamp, Maryland

“This is migrating from primetime ‘reality television’ and embedding itself into otherwise articulate persons’ vocabularies. Of course it is what it is … Otherwise, it wouldn’t be what it would have been!” – Steve Olsen, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada


Overused and misused to describe not only food, but computer products or human behavior, and often used when describing something as “natural,” says Crystal Giordano of Brooklyn, New York. Another advertising gimmick to make things sound better than they really are, according to Rick DeVan of Willoughby, Ohio, who said he has heard claims such as “My business is organic,” and computers having “organic software.”

“Things have gone too far when they begin marketing T-shirts as organic.” – Michelle Fitzpatrick, St. Petersburg, Florida

“‘Organic’ is used to describe everything, from shampoo to meat. Banishment! Improperly used!” – Susan Clark, Bristol, Maine

“The possibility of a food item being inorganic, i.e., not being composed of carbon atoms, is nil.” – John Gomila, New Orleans, Louisiana

“You see the word ‘organic’ written on everything from cereal to dog food.” – Michael, Sacramento, California

“I’m tired of health food stores selling products that they say are organic. All the food we eat is organic!” – Chad Jacobson, Park Falls, Wisconsin

Perfect storm

“Overused by the pundits on evening TV shows to mean just about any coincidence.” – Lynn Allen, Warren, Michigan

“I read that ‘Ontario is a perfect storm,’ in reference to a report on pollution levels in the Great Lakes. Ontario is the name of one of the lakes and a Canadian province. This guy would have me believe it’s a hurricane. It’s time for ‘perfect storm’ to get rained out.” – Bob Smith, DeWitt, Michigan

“Hands off book titles as cheap descriptors!” – David Hollis, Hamilton, New York


“On every single one of the 45,000 decorating shows on cable TV (of which I watch many) there is at LEAST one obligatory use of a phrase such as … ‘the addition of the red really makes it POP.’ You know when it’s coming … you mouth it along with the decorator. There must be some other way of describing the addition of an interesting detail.” – Barbara, Arlington, Texas

Post 9/11

“‘Our post-9/11 world,’ is used now, and probably used more, than AD, BC, or Y2K, time references. You’d think the United States didn’t have jet fighters, nuclear bombs, and secret agents, let alone electricity, ‘pre-9/11.’” – Chazz Miner, Midland, Michigan


Popular with teenagers in many places.
“Overused and usually out of context, i.e. ‘You are so random!’ Really? Random is supposed to mean ‘by chance.’ So what I said was by chance, and not by choice?” – Gabriel Brandel, Farmington Hills, Michigan

“Outrageous mis- and overuse, mostly by teenagers, i.e. ‘This random guy, singing this random song … It was so random.’ Grrrrr.” – Leigh, Duncan, Galway, Ireland

“Overuse on a massive scale by my fellow youth. Every event, activity and person can be ‘sooo random’ as of late. Banish it before I go vigilante.” – Ben Martin, Adelaide, South Australia

“How can a person be random?” – Emma Halpin, Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom


“Too many sweets will make you sick. It became popular with the advent of the television show ‘South Park’ and by rights should have died of natural causes, but the term continues to cling to life. It is annoying when young children use it and have no idea why, but it really sounds stupid coming from the mouths of adults. Please kill this particular use of an otherwise fine word.” – Wayne Braver, Manistique, Michigan

“Youth lingo overuse, similar to ‘awesome.’ I became sick of this one immediately.” – Gordon Johnson, Minneapolis, Minnesota


“Surge’ has become a reference to a military build-up. Give me the old days, when it referenced storms and electrical power.” – Michael F. Raczko, Swanton, Ohio

“Do I even have to say it? I can’t be the first one to nominate it … put me in line. From Iraq to Wall Street to the weather forecast – ‘surge’ really ought to recede.” – Mike Lara, Colorado

“This word came out in the context of increasing the number of troops in Iraq. Can be used to explain the expansion of many things (I have a surge in my waist) and it’s use will grow out of control …The new Chevy Surge, just experience the roominess!” – Eric McMillan, Mentor, Ohio

Under the bus

“For overuse. I frequently hear this in the cliché-filled sports world, where it’s used to describe misplaced blame – i.e. ‘After Sunday’s loss, the fans threw T.O. under the bus.” – Mark R. Hinkston, Racine, Wisconsin

“Please, just ‘blame’ them.” – Mike Lekan, Kettering, Ohio

“Just wondering when someone saying something negative became the same as a mob hit. Since every sportscaster in the US uses it, is a call for the media to start issuing a thesaurus to everyone in front of a camera.” – Mark Bockhaus, Appleton, Wisconsin


“Let’s banish ‘waterboarding’ to the beach, where it belongs with boogie boards and surfboards.” – Patrick K. Egan, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan


A seminar on the web about any number of topics.

“Ouch! It hurts my brain. It should be crushed immediately before it spreads.” – Carol, Lams, Michigan

“Yet another non-word trying to worm its way into the English language due to the Internet. It belongs in the same school of non-thought that brought us e-anything and i-anything.” – Scott Lassiter, Houston, Texas

For ‘seminar on the web.’ “It’s silly. Next we’ll have a Dutch ‘dunch’ … bring your own lunch for a digital lunch meeting.” – Karen Nolan, Charlotte, North Carolina


“I’ve never read anything created by a wordsmith – or via wordsmithing – that was pleasant to read.” – Emily Kissane, St. Paul, Minnesota


Armed robbery/drug deal gone bad

From the news reports. What degree of “bad” don’t we understand? – Larry Lillehammer of Bonney Lake, Washington, asks, “After it stopped going well and good?”

Ask your doctor

The chewable vitamin morphine of marketing.

“Ask your doctor if ‘fill in the blank’ is right for you! Heck, just take one and see if it makes you ‘fill in the blank’ or get deathly ill.” — R.C. Amundson, Oakville, Washington

“I don’t think my doctor would appreciate my calling him after seeing a TV ad.” — Peter B. Liveright, Lutherville, Maryland


Given a one-year moratorium in 1984, when the Unicorn Hunters banished it “during which it is to be rehabilitated until it means ‘fear mingled with admiration or reverence; a feeling produced by something majestic.” Many write to tell us there’s no hope and it’s time for “the full banishment.”

“The kind of tennis shoes you wear, no matter how cute, don’t fit the majestic design of the word.” — Leila Hill, Damascus, Maryland

“That a mop, a deodorant or a dating service can be called ‘awesome’ demonstrates the limited vocabularies of the country’s copywriters.” — Tom Brinkmoeller, Orlando, Florida

“Overused and meaningless.’ My mother was hit by a car.’ Awesome. ‘I just got my college degree.’ Awesome.” — Robert Bron, Pattaya, Chonburi, Thailand


See classified advertisements for houses, says Morris Conklin of Lisboa, Portugal, as in “master bedroom boasts his-and-her fireplaces — never ‘bathroom apologizes for cracked linoleum,’ or ‘kitchen laments pathetic placement of electrical outlets.’”


Smoked dry over medium heat.

“Prior to 2005 . . . a roasted jalapeno. Now we have a ‘chipotle’ burrito with ‘chipotle’ marinated meat, ‘chipotle’ peppers, sprinkled with a ‘chipotle’ seasoning and smothered in a ‘chipotle’ sauce. Time to give this word a rest.” – Rob Zeiger, Bristol, Pennsylvania

Combined celebrity names

Celebrity duos of yore — BogCall (Bogart and Bacall), Lardy (Laurel and Hardy), and CheeChong (Cheech and Chong) — just got lucky.

“It’s bad enough that celebrities have to be the top news stories. Now we’ve given them obnoxious names such as ‘Bragelina,’ ‘TomKat’ and ‘Bennifer.’” — M. Foster, Port Huron, Michigan

“It’s so annoying, idiotic and so lame and pathetic that it’s ‘lamethetic.’” — Ed of Centreville, Virginia


The US military’s shorthand for a base in Cuba drives a wedge wider than a split infinitive.

“When did the notorious Guantanamo Bay Naval Base change to ‘Gitmo,’ a word that conjures up an image of a fluffy and sweet character from a Japanese anime show?” — Marcus W., St. Louis, Missouri

Gone/went missing

“It makes ‘missing’ sound like a place you can visit, such as the Poconos. Is the person missing, or not? She went there but maybe she came back. ‘Is missing’ or ‘was missing’ would serve us better.” — Robin Dennis, Flower Mound, Texas

Healthy food

Point of view is everything.

Someone told Joy Wiltzius of Fort Collins, Colorado, that the tuna steak she had for lunch “sounded healthy.” Her reply: “If my lunch were healthy, it would still be swimming somewhere. Grilled and nestled in salad greens, it’s ‘healthful.’”


‘e-Anything’ made the list in 2000. Geoff Steinhart of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, says tech companies everywhere have picked this apple to the core. “Turn on … tune in … and drop out.”

“Banish any word that starts with it. i am just tired of it. it’s getting old. — Brad Butler, Adrian, Michigan

Now playing in theaters

Heard in movie advertisements. Where can we see that, again?

“How often do movies premiere in laundromats or other places besides theaters? I know that when I want to see a movie I think about going to a shoe store.” — Andrea May, Shreveport, Louisiana


Thr styff of lemgendz: Gamer defeats gamer, types in “I pwn you” rather than I OWN you.

“This word is just an overly used Internet typo. It has been overused to the point that people who play online games are using it in everyday speech.” — Tory Rowley, Corunna, Michigan


Quasi-anachronism. Placed on one-year moratorium.

“Might as well banish it. The word has been replaced by ‘google.’” — Michael Raczko, Swanton, Ohio


“This word, popularized by The Colbert Report and exalted by the American Dialectic Society’s Word of the Year in 2005 has been used up. What used to ring true is getting all the truth wrung out of it.” — Joe Grimm, Detroit, Michigan

Undocumented alien

“If they haven’t followed the law to get here, they are by definition ‘illegal.’ It’s like saying a drug dealer is an ‘undocumented pharmacist.’” — John Varga, Westfield, New Jersey

We’re pregnant

Grounded for nine months.

“Were men feeling left out of the whole morning sickness/huge belly/labor experience? You may both be expecting, but only one of you is pregnant.” — Sharla Hulsey, Sac City, Iowa

“I’m sure any woman who has given birth will tell you that ‘WE’ did not deliver the baby.” — Marlena Linne, Greenfield, Indiana


97% fat free

Adventures in delusion. “Still has 3% fat . . . accept it.” – Andrew Clucas, Canberra, Australia

An accident that didn’t have to happen

Best-laid mayhem. “This means some accidents need to happen, for whatever reason, I can’t figure.” — Thomas Price, Orlando, Florida

Breaking news

Once it stopped presses. Now it’s a lower-intestinal condition brought about by eating dinner during newscasts. “Now they have to interrupt my supper to tell me that Katie Holmes is pregnant.” — Michael Raczko, Swanton, Ohio

Community of learners

A five-dollar phrase on a nickel-errand. Value-added into many higher education mission statements. “Not to be confused with ‘school.’” – Jim Howard from Mishawa, Indiana


No designer breed here. Someone should wash out this Spot. “Even parents are starting to use it!” – complains Mrs. Swartz’s Fifth Grade Class in Church Road, Virginia

“This is species confusion.” – Rob Bowers, Santa Clara, California

“Don’t call me ‘dawg’! I’m not your pet!” – Michael Swartz, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Designer breed

Many nominators consider this a bastardization of dog breeding. It may be a good line to use on angry neighbors when an un-neutered dog escapes. “When you mate a miniature schnauzer to a toy poodle, it’s not a ‘Schnoodle,’ it’s a mongrel.” – George Bullerjahn, Bowling Green, Ohio


Dedicated to the memory of a great federal agency consigned to the ash heap of parody. “If they don’t do anything, we don’t need their acronym.” – Josh Hamilton, Tucson, Arizona

First-time caller

Preamble often heard on talk radio. “I am serious in asking: who in any universe gives a care?” – Miguel McCormick, Orlando, Florida


(Any of its variations) It’s overdone. “There’s no escaping it. It’s everywhere, from TV to T-shirts,” says Amanda Tikkanen of LaGrange, Indiana. “Please tell me when we’re done with this one.”

Holiday tree

Many salvoes were fired during this past season’s “war on Christmas.” At the risk of jumping into the breach, the committee feels that “Holiday tree” is a silly name for what most folks hold as a Christmas tree, no matter your preference of religion. Thank goodness we all agree on the first day of winter.

Hunker down

To brace oneself, in anticipation of media onslaught. Trotted out in reports about everything from politics to hurricanes. “I have a hankering to ban all of this hunkering.” – Kate Rabe Forgach, Fort Collins, Colorado

Junk science

Banished from the Marketplace of Ideas. “It’s not scientists who are using this phrase so much as the people who practice junk politics.” – Ron LaLonde, Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada

Pass the savings on to you!

Marketing catch phrase that became a lost-leader long ago. “Read: Pass the markup along to you.” – C. W. Estes, Roanoke, Texas

Person of interest

Found within the context of legal commentary, but seldom encountered at cocktail parties. “People with guns want to talk with you.” – Melissa Carroll from Greensboro, NC. “Does this mean the rest of us are too boring to deal with?” – Patricia Johnson from Mechanicsville, Virginia


One part opiate of the masses, 13 parts overuse. Oddly, news anchor and television small talk is becoming more surreal. “Dreams are surreal, not daily adjectives.” – Tracy from Murray, Kentucky

Talking points

Cover your ears! “Topics which will please those you want to impress.” – Michele Mooney, Van Nuys, California

Joe Wonsetler of Swanton, Ohio, believes the phrase was created after PR staffers stopped attending seminars on how to put a positive ‘spin’ on their press releases.

Up or down vote

A casualty of today’s partisanship. No discussion on this one; the committee just tossed a coin. “I see a bright future for ex-senators as elevator operators.” — Allan Dregseth, Fargo, North Dakota


“… and I approve this message”

Received the most nominations of the words and phrases that came out of the presidential election. From political ads to auto parts …

“What started in political ads is spiraling out of control.” – Jim Blashill, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“I’ve heard three local car commercials where the morons use that phrase!” – John Venezia, Colorado Springs, Colorado

“Would a political candidate approve a message they did not agree with?” – John Gorsline, Albuquerque, New Mexico

“I’m Kristina and I approve this nomination.” – Kristina, Granite City, Illinois

And more!

The merchants way of giving you something “value added.” “Every merchant offers carpets, flooring and more. Can we envision baskets, caskets and more? Need I say less?” – Ray of Willard, Ohio

“Goods and services no longer have limits! Everything marketed can be something else! ‘It’s a hamburger meal, but it’s much, much more … It’s a time machine, too!” – Mark of Kanata, Ontario, Canada

All new

referring to television shows … “Of course it’s all new. Why can’t they just say ‘new’? There are no partially-new episodes, no repeat of last Tuesday’s episode with a slightly reworked Act 2.” – Greg Ellis, Bellevue, Washington

Battleground state

“During an election, every state is a battleground.” — Austin White, West Hartford, Connecticut

“Did it mean Bush and Kerry would go toe-to-toe?” – Evan Cornell, Ligonier, Pennsylvania


and its variations, including blogger, blogged, blogging, blogosphere. Many who nominated it were unsure of the meaning. Sounds like something your mother would slap you for saying.

“Sounds like a Viking’s drink that’s better than grog, or a technique to kill a frog.” – Teri Vaughn, Anaheim, California

“Maybe it’s something that would be stuck in my toilet.” – Adrian Whittaker, Dundalk, Ontario. “I think the words ‘journal’ and ‘diary’ need to come back.” – T. J. Allen, Shreveport, Louisiana

Blue states/red states

Who’s who, anyway? “I remember when I was a kid and Georgia was purple,” says Peter Pietrangelo, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. “A good map has more than two colors.”

Body wash

“Also known as ‘soap.’” — Ray Hill, Jackson, Michigan


low carbs, high carbs, no carbs, carb-friendly … Meant ‘carburetor’ in a previous life. Needs to be purged from our system.

“You’re not fat because you eat bread; you’re fat because you eat too much!” – Emily Price, Norfolk, Virginia

“What’s the point of low-carb beer? A person that concerned about ‘carbs’ shouldn’t even be drinking beer.” – Roger Briskey, Orlando, Florida

Enemy combatant

“Makes no sense. Do we have friendly combatants? Neutral combatants? Or how about enemy bystanders? If they are your enemy, just say so.” – Bill Sellers, Hampton, Virginia

Erectile dysfunction

Do we need to hear about it daily on TV and radio, even on racecars? Firmly rejected by the committee. “Too much information!” – Carolyn Jamsa, Chillicothe, Illinois

Flip flop/flip flipper flip flopping

They belong at the beach, not in a political dialogue. “Republicans used it; Democrats used it back. Flip-flop back and forth it goes.” – Jeff Lewis, Ada, Michigan

Improvised explosive device

As opposed to what used to be referred to as a bomb or mine. “Is this anything like a bomb or is it more (or less) sinister?” – Harold Blackwood, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada


By far, the abomination that received the most nominations. Some sort of ‘Rap-Latin’ suffix, as in fa’shizzle, which means ‘for sure.’

“It was clever for about five minutes, or should I say five ‘minizzles?’” – R. Glover, Waterford, Michigan

Derek Hogan of Misssissauga, Ontario, Canada, said it was cool when a rapper came up with it a few years ago, but now it’s overused and is even being used in television commercials.

“Like Superbowl excesses, it is too much of too much,” – Daniel Baisden, Savannah, Georgia


“Every single person on every reality show comments on how amazing the ‘journey’ was. Since when does dating a dozen nerds over a six-week span or conniving to win a million dollars over 15 other people qualify as a ‘journey’”? – Cindy, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Pockets of resistance

“Are we talking about someone not buying a round of drinks or people shooting at each other?” – Rob of Crawley, West Sussex, United Kingdom

“Sounds like someone having trouble pulling their hands out of their pants pockets.” – Joe Hutley, Las Vegas, Nevada

Safe and effective

“Try the new, clinically proven, safe and effective wonder drug you never knew you needed … Safe and effective should not be a selling point, it should be an FDA requirement!”-  CW Estes, Roanoke Texas

Sale event

“Year-end sales are now ‘sales events.’ Now most have shortened it to ‘event.’ Does the sale exist any longer? ‘Hey, nice new Chevy, Bob!’ ‘Thanks, it was on event at the dealer last week.’” – Allan Dregseth, Fargo, North Dakota


Nominated by many over the past few years, including Paul Freedman, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. “Since when has this become a prefix for everything? That’s über-rific!” – Lolina, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

“… Everything that is big, amazing, unique is described as über.” – Sue, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Wardrobe malfunction

“Janet Jackson’s bodice did not ‘malfunction,’” says John Wetterholt, Woodstock, Illinois.

“Justin Timberlake pulled too much and too far and I could hear the cogs turning in his publicist’s head trying to come up with that excuse!”

“It wasn’t the wardrobe’s fault!” – Jane Starr, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

“Sure to be this generation’s Watergate, misapplied to all situations both imaginable and not so.” – David Edgar, Sydney, Australia


A seminar on the web about any number of topics.

“Ouch! It hurts my brain. It should be crushed immediately before it spreads.” – Carol, Lams, Michigan

“Yet another non-word trying to worm its way into the English language due to the Internet. It belongs in the same school of non-thought that brought us e-anything and i-anything.” – Scott Lassiter, Houston, Texas

For ‘seminar on the web.’ “It’s silly. Next we’ll have a Dutch ‘dunch’ … bring your own lunch for a digital lunch meeting.” – Karen Nolan, Charlotte, North Carolina

You’re fired!

“And the little hand movement, too!” – Jason Ranville, State College, Pennsylvania

One nominator suggested that to say it would soon constitute a trademark infringement.

Zero percent APR financing

Sending a dollar to do a nickel’s worth of work. – Michael Hehn, Ferrysburg, Michigan

“They could just say ‘no interest.” Michael Hehn, Ferrysburg, Michigan


Bling or bling-bling

Or any of its variations – “Hate, hate. Grate, grate,” says Steven Phipps of Pueblo, Colorado.

Received many nominations from across the United States.

“This once street slang for items of luxury has now become so overused and abused that (everyone) has incorporated it into their vocabularies. Yes, your mom might say it. Nothing could kill the mystique of a word faster.” – Todd Facklas, Chicago, Illinois

Captured alive

“The news keeps stating that Saddam Hussein was ‘captured alive.’ Well, what other way are you going to be captured? Maybe ‘found dead’ or ‘discovered dead’ never ‘captured dead.’” – Bill Lodholz, Davis, California

Companion animals

“They’re called PETS.” – Nick Leach, Bloomington, Indiana

Embedded journalist

Nominations for this Iraq War II phrase came from throughout the U.S., Canada and overseas. “I’m a journalist and until the war started, I’d never heard this term. In the interest of objectivity, journalists probably shouldn’t be embedded with any organization they regularly cover.” – Ken Marten, Hamtramck, Michigan

“It seems to be a hip way of saying, ‘at the scene,’” said Tim Bednall, Tokyo, Japan.

“The next time I hear it used by the media, I’m going to embed my foot in the TV!” – Ellen Brown, San Diego, California

Hand-crafted latte

We’re not sure where Orin Hargraves of Westminster, Maryland discovered this beauty, but we agreed with his assertion that “This compound is an insult to generations of skilled craftspeople who have mustered the effort and discipline to create something beautiful by hand. To apply ‘hand-crafted’ to the routine tasks of the modern-day equivalents of soda jerks cheapens the whole concept of handicraft.”

In harm’s way

“Who is Harm, and why would you want to get in his way?” – Thomas Watts, Sumter, South Carolina


And other abbreviated ‘e-mail speak,’ including the symbol ‘@’ when used in advertising and elsewhere.

Alex G. of Warsaw, Poland, says, “It’s everywhere on the net! OMG! u r chattin to sum1 then … lol this and lol that … .Get it away!”

“I wonder if anyone really laughs out loud when they use this short-hand Instant Messenger slang?” – Rachel Rose, Pickford, Michigan


An urban male who pays too much attention to his appearance.

Bob Forrest of Tempe, Arizona, says it “sounds like someone who only has sex downtown or on the subway.”

Fred Bernardin of Arlington, Massachusetts, asks, “Aren’t there enough words to describe men who spend too much time in front of the mirror?”

Place stamp here

Dennis K. McDermott of Oneida, New York, says, “It appears on 99% of the return envelopes provided by creditors with monthly billings. It’s especially annoying when enclosed in a rectangle drawn in the upper right corner. (What if you miss?) And then … they inform you that ‘The Post Office will not deliver without postage.’ Can we legitimately claim to be a superpower if we need to be reminded to put a stamp on an envelope?”

Eric Hooper of South Lyon, Michigan, agrees: “If I’m too stupid to figure out where to put the stamp, then paying the phone bill is probably the least of my worries.”


As in bamboozled, duped, flimflammed, hornswoggled. Nominated by the Frank and Johnnie Show, WGN, Chicago. An old noun given new life as a verb because of the television show. Kill it before it grows.

Ripped from the headlines

Gerald Anderson of Winter Haven, Florida, says, “TV shows are often described as being ‘ripped from the headlines.’ Kicking and screaming, no doubt.”

Sanitary landfill

“Ever been to one?” asks Stan Slade of Long Beach, Mississippi. “Not the cleanest place in the world. What happened to the county or city dump?”

During the height of the war last spring, Tyler King of Toronto, Ontario, told us he’d like to see all words rhyming with Iraq banished, and he sent this lovely poem:

“Lately, every news report has tried to create a rhyme about Iraq. Frankly, I’m sick of hearing about the ‘Attack on Iraq’! There is no turning back from an attack on Iraq to (get) that quack who likes to yak with his terrorist pack about having the knack to bring weapon inspectors back.”

Shock and awe

Still another from Iraq. “I’m just waiting on ‘Shock and Awe Laundry Soap’ or maybe ‘Shock and Awe Pool Cleaner,’” says Joe Reynolds of Conroe, Texas.

Shots rang out

“I’m tired of hearing this phrase on the news. Shots don’t ‘ring’ unless you are standing too close to the muzzle, and in that case you don’t need the reporter telling you about it.” – Michael Kinney, Rockville, Maryland

Smoking gun

Another one that came to us from Iraq, but is widely used elsewhere. “Let’s give the 21-gun salute to this overused analogy,” says Andrew Pagano, Montgomery Village, Maryland.

“Remember the television show ‘Gun smoke’? Now THERE were smoking guns!” – Scot Moss, Madison, Wisconsin

“What’s wrong with ‘hard evidence’?” – Kevin O’Sheehan, Bangkok, Thailand

Sweat like a pig

Tim Croce of Torrington, Connecticut says “Pigs do not have sweat glands; that is why they roll in mud to cool themselves.” Nevertheless, Tim said he was sweating like a pig to get this nomination to us.


Last year it was ‘extreme.’ This year, ‘X’ follows in its footsteps. “Marketers have latched onto this letter to grab the ‘Generation-X demographic. X-files, Xtreme, Windows XP and X-Box are all part of this PR-powered phenomenon,” said John Casnig of Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


____ in color

“As opposed to green in size,” quips Janet Litherland of Thomasville, Georgia. Lends an empty air of precision.

As per

“As per a conversation I had with a co-worker and ‘as per’ common decency to your fellow human beings, please substitute ‘according to.’ If I hear ‘as per’ ever again, I will need to take some ‘asperin.’” – Greg Gibson, Tucson, Arizona

Black ice

From the weather and news reports. Ice is ice. Watch your step.

“Ice is usually clear and shiny when you see the black pavement through it.” – Robert Irving, Tahoe City, California


“This word, once properly associated with marking livestock to prove ownership, has been co-opted by the MBA crowd and now seems to refer to any activity that supports a company’s desire to clearly define its products and/or services. Can’t we just say ‘Promotions and PR?’ – Nancy Hicks, Fairfax, Virginia


“No one has problems anymore, they only face ‘challenges.’ – Sonia Jaffe Robbins, New York, New York

“I think it’s a weasel word. ‘Challenges’ only have to be met. Problems require solutions!” – Ray Lucas, Ann Arbor, Michigan


This overused word in advertising and marketing drew the ire of citizens throughout North America, from coast to coast.

Al Slang of Duncan, British Columbia, Canada, said “It’s used 24/7 (we banished that in 2000, Al) on everything from store sales to deodorant ads.”

“Extreme sports, extreme cars, extreme soft drinks … I’m tired of hearing it.” – Doug Hagen, Newton, North Carolina

Razors aren’t extreme. Neither are deodorants or cheeseburgers.” – Cliff of Pensacola, Florida

“I saw a church billboard advertising ‘Extreme Adventures’ at their vacation bible school. What the heck does that mean?” – Cheril Lin D. Abeel, Detroit, Michigan

Got game

“I hear this phrase used by sportscasters trying to be hip: ‘He’s got game tonight!’ They mean he’s playing well.” – Scott Tolentino, Garden City, Utah

Having said that and that said

Nominated by many for over-use, especially in the news media, according to Kay J. Jauch, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and William Hamlin of Wappingers Falls, New York.

“I heard you the first time,” said David Patrick of Lafayette, Indiana.

“Annoying useless filler,” said Sadie Campbell of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.

“It seems like the intellectual form of ‘ya know.’” – Shelley Gaskin, Scottsdale, Arizona

Homeland security

A new and improved buzzword. With billions of dollars at stake, perhaps “national security” is just plain blasé.

“What happened to the Department of Defense?” asks Rick Miller of Champaign, Illinois.

It’s a good thing

“This phrase is ‘ramped up’ (banished in 2002) for over-use,” says Mark Dobias of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. “The question is: good for whom? For example, insider trading may be a good thing, but only if one does not get caught. Then it is a bad thing.”

Make no mistake about it

Nominated by many, including Angela Wood of Anchorage, Alaska, for over-use since the 2000 election.

“Generally used instead of ‘don’t underestimate’ or ‘understand,’” says John O’Connell of San Jose, California. Are listeners really going to mistake what the questioner is saying?

“Who’s mistaken, anyway?” asks Barb Keller of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Material breach

“Suggests an obstetrical complication that pulls a physician off the golf course,” says a nominator from Washington, D.C. Sounds like contract lawyer-speak rather than the world-worn parlance of war planners and diplomats. At one time, UN resolutions were violated. Violators were held in contempt. How long until treaties are ripped up in the presence of attorneys?

Mental mistake

“Used often in the sporting world,” says Paul DeCarlo of Helena, Alabama. “What mistake is not mental?”


“Must find remote. Must change channel,” laments Nan Heflin from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Television once pitched entertainment. Apparently now it’s taken on a greater imperative. Assumes herd mentality over program taste.

Now, more than ever

Many, including Valli Irvine of Austin, Texas, thought this should have been included on the 2002 list. Matthew Lowe of Kew Gardens, New Jersey, summed it up for the many who nominated this tiresome phrase: “It has become overused since the terrorist attacks … from warnings to be safe, to stores having sales … It has to go!”

Lowe’s neighbor, Mike Bowers of Lebanon, New Jersey, agrees: “What’s next? ‘Now, more than ever, Americans need 50% more raisins in their cereal?’”

“This precious way of saying, ‘Now that we’ve had a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, we have a duty to recognize the important things in life’ seems to be the recent darling of advertisers and politicians …What simpering balderdash!” – Josh Mandel, Colonie, New York

Peel-and-eat shrimp

“Do they think that, if the name did not contain instructions, we would peel-and-throw-on-floor?” – Miguel McCormick, Orlando, Florida

On the ground

Media hip-speak and frivolous dramatization. David Cheng of Rockville, Maryland, points out that humans live on the ground, “not suspended 100 feet in the air or 100 fathoms beneath the ocean.”

“Especially annoying during the presidential election recount, but still shows up in major news stories,” – Robert Prince, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Where else would you be?” – Ken Finkel, Dundas, Ontario, Canada

“Only in a few situations is it necessary,” – Andrew Makepeace, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Reverse discrimination

“Discrimination is discrimination, regardless of who is being discriminated against.” – Kristen of St. Paul, Minnesota

There is no score

“It is inaccurate and misleading. There IS a score. It is 0-0.”  – Paul Jertson, Christmas Valley, Oregon

Undisclosed, secret location

Redundant stacking of adjectives often used to describe Vice President Cheney’s whereabouts. “If it’s a secret, it’s pretty undisclosed, and if it’s undisclosed, it’s a secret,” says Bill Lodholz of Davis, California.

Untimely death

Balky attempt to make some deaths more tragic than others. “Has anyone yet died a timely death?” asks Donald Burgess of South Pasadena, California.

Weapons of mass destruction

Used more and more (and just too much according to James of Canberra, Australia) as a card that trumps all forms of aggression. In danger of becoming a push-button buzzword. Many nominators point out that any weapon, used effectively, does a lot of destruction. “A few thousand machetes in the hands of an army in Africa can lead to mass genocide,” writes Howard Stacy of Atlanta, Georgia.

Jack Newman of Cypress, Texas, often hears the hybrid, “wepuhmadistricshun.”

“Overused, over-wrought.” – Michelle Gill, Chicago, Illinois


Anything modified by DOPPLER

Stems from when TV newscasts began using new doppler weather radar. Now ‘doppler-fication’ has become a badge of excellence with local newscasts, regardless of whether it involves weather. Even the stations are amused by it. The Morning Crew at YES-FM in Sault Ste. Marie predicts sweet forecasts with its “Hobbler-Dobbler-Peach-Cobbler.” Claire Rynders of Madison, Wisconsin, asks, “If my TV station uses ‘Doppler 2001,’ does that mean weather forecasts are more accurate because it has bigger doppler?”


instead of saying that an athlete is very good. “Not yet in the dictionary, but no doubt on the way … exceeded only by ‘tremendous athleticism’!” – Keith, Edwardsville, Illinois.

“This word is so overused by coaches and players that it has ceased to have any meaning (if it ever did). He’s graceful. She can jump. She’s strong. He’s accurate. Give me details.” – Sarah Kickler-Kelber, Columbia, Maryland.


“Bipartisanship, to most politicians, only seems to happen when one side gets its way and the other goes along with it. I didn’t vote for my guy to submit to the will of the opposing party. I want lots of partisanship!” – Michael Bush, Jersey City, New Jersey


A fashionable construction that refers to robots. “Please restore the neglected ‘ro-‘,” pleads Bob Forrest of Tempe, Arizona.


“Bureaucrats and bosses often use it to sound hip instead of dry. ‘We brainstormed.’ Didn’t you simply ‘think’? ‘We had a brainstorming session.’ Didn’t you simply have a meeting?” – Ken Marten, Hamtramck, Michigan

“If you’ve ever been on a committee for anything, you’ve heard this.” – Thomas Heilman, Lebanon, Pennsylvania

Bring them to justice or bring the evil-doers to justice

“Practically every news reporter and our President has uttered these words. Now, hearing this phrase is almost comical, even under these most serious circumstances that profoundly affected my home town …” — a proud New Yorker from Queens.


“Throughout my long career in law enforcement, there was a name for the forcible taking of an auto from the driver. It’s called armed robbery.” – John King, Oceanside, California

Delay due to an earlier accident

“Now in standard use … As distinguished from the delay caused by an accident yet to occur.”

Miguel McCormick of Orlando, Florida, should take his redundancy act on the road. He sent us some beauties.


“Somewhere along the line, somebody stumbled into it thinking he was saying ‘disfranchise.’ It caught on, and for more than 30 years we’ve been subjected to this negative-positive abomination. What’s next? ‘Disenable’? – Mike Bunis, Key West, Florida. “The term has been frequently applied to describe voters who have experienced difficulty in following directions.” – J. H. Jaroma, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“Our country cannot possibly hold that many victims.” – Linda, Kansas City, Missouri


“Supposedly referring to creative work that is provocative and interesting, the word now has become a signal that someone is trying to ‘market’ yet another piece of offensively contrived hack work. We should limit the word to physical things that have edges, such as an ‘edgy coffee table.’” – Ron LaLonde, Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada.


“All it means is religious entities, but I presume ‘faith-based organizations’ will elicit less recoil.” – Michele Mooney, Van Nuys, California

“I’m just tired of hearing it. Bombard the phrase with guided Missals.” – Elaine Hampton, Burbank, California

Foreseeable future

Just how long is foreseeable? “What about the unforeseeable future?” ponders James Hartman from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.


“But if not, then warn after the fact.”

Miguel McCormick of Orlando, Florida, should take his redundancy act on the road. He sent us some beauties.

Friendly fire

“Would unfriendly fire be less painful?” – nominator from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Frig and frigging

A sneaky way of getting a version of the dreaded ‘F’ word on the radio and TV. Is there anything one can’t say on the airwaves these days? – Merri Carol Wozniak, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan


Nominated by many, including listeners of Lindy Thorsen’s show on CBC-Regina. “The word is used in the computer field when people don’t seem to know how to explain a software feature. It’s used as a crutch, and it’s used way too much!” – Scott Watson, Oxford, Michigan

“Used all too frequently in the information technology industry to describe attributes and capabilities … Product ‘upgrades’ are said to feature ‘enhanced functionality,’ whatever that is.” – Terry Shannon, Ashland, Massachusetts

If ... then the terrorists win or the terrorists will have won

“Since Sept. 11, we’ve heard countless variations of this phrase, usually from politicians, encouraging us to get back to our normal way of life. It has become so overused as to become almost meaningless, especially when, for example, the Smallville Chamber of Commerce says, ‘If you don’t come to the annual parade, then the terrorists win.’ I can’t imagine al-Qaeda cares whether we attend parades … Sorry to have taken up so much space, but if I can’t complain about things that bug me, then the terrorists will have won.” – nominator from Chicago, Illinois

“The phrase makes a mockery of those extremely tragic events of that day.” – nominator from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

In the wake of

“What was ever wrong with the word ‘after?’” A caller on WJR Detroit’s David Newman Show wondered if we should all take one tablet in the wake of each meal.


“Is everyone else as tired of this as I am? If a commercial lasts for 30 minutes, it’s a PROGRAM. It’s also boring!” – John King, Oceanside, California

Killer app

Used to describe an outstanding computer program. “If its function doesn’t approximate that of the HAL 9000 computer from 2001, it’s not really a killer application,” says Peter Lynn of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Making money

As a caller into a radio program on Detroit’s WJR pointed out, only counterfeiters make money. Honest people earn it.

Nine-eleven (9-11) and its variations

We received many nominations for this annoying abbreviation that refers to Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorists attacked and killed thousands in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Those who sent nominations said they were in no way trying to make light of the day’s events, or the subsequent events. Most of them asked if finding a ‘cute’ abbreviation for the day makes the attacks any easier to accept. “Last year, we had Y2K and 24-7. This year, we have 9-11. This new digital language (digitalk?) should be banned no later than 1-1-Y2K-2 … Do we refer to the Chicago Fire as 10-8 because it occurred on Oct. 8, 1871? How about the sinking of the Titanic – it is not called 4-14. A tragic event of such proportion should not be confused with a telephone number.

The name will be remembered as long as there are people who can read.” – nominator from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

“I can’t believe people are abbreviating the worst act of war this country has seen since Pearl Harbor. I’ve never heard anybody refer to the attack on Pearl Harbor as Twelve-Seven, or 12-7.” – nominator from Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“It was September 11.” — nominator from Ishpeming, Michigan.

“It’s overused and sounds ridiculous when used to represent what happened on September 11. – nominator from Madison, Wisconsin.

“It’s worse when people play on the ambiguity with ‘911’ in the emergency phone number context.” – nominator from Los Angeles, California.


Charles VonHout of Climax, Michigan, wonders, “Who doesn’t have the brain in this transaction, you or me?”

Possible choices

“No need to include the impossible choices, I’m sure.”

Miguel McCormick of Orlando, Florida, should take his redundancy act on the road. He sent us some beauties.

Ramp up

Often used to suggest an increase in productivity or your product’s effectiveness. “Whatever happened to the word ‘increase’? – Lance Rivers, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

“Whoever started it should be made to ramp up (walk) the plank.” – Howard E. Daniel, Kailua, Hawaii

Reality TV and reality-based TV

“Banish the words, banish the shows, banish the people who came up with the idea for the shows, because there is nothing real about this form of television.” – Mary Li, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Rename it something else

“Be sure not to rename it the same name.”

Miguel McCormick of Orlando, Florida, should take his redundancy act on the road. He sent us some beauties.

Run the table

“Sneaking into sports programming to refer to ‘winning all games.’ For example, ‘The Jets have to run the table to make the playoffs.’ It’s football, dough head, not Casino Royale.” Sent by Brian Giffen, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, who is also bothered by what he calls the proliferation of ‘gangspeak’ in sports broadcasts, e.g. ‘deuce’ for ‘two,’ ‘rock’ for ‘ball.’


The Banishment Committee pines for the days when our economy offered merely goods and services. Its usage especially miffs Greg Arens of Brainerd, Minnesota, who points out that “problems demand solutions; needs demand fulfillment.”

Surgical strike

Overused in the news media to describe bombing campaigns. “As in bombing a Red Cross building by mistake?” – nominator from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Sworn affidavit

“If it is not sworn, it is not an affidavit.” – Smitty Landry, New Iberia, Louisiana


nominated by many, including John from Medicine Hat on Lindy Thorsen’s CBC radio show out of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. “It’s used as a weasel-word, as in, ‘There might be some synergy between our companies,’ instead of ‘We want to make some money off of you.’ It’s one of those words that’s used by salespeople the way a parrot uses profanities – they blather away without a clue as to its meaning.” – Gervase Webb, London, England

“A favorite of politicians and bureaucrats, and used to make one sound smart. It comes from the Greek sunergos, which means ‘working together.’ Why not just say that? I’ll bet most people using the word can’t define it.” – Ken Marten, Hamtramck, Michigan

“It’s a blanket term used by people so they won’t have to actually articulate their business case in a meaningful way.” – T. Conte, Woodstock, Ontario, Canada

Unprecedented new

“Not to be confused with the unprecedented old one.”

Miguel McCormick of Orlando, Florida, should take his redundancy act on the road. He sent us some beauties.


Academically fragile

Describes a student-athlete’s precarious academic standing or pedigree. Dangles dangerously into other areas of the ‘at risk’ realm. Nominated by Dave Kudson of Minneapolis, who traces its origin to a recent basketball scandal in Minnesota.

Begs the question

“‘To beg the question’ means to take for granted, without proof, the point at issue, but many people say it when they really mean ‘to raise the question,’” says Catherine Lauzon, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Also nominated by listeners of David Newman’s show on WJR, Detroit.


A one-year moratorium for this word. Pregnant with triteness. It should be “returned to the status it had before it became a vogue word,” says Miriam Weiss of Astoria, New York. She adds, “By all means, celebrate holidays and events, but there’s been way too much celebration of qualities, heritages, histories and diversity itself. I say, put the hats and horns away.” Al Thompson of Cambridge, Massachusetts, says, “Now, every human weirdness is cause to break out the ice cream and cake.”


Citizens of Chad, especially those who are pregnant or born with dimples, deserve a peaceful and prosperous new year. Need we say more?


Narrowly escaped the list in 1999 and 2000. “Now being applied to all women singers even though it once applied only to opera singers.” says Art Bergeron, Chester, Virginia.

“I thought it was bad when I heard Madonna described as a ‘diva.’ Since then, I’ve seen promotions for shows on ‘male divas’ and ‘transvestite divas.’” – Jennifer McGraw, Brevort, Michigan

“Elton John is NOT a diva. He’s a GUY!” – Lisa Sanderson, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan


nominated by many. Follows ‘e-anything,’ which was included on the 2000 list. “Since the Super bowl in January 2000, ‘dot.com’ is heard at the end of every commercial!” – Loma Lee, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

“Someone will mention a manufacturer’s new idea and someone else will ask, ‘Are they dot.comming it?’ or ‘We need to ‘dot.com’ this!’” – Elizabeth Wiethoff, St. Paul, Minnesota

“My students found it to be one of the most egregious catch-phrases of the year.” – Harry Coffill, E. Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Made even more popular by recent Hollywood creations. “I can’t believe you haven’t banished it already!” said Adam Santi, of Sioux City, Iowa, after noticing that it isn’t on our compiled list.

“One of the more glaring examples of adolescent lingo,” said Tim Campbell, father of six teenagers in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


Straight out of some sci-fi thriller. “Some of the news and sports networks have adopted this as a cute come-on for trivia. ‘Have you fed your factoid today?’” asks Charles E. Schermerhorn, Lompoc, California.

False start prior to the snap

Redundant usage … 10-yard penalty.

“If it is a false start, it would inherently be prior to the snap of a football, before the action starts,” mentions Sue Golbiw of Royal Oak, Michigan.

Final destination

“Aren’t all destinations final? (I can’t take credit for this. I heard it from George Carlin!)” – Justin Meilstrup, Marquette, Michigan

Foot speed

Perhaps the leg muscles aren’t involved. Jon Reynolds of Lansing, Michigan, nominated this with football sportscasters in mind.

Fuzzy math

Gets a four-year term limit. Unleashed during a presidential debate, this sound bite could live again during upcoming tax cut and budget surplus fights. “Fuzzy math is only used by people who are masters of it,” says Bob Goodsell of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Going forward

Let’s go someplace else with this one. “Since most people travel backward in time, this is a valuable phrase,” says Brian Fumo of Newport, Rhode Island.


An overused and often misused term in the business world. “I think it is a false verbification of the noun ‘leverage,’ says Phil Rustage, London, United Kingdom.

“Leverage this … leverage that … It makes me want to puke. I don’t really know the new definition of this word, but I’ve caught on (empirically) by hearing it a dozen million times from those suit-wearing marketing bozos.” – Todd Ryan, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Todd performed an Internet search for ‘leverage’ and found more than 50,000 entries. He quit (and so did we) reading after the fifth entry, calling the lot of it ‘gobbledygook.’ We agree.


“As in, ‘I want to give you a heads-up on this,’” says Hugh D. Hyatt, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. “What’s wrong with, ‘I want to warn you,’ or ‘I want to give you advanced notice?’”

Overused in business settings.

Have a good one!

A modification of the 1970s’ ‘Have a nice day!’ “I went into a store to buy some feminine hygiene products … As I paid, the young clerk bid me farewell by saying ‘Have a good one!’… Have a good what?” – Deb Captain, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.


“The word ‘hero’ has no meaning anymore. Today’s society has applied it many people not deserving of the appellation. Nowadays anyone who would normally be referred to as a role model is called a ‘hero.’” – Henry Sibley, Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Manual recount by hand

One of the many words and phrases born during the 2000 presidential election. “I heard this from many newscasters during the election brouhaha. Evidently, ‘manual’ no longer means ‘by hand.’” – Patty Peek, Petoskey, Michigan.

Negative growth

As opposed to positive shrinking. ‘Gifted’ from the world of “morons in three-piece suits trying to sugar-coat their incompetence,” according to Kelly Hall of York, Pennsylvania.

One of the only

“Either it is the only one or it is one of the few.” – Zack Soderberg, Las Vegas, Nevada

Speaks to

At one time we discussed ideas. Nothing more than ” bureaucratic bafflegab,” says Brenda Skinner of North Bay, Ontario, Canada.


“This word means ‘to strike with a long or wide sweeping blow,’ or ‘to steal or pilfer.’ It is being used increasingly on credit-card readers in stores. From whom do the merchants want me to steal the card? And I can’t see where beating the card will do any good.” – Laura Brestovansky, Dryden, Michigan

Shaken up

A dazed and confused word, usually tied into a sports injury. “As if athletes were martinis,” notes Kelly Hall of York, Pennsylvania.



“24/7 is designed to make stressed people feel even more stressed. Although it sounds somewhat biblical, 24/7 refers instead to consumer demand for full service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week – something only a newborn should be allowed to request,” said Kate Rabe Forgach of Sausalito, California

“It seems to be in keeping with the ‘iconification’ of our language, in which we exaggerate our achievements and abbreviate our terms.” – David Tranter of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

“Yeck!” – Kari Jastorff of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

At risk

We’re all ‘at risk’ of being offended by this overused, misused phrase. “It apparently means ‘high risk’ without specifying the degree or nature of the risk,” said Calvin Baker of Elmira, Michigan

“Everyone is ‘at risk’ of something.”

Came to play

“When referring to sports teams or team members doing well, as in ‘The Wings came to play.’ What else would they be doing?” – Ron Elliott, Leamington, Ontario, Canada


Another symptom of our electronic age. Proud librarian Cindy Dobrez of Grand Haven, Michigan, said she can’t understand why librarians need to rename themselves every time a new information resource becomes available. “Add a few filmstrip kits to a library and all of a sudden you must be a ‘media specialist.’ Now, with the Internet, some feel the need to be called ‘cybarians.’ Librarians help people find and use information in whatever format it is delivered.”


“Once it was the second vowel of the alphabet, now it’s the base of the language of technology … Maybe e-commerce is the future, but e-tailers, e-trade and e-communication are all E-grad cliches,” said Allison Woodworth of E. Lansing, Michigan

“If ‘e’ stands for electronic, what the heck is electronic-tailing? Sounds like something a ‘90s Columbo would do,” – Kevin Dunseath, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

“Why not e-mediately for an online news site?” – Kate Rabe Forgach, Sausalito, California

“E-nough is e-nough!” – Emma Sams, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

First annual

Escaped banishment with ‘first time ever’ in 1982. “One might hope his event becomes an annual occurrence, but until the second year, it isn’t annual! Use inaugural, premiere, debut, or first.” – Amy Carter, Indianapolis, Indiana


When used as an adverb. “It’s overused by sports analysts, i.e. ‘He can flat-out play/run/throw.’” – Russell Bowlus, Davis, California

For the children

Overused by politicians, said John Dunlap of Westland, Michigan

“We must cut spending, or raise taxes, or limit any behavior, or pass any law, or go to the moon, or ban guns … .for the children.”

Know what I’m sayin’?

And variations, ‘You know what I mean?’ and ‘You see what I’m sayin’?’

“This phrase is repeated like a nervous tic by some people even after the most simple or obvious statement,” said Joe Szymanski of Baltimore, Maryland. “It’s likely I don’t (know what they’re sayin’).” – Len Nelson of Green Bay, Wisconsin


Everyone seems to have a bad case of ‘issues’ this year, along with influenza. It’s a strange way of saying that something is bothering someone. “If people could no longer say it, they would be forced to articulate just what it is that is bothering them.” – Leonard L. Schakel, Lakeland, Minnesota

“Why must we all have ‘issues’ to deal with? It’s vague, undefined and typically used in the wrong context.” – Rhonda Kitter, Anchorage, Alaska

It’s all good

Similar to ‘win-win,’ banished in 1993. “Apparently applicable to almost any situation and meant to fill the same niche for American youth as ‘no worries’ does for Australians. If I hear my employees use it, they will be fired.” – Zachariah Love, Hollywood, California

“If the speaker is talking about a huge chocolate dessert buffet, then it is ‘all good.’” – Cathy Cruz, from Wilf Smyth’s class in Stratford Central Secondary School, Stratford, Ontario, Canada


and the variations: ‘the next millennium,’ ‘the new millennium,’ ‘into the next millennium,’ ‘millennium bug.’ “It is the convenient topic for every graduation speech, every excuse to renew or to do anything,” said Lois Linnert of New York, New York.

“It’s been attached to every promotion, ad, event that you can think of,” said Dave of Duluth, Minnesota.

Kevin Chu of Cupertino, California said it goes hand-in-hand with the hype of Y2K, and Elaine Gosling of London, England, said, “If I wanted to be really grumpy I could point out that the millennium is not a moment which occurs at the end of the year, but a full thousand years!”

Quality of life

As in, ‘This is a quality of life issue!’ “This political platform or non-platform is making its way into candidacies from municipal courts to the presidency,” said Ron Statler of Fresno, California.

Road rage

Nominated by David Newman of WJR-AM, Detroit, and Carrie Zollner, of Rochester, Michigan, who said, “It’s an overused excuse for driving like a maniac.”

Sea change

It is used to mean a ‘dramatic change’ or a ‘groundswell of support.’ According to Webster’s, it is an archaic term that really means “a change brought about by the sea.”


“Originally a musical term, now used in everyday speech. It’s just pompous and pretentious,” said Ken Scholz of Naperville, Illinois.

“Everyone is using it, even when inappropriate: ‘Excuse me while I segue into another topic.” – Karen of Ballwin, Missouri.

“If I hear one more person on TV say this, I will throw up.” – Joanne Smith, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Thinking outside the box

“Another overused phrase that unimaginative people use when they want to sound creative.” – Kevin Dunseath of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

To action

“When we were delegating projects at a marketing meeting, I was asked if I could ‘action’ a particular item on the list, meaning, could I take care of it?’ I think the problem started when ‘action items’ became a popular way of describing high priority tasks.” – Deborah Guyer, Cranford, New Jersey

To solution

Another from the business world. Maybe the e-business world. Pam Derringer of Marblehead, Massachusetts, said software companies are guilty of starting it.

Pete Eckholm of Rochester, Minnesota said, “In today’s business world, everyone is solutioning a problem rather than solving it.”

To summit

Widely used when talking about adventurers climbing to the top of a mountain, i.e. “The party hopes to summit Mt. Everest tomorrow.” – sent via e-mail from P. Haddox.

To transition

It started in business and, much like ‘down-sizing,’ it’s often used to hide an ugly fact, said Julio Vega of San Jose, California.

For example, ‘Unit H is transitioning away from the company,’ means the department is being closed. “What’s wrong with ‘make a transition’?” asks Celia Smith of Atlanta, Georgia.

Wake-up call

Not limited to late-sleepers in hotels, anymore, ‘wake-up call’ is used to mean ‘a warning,’ as in, ‘This incident sends a wake-up call to Americans who haven’t been paying attention to quality-of-life issues for the at-risk children.’ Both ‘sea change’ and ‘wake-up call’ were nominated by many folks, including listeners of David Newman’s radio show on WJR in Detroit.

Ask for it by name

Overused in advertising. “As if there’s any other way,” says Eric Zonyk of Charlotte, Michigan.

At the end of the day

Used by many to summarize a conversation or debate, as in ‘at the end of the day, it’s all about family values.’ “Used by political pundits. This is often recited on evening cable talk shows when the hosts are explaining why, ‘at the end of the day, the President will not be impeached.’ That may have been true for a particular day, but it did not stand the test of time. – Mike McElroy, Good Hart, Michigan

“Hollywood types and Washington bureaucrats seem unable to say ‘finally’ or ‘in the end.’ – Randall Heeres, English Dept., Northern Michigan Christian H.S., McBain, Michigan

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski

“Need I say more? The world has been plagued with the sound of these words for too long. And the mental image that accompanies the phrase?” – Heather Newburg, LSSU, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Bureaucrap (a category)

Every year, folks ask for banishment of new words created by bureaucracies. The words were cast under the category *bureaucrap’ in the late 1980s. This year, Jessica Stanaway of LSSU spotted the word ‘equivalating’ in an electronic mail note from a colleague on one of the many Internet listservs for college and university workers. In this case, the noun ‘equivalent’ was turned into a verb. The same note included ‘workaround,’ a compound non-word used in place of ‘solution’.

Courtesy call

Al Schut of Muskegon, Michigan, wonders when unsolicited sales calls are ever considered a courtesy.


(Sometimes pronounced with both syllables drawn out)

Nominated by many for over-use “not as a greeting, but as a condescending comment … a lazy approach to a comeback.” Used often with the ever popular (and banished) ‘duh!’ – Christine Caruso, St. Anne High School, Ontario, Canada


Overused by many in conversation, especially teenagers. ‘I am SO not into that.’ ‘That outfit is SO not you.’ “It’s used too much and not in the right context.” – Lissa Sanchioni, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Step up/step it up

“Athletes are always stepping up’ when all they mean is that some player needs to play better than usual. At halftime, coaches are always telling us their team needs to ‘step it up’ or a player needs to ‘step up’ for the team to win.” – Randy Heeres, McBain, Michigan

“If you do poorly, do you ‘step down?’ Athletes, do your best. Forget ‘stepping up.’” – Jim Keith, English Teacher, Buckeye H.S., Medina, Ohio


Douglas Pearson of Lansing, Michigan is stunned by the frequency at which ‘stun’ or ‘stunned’ shows up in headlines on sports stories these days. He sent many examples – ‘Canucks stun Wings’ – and more. The Wings may have been angry, disappointed or, perhaps, frustrated, but probably not stunned. Pearson’s stunning conclusion: “The backwards version of stun is nuts.’”

That’s gay

Overused by many, especially teenagers, to look down on something or express dissatisfaction or disagreement. Lovers of the English language have long bemoaned the loss of the word ‘gay,’ which went from being light-hearted, merry, bright or lively, to expressing a state of sexuality. Now we have a generation who knows only the sexual definition. “The phrase is misused and offends people of that sexual preference. It’s not used in the correct sense,” said one student.

The -GATE construction

Barry from Pinckney, Michigan says he is tired of hearing of all of the -gate words being created in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. Examples include: Monica-gate, Zipper-gate, Campaign-gate, File-gate, ad nauseam. Canadians had Pepper-gate.’ (Sent via cellular phone through David Newman’s Show on WJR in Detroit.). “We have long since achieved over-use-gate,’” says Michele Utterson of Drummond Island, Michigan.

Verbing of innocent nouns

LSSU received many nominations from folks who are disappointed with what seems to be a trend of turning perfectly good nouns into verbs. Some examples include: ‘to office’ — describing the activity of running an office. Sent in through the Internet by Russell King, who notes, “Someone needs to suffer for it!” ‘to dialogue’ — “It’s not a verb! It makes me want to go home and monologue.” – Marion Boyer, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan ‘to conference’ — “‘I am conferencing with her tomorrow’ … What’s wrong with I am going to have a conference with her?’” – Karen Cheadle, English teacher, Dansville H.S., Dansville, Michigan ‘to mentor’ — Instead of being a mentor, now folks talk about ‘mentoring’ someone. “Another infamous noun turned verb by creative (lazy) users of English.” – Hugh Valiant, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources


“I feel like I’m drowning in acronym soup these days.” – John Charles Robbins, Petoskey News Review, Petoskey, Michigan

“Do we need to abbrev. everything?” asks Paul Beer, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

You the man/you’re the man

Nominated by many for over-use, including Jason Alfieri, Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary East, Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada.

Sandy of KFGO in Fargo, ND was one of the first to nominate the phrase during a word banishment interview in January 1998, when she predicted it would be high on the 1999 list. She was correct.

Build to a crescendo

“The word is a musical term which means ‘gradually increase the volume.’ It is not possible to build to a crescendo as the crescendo is the process of building.” – Paul Kinney, Westland, Michigan

Da bomb

(To mean ‘the greatest.’) “Sounds stupid and makes no sense.” – Chad Johnson, Port Hope School, Port Hope, Michigan

“Is it going to explode?” – Adam Trupish, St. Anne’s H.S., Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada


Michele Mooney, Los Angeles, California, sent many examples of the overuse of “ever” clipped from newspapers and magazines: “… drew its largest audience ever.” “… the best film adaptation of a John Grisham novel ever!” “It will be the first public display ever for the staff.” “The first-ever DNA extracted from Neanderthal bone …” “It was the largest gay and lesbian event ever in Alabama history.”


“Used to seduce people into thinking they’re not really gambling.” – Gene Quinn, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

Generation X

“This group needs a real name now. Unfortunately there aren’t any ‘x’ words that would do the job. How about generation XOXO?” – Michelle Batterbee Fox, Ellsworth Community Schools, Ellsworth, Michigan

Giving 110 percent

When considering the salaries paid to professional athletes many folks may start to expect that extra 10 percent. – Mark Terwilliger, LSSU math professor

Is dead tonight

“Whenever a well-known person dies, television news reporters tell the story: ‘Joe Blow is dead tonight at the age of 85.’ Do they expect his condition to change by morning? I have heard of one such case, but even that took three days.” – David Downing, St. Paul, Minnesota

My bad

“Students and adults sound infantile when using this to apologize for a mistake.” – Elizabeth Philips, English Dept., Cardinal Mooney Catholic H.S., Marine City, Michigan and many others


“A planerese’ word. These folks do not give up. It supposedly means to make normal … ‘In a systems evolution concept of storming, forming, and norming …’” – Huon Newburg, New Ulm, Minnesota

Show me the money

“It was a funny movie; now people use it everywhere.” – Mandy Denick, Thornapple Kellogg H.S., Middleville, Michigan

Nominated by others, including The Flint [Mich.] Journal’s Jeff Karoub, who says “It’s destined to be the ‘Where’s the beef?’ of the 90s.”

Talk to the hand

and variations of the expression used when someone doesn’t want to listen to what is being presented to him or her: “Talk to the hand, ‘cuz the face don’t want to hear it.” “Talk to the left (hand), because you know I’m right.” “Talk to the back, because you’re not good enough for the front.” – Christine Tankersley, St. Mary’s Cathedral H.S., Gaylord, Michigan. Nominated by many others in Canada and the U.S.

Take it to the next level

“As in, ‘If we increase our focus and intensity, we can take it to the next level.’ This has seeped out of the mouths of coaches and athletes and crept into the parlance of too many sportscasters and writers.” – Jeff Karoub, Flint, Michigan


Sometimes shortened to ‘sup? “Everyone uses it just to start up a conversation.” – Carali McCall, Seaforth District H.S., Seaforth, Ontario, Canada

“Just say hello.” – Tim Nelson, Mackinaw City H.S., Mackinaw City, Michigan

“It’s passe.” – Greg Arceri, Northville, Michigan. Nominated by many others.

Yadda yadda yadda

“An annoying way of making a long story short,” – Richard Young, Nicolet H.S., Glendale, Wisconsin

“Used instead of ‘and so on.’” – R. Forrest, Tempe, Arizona

Aroma therapy

“This catchy word can be found on the labels of everything from shampoo bottles to air fresheners. If it’s truly ‘therapy’, perhaps I should come at a higher price.” – Michelle Batterbee Fox, Ellsworth School teacher, Ellsworth, Michigan

As if

Slang expression used when someone has stated something obvious, or something dumb. May be used interchangeably with “DUH,” another expression which was nominated by many.


“A euphemism for an overbearingly aggressive nature.” – Bryon R. Crary, Clark Lake, Michigan.

Doing the _____ thing

“Mom Thing, Dad thing, Kid thing, Right thing, Word Banishment thing” Nominated for overuse and uselessness by Susan Elek, St. Clement Catholic High School English Teacher, center Line, Michigan.

Don’t (even) go there

Another gift form the talk show circuit. “Go where? Do what?” – Pellston High School Creative Writing Class, Pellston, Michigan

Down time

“It may be alright when applied to computers, but not humans.” – Polly Fields, LSSU English professor

Get a life

“A worn out phrase which has somehow escaped the list until now.” – Chris Gailus, Channel 3 News Guy, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

I’m like

Used with the hated ‘he goes/she goes.’ For example: “My son dashes into the room and he goes, ‘Dad! Dad!’ and I’m like, ‘What? What?’ The perpetrators of such babble should be locked together in a room, with their baseball caps riveted bill forward.” – Allen C. Myers, senior editor, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing C., Grand Rapids, Michigan

Joe Sixpack

“I am president and founder of the International Order for the Abolition of the Word Sloppy Joe. Its goal is to ban Sloppy Joe, Common Joe, Joe Blow … It gives Joes a bad name. You never hear of a Sloppy Steve, Ruth etc. Joes should never be lumped together as common or everyday. I therefore nominate ‘Joe Sixpack’. Man on the street is good enough.” – Joe Gallagher, Port Huron, Michigan

(Ed. Note: According to our Canadian neighbors, the Canadian equivalent to Joe Sixpack is “Joe lunchbucket.” This would be included in the banishment.)

Just play one game at a time

“There being no alternative, our overpaid athletes can safely offer to do at least this much.” – Jack Dietrich, Albuquerque, New Mexico

La Macarena

“Ad nauseam.” – Robert Sutherland, London, Ontario


“Doing several things at once said it all.” – Donna Gayon, Perry High School teacher, Perry, Michigan


“Big business word for having parts and supplies produced by another company.” – Tory Cook, MCTV reporter, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

Paper or plastic?

“Are they talking about payment or package totes?” – Paul D. Feedman, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Phone tag

“It may have been a cool, trendy phrase in the 80s, but it is really annoying now.”-  Mark Terwillinger, LSSU Computer Science Professor

Thank you for taking my call

“This groveling by callers to talk shows accomplishes nothing, wastes time and places the talk show host and guests in an (undeserved) superior position.” – Dan McManman, Nomad Lake Superior Charters, Ironwood, Michigan


Received the most nominations. “Whatever what? Whatever I want? Whatever I need? It doesn’t make any sense.” – Rachel Bivens, Manton High School student, Manton, Michigan


As in, “She’s the winningest coach in history.”

You go, girl

“Overused on TV talk shows and now it’s everywhere.” – Lillie Taylor, Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Instead of just saying, “yes.” (Ronald Donoghue of Farmington Hills, Michigan, said it had its origins of overuse in the film “Rocky.” “Absolutely!” is another favorite nomination of WXYT listeners.)

Alternative music

“Is it truly a new concept, like jazz, pop, country, etc., or is it an alternative to something? Alternative to what?” – Beverly Meyers, Pickford, Michigan

Armed and dangerous

(When referring to a criminal at-large, perhaps the term should be “Armed and MORE Dangerous.”) – Dennis Srednicki, Novi, Michigan

Been there, done that

(Another entry from Blashill. “First of all, who cares? Been where? Done what? It is REALLY overused.”)

Clean fill dirt

Joyce Hennon, teacher, Michigan School for the Deaf, Flint, Michigan


“To get closure.”

“To come to closure.” (Several nominations, including Toronto’s Talk 640 AM radio and Pam Holmes, English teacher at Chelsea High School, Chelsea, Michigan – “What’s wrong with saying ‘finish’ or ‘decide’”?)

Common sense

“If it’s so common, why doesn’t everyone have it?” – AP English Class, Maple Valley High School, Vermontville, Michigan


“Cyber-ANYTHING sets my teeth on edge. Writers try to outdo each other finding finishes or flourishes to the “C”-word.” – Michelle Mooney, Los Angeles, California.

(Michelle, a longtime follower of the Word Banishment effort, sent us a cyber-ton of newspaper clippings to prove her point. Among the cyber-coins: cyberia, cyberconcert, cyberspuds, cybertherapy, cyber mall, cybercommunity, cybernaut, cyberheaven, cybersea, cybersex, cyberpunk, and cyburbia.)


“For generations the term ‘to bail’ had been universally understood. But Washington’s word merchants have recalled bailing. Official U.S. Coast Guard documents replaced the time-honored term with ‘de-watering.’ Quick! Don your Personal Flotation Device (what we used to call a life vest) and, as the publication directs, grab a de-watering device and start de-watering our sinking ship. Our de-deaths depend on it!” – John E. Bates, Jr., Warren, Michigan

Done deal

Perhaps this qualifies for the redundant category as well as being overused: if it isn’t a deal, it’s not “done.” – Jack Z. DeLorean, Bloomfield Village, Michigan

Each and every one of you

“… From the speeches of sliver-tongued speakers who have nothing to say, yet insist on saying all of it, and more!” – Dr. Steve Person, LSSU biology professor.

Ethnic cleansing

“Why not just plain murder?” – James Blashill, LSSU professor and chairman of Criminal Justice & Fire Science


(From folks who are paying close attention to Newt Gingrich’s speeches. They nominated frankly as overused by the Speaker of the House.) Gingrich used “frankly” 12 times in a late November speech. – Margaret DeChant, Boca Raton, Florida


(We heard from the educators on this one, including:) – They’re weary of hearing how to “grow an economy” or “grow their employees.” – English Dept. Chairman Doug Cartwright, Goshen H.S., Goshen, Ind., and Tim Clancy, Ishpeming H.S., Ishpeming, Michigan

“I’m not bothered by an inanimate growee as the subject of a sentence: ‘The economy grows.’ Nor, of course, am I bothered by a direct object which is living: ‘We grow corn.’” – Mary Schwark, Spanish instructor at Henry Ford Community College, Dearborn, Michigan (None said they could grow and ironclad case for misuse, but all voted in favor of overuse.)


“Driving forces within the automotive industry that continue to favor plastics, include: Lightweighting.” – LSSU Alumnus Ron Bishop, Lowell, Michigan

(Ron discovered the word as it was used in the June 1995 issue of Plastics World magazine, by the way … congratulations, Ron. You were the first person to use ‘cyberspace’ to submit a nomination.)

Mission/vision statements

“Many companies are wasting incredible amounts of time and effort (and sometimes cash) to define these, with no noticeable benefit.” – Meir Pann, Miami Springs, Florida

More bang for the buck

“This one really grates on my spinal column. I just hate it.” – Eric Brooks, morning show producer at WEAT/WOLL Radio, West Palm Beach, Florida

(Gee, how do you REALLY feel about it, Eric? We heard from others who “felt your pain.”)

O.D.-ing on O.J.

In spite of the attention paid to the O.J. Simpson trial, only a handful of trial-related nominations were offered. Most of the submissions were the ones you would expect, including: O.J. – for over-use. – Billie Rae Bates, Detroit, Michigan

(Many other readers expressed similar sentiments: “Just say NO J.”)

On the same page

“I don’t mind following the game rules, but can’t I read a different book?” – Norma Jean Acker, English teacher, Maple Valley H.S., Vermontville, Michigan. (Also nominated by listeners of David Newman’s show on WXYT, Detroit.)


“Where is the ‘line’ that everyone is on? It sounds like someplace a fish should be – not a computer user.” – Michelle Batterbee, Ellsworth, Michigan

Peacekeeping force

“A truly Orwellian juxtaposition of words. They call it terrorism when perpetrated by freelance criminals.” – Tony Pivetta, Royal Oak, Michigan


“Please stop revisiting issues, ideas, statements, etc. How about revisiting Aunt Martha?” – Jack Pollard, Lansing, Michigan


“Please accept my nomination, due to abuse and overuse of the word ‘robust’ (in the auto industry, only).” – Rob Robinson, Livonia, Michigan

(Rob pulled nine references to ‘robust processes,’ ‘robust materials,’ and ‘robust packaging,’ from the first 13 pages of the Ford Automotive Operations MS-9000 requirements.)

‘Robust’ is used to often to describe various designs. – Carlos Altgelt, Dearborn Heights, Michigan

The race card

Angela M. Otterbein, Bad Axe, Michigan (Many nominations for sidebar came from radio talk shows throughout the country.)

Touch base

“In baseball, base-touching with someone is invariably a BAD thing to do, whether with a teammate or an opposing player.” – F. Willard Brooks, somewhere in “cyberspace.

(Several others touched base with this nomination and want it struck out.)


Examples of its overuse: “upscale homes,” “upscale villages,” “upscale, rural neighborhoods,” even “upscale soft drinks” – Nancy Fletcher, Oscoda, Michigan

“It’s an old, overused, 1980s yuppie expression.” “What’s the opposite of upscale? Downscale?” – David Devries, Kalamazoo, Michigan


“No other word had dominated had. We’ve heard Nirvana unplugged, Mariah Carey unplugged, even KISS unplugged. The word has spread outside the music industry, too – ever see the Muppets unplugged? What about T.V. Bloopers unplugged? It’s ubiquitous.” – Jeff Barak of Minneapolis, Minnesota, through Brian Oake’s morning show on REV 105.

Virtual reality

“Is it, or isn’t it?” – Jean Barnard, Lake Orion, Michigan

Your call is very important to us

“If my call was really important, there would be a real live person to answer the phone, and enough people on duty do one would not be left hanging on hold and functioning as an unpaid telephone operator.” – John Mertes, somewhere in “Cyberspace.”


“When referring to disabled people as ‘physically-challenged’ or others who don’t fit into the homogenous mold of ‘average’. What’s next? Why not classify short or tall people as ‘vertically-challenged,’ or refer to homeless people as ‘habitat-challenged’? Let’s provide warm hats for the ‘follicly-challenged,’ How about ‘vocabulary-challenged’ for the people who come up with these ridiculous euphemisms?” – Anonymous, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Consumer confidence

Nominated by an exasperated Charles Rufino of Dix Hills, New York


“Put this in the Tired Metaphor Category: ‘The senator hopes his constituents will ‘embrace’ the idea.’ To what degree can we expect the physical (metaphorical) action? A mild hug? A gut-wrenching emotion? Enough already! I’m claustrophobic as it is! – Tom Tucker, Grass Lake, Michigan

Family values

“The definition of ‘family values’ has come to mean anything that fits into the right-wing fundamentalists’ agenda. If you don’t fit into that narrow category, you don’t have ‘family values.’ – Michelle Barrerbec, Central Lake, Michigan


“Given the number of people who use ‘given’. I must give in after much give-and-take debate and request that we give the heave-ho to ‘given’ with respect to the ‘given’ usage, even though it may be a ‘given’ a severe blow to their ‘given’ that some people will be ‘given’ a severe blow to their ‘given’ conversational styles.” – Bob Tulloch, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

I feel your pain

Where does it hurt? – Troy Voth, Great Lakes Adventist Academy, Cedar Lake, Michigan


Overused in the news and elsewhere. “Two oxymorons showed up on the same prime-time news broadcast: humanitarian disaster and humanitarian one is the best kind.” – Bill Fitzpatrick, Namaimo, B.C., Canada

(Editor’s Note: We’ve also included “Humanitarian Aid” for its redundancy value. If one gives aid, that person is most likely to be a humanitarian.)

I’m 150 percent behind you

“Perpetuates the greed so apparent in our society – ‘completely’ isn’t enough!” – Linda Schwind, English Chair, St. Martin De Porres High School, Detroit, Michigan

Information superhighway

Where’s my map? Can I pull over for directions? How about a bathroom stop? Are we there yet? – Peter Warner, CJOB Radio, Winnipeg, Man., Canada

Jumbo shrimp

The favorite nomination which seems to have escaped the list until this year. – Tanya Dugree, Kingsford High School, Kingsford, Michigan


Columnist Bob Cudmore of The Record in Albany, NY, recently wrote: “Banish liberal or at least have it declared an obscenity, which is what the word had become. It’s probably better today to be called a Marxist, a Commie, a pinko, a fellow-traveler or a useful idiot …If liberal was deemed obscene by academics and dictionary-makers, maybe conservative talk show hosts, callers, commentators and politicians would be less likely to use the word … Perhaps then, instead of deploring an idea as liberal, conservative speakers would have to explain why they are against it.”


“The word ‘medal’ is a noun … but the misuse of this word by Olympic reporters had become even more common. In addition, I was stunned to learn from one of the Detroit sports reports that the USA athlete who ‘medalled’ in the downhill ski competition also ‘ silvered’. Perhaps the athlete was dipped in a large vat of silver compound for that winning metallic glow?” – Karen Gooze, Westland, Michigan


Do politicians know any other word to describe those with whom they disagree? – Rick Morrow, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

My plate is full

Meaning “I have a busy schedule.” Variations include “I have enough on my plate,” or “I have too much on my plate.” So eat, already! – Ken Behrens, WJBC Radio, Rock Island, Illinois

No parking at any time

Nominated by George Drury or Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who gave special mention to “that Milwaukee favorite: Temporary No Parking Any Time.”

Percent pure

Such as the claims made by certain advertisers about their products. “Either it’s pure, or it isn’t.” – Wayne Montgomery, Goulais River, Ont., Canada


Michele Mooney of Los Angeles, California sent us this abbreviation for post-modern from a dictionary of L.A.-speak. It’s listed as a noun, with the following example: “That mini-mall is a po-mo mess.” Honest. Michele sent us eight pages of examples which she had clipped from newspapers and magazines in L.A., where she says everything is referred to as either pre- or post-riots.

Post-consumer products

“I always wonder where these products come from: a post-mortem, perhaps? – A. Kozlowicz, Dept. Chair, Roseville High School, Roseville, Michigan

(Also nominated were post-modern, post-feminist, post-pubescent, post-shave healer, post-Cold War, post-boomers, and ‘the post-thing’. You get the idea: post in now post-use.)

Pretty bad

(Or pretty ugly) – Nicole Crawford, St. Martin De Porres High School, Detroit, Michigan

Pushing the envelope

This one is enough to make stamps come unglued. – Listener of Peter Warner, CJOB

Slight glitch

Shawn J. Hunter, Heritage High School, Saginaw, Michigan


“As in ‘soft markets,’ when describing a particular commodity with poor sales. Does this mean the steel market will be ‘hard’ when sales increase? Sounds as if the executives are trying to ‘soften’ the news to shareholders if you ask me.” – Ron Bedford, Algoma Steel Ltd., Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

Sudden death

“Used to describe a tie-breaking period in sporting events … but losing the “sudden death” contest is seldom fatal. Why not call it a sudden victory (loss) period?” – Tim Hall, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Target audience

“A delightful combination of oxymoron and mixed metaphor.” – Leonard Wheat, Alexandria, Virginia

To die for

“I love food, but ‘to die for’?” If something is that good, shouldn’t it be: “to live for”? – Lyn Satiskey, Raleigh, North Carolina

Vast majority

Another one which escaped banishment in years past. – Bill Bloemendaal, Holland, Michigan

Warm fuzzy feeling

“An expression used to describe a ‘feel-good-about-everything-and-everybody’ state of mind, but sounds more like the result of having swallowed a gerbil.” – Michael McQuade, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan


“When two or more automobiles collide, it is most often a ‘careless,’ or perhaps a ‘stupidity.’ It could be an ‘inattentive,’ a ‘thoughtless,’ or even an ‘indifferent.’ It is not, as I’m certain police statistics will confirm, an ‘accident.’ Baloney. Either you or the other person had a ‘careless,’ or a ‘stupidity.’” – Mike Raick, Bloomfield, Michigan

Activity co-requisite required

Submitted by Audrey Morley and Dr. Susan Branstner of Lake Superior State University, who note that this phrase has appeared in the LSSU class scheduling booklets to replace the words ‘ laboratory required.”

Always consistent

“Oh, really? Not just some of the time?” – John Rosevear, Milford, Michigan

An historic

“… As in ‘an historic moment.’ Commonly used by news people (print and broadcast). It’s wrong! If this abuse is allowed to continue, the next sound you hear from me will be an hiss!” – Jim Wiljanen, Dewitt, Michigan

Baddaboom, baddabing

For over-use. – George Carlin, Los Angeles, California

Behind closed doors

“One wonders where else the UN Security Council would meet; perhaps on a patio in front of the Empire State Building?” – John Hershey, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

Clearly ambiguous

This phrase is used often in federal student financial aid forms and applications. – Tim Malette, Director of Financial Aid, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan

Dead serious

“While death is certainly a serious business, if you are dead you certainly won’t be able to convince people how serious you may be.” – Caleb Hartmann, St. Mary’s Cathedral High School, Gaylord, Michigan


“Bury it. The dysfunctional family includes all for one reason or another.” – Carol S. Smith, Fairbanks, Alaska

Gathered together

“As opposed to what? Gathered apart?” – Don “String” Kelly, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Giant sucking sound

“That ‘giant sucking sound’ you hear is air displacement as columnist, editors and reporters across the nation rush to their keyboards to make cleaver use of the phrase of the moment, ‘giant sucking sound.’” – Jodie Morris, Publications Editor, California Newspaper Publishers Association, Sacramento, California

Gifting (or gift as a verb)

“What happened to ‘giving?’ ‘Gifting’ is seen in catalogs everywhere. I wonder if the originator is someone who was not in this country born.” – J. Gregory Winn, St. Paul, Minnesota

Gun control

“To me, this means being able to hit your target. I’m tired of hearing how this will solve our crime problems, when it won’t.” – Anonymous LSSU student


“I think that using the masculine pronoun, when no gender is indicated, should be reinstated. Using ‘he/she’ breaks the flow of a sentence, and teachers care more about that than they do about sexual equality.” – Ines Quandel, Central Algoma Secondary School, Desberats, Ontario, Canada

He/she just didn’t get it

“Popularized after the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas debate … It (supposedly) indicates someone’s inability to understand what the rest of us find obvious. “Senator Packwood just doesn’t get it.’ ‘Saddam Hussein just doesn’t get it.’” – David Goldberg, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Helicopters overhead

“Heard often from TV newscasters of the Los Angeles area.” – J.A. Talbot, Grand Terrace, California

More than happy

“If a waiter says he’d be ‘more than happy’ to serve me, I ought to expect him to clap his hands and jump with joy.” – Stephen Mendenhall, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Mother of all …

“This seems to be a Muslim expression. It became popular during the Mideast War and shows no signs of dying.” – Leonard Wheat, U.S. Department of Commerce

New recruit

Ben Szczesny, Muskegon, Michigan


“Ships and trucks used to be ‘unloaded.’ Let’s unload the use of ‘offload’ and only use ‘unload’ when we’re referring to cargo.” – Michael Eliasohn, St. Joseph, Michigan


“This has become the educational buzzword of 1993. I would like to see ‘paradigm lost.’” – Nancy Dean, Stephenson, Michigan

“As in ‘I want to empower a new paradigm of health care.’ It sounds a lot better saying ‘I want to shut down the hospital and let the people get their own aspirin.’” – Bob Cudmore, The Record, Troy, New York

“Not only is it roundly mispronounced, but its meaning has grown to mean everything from ‘example’ to ‘coffee cup.’” – Tom Rademacher, Grand Rapids Press


“… when used as a verb. Remember when a party commemorated a specific occasion with celebration? Today the word (used mostly as a verb – Let’s Party!) has degenerated into a sorry synonym for getting drunk – in any bar, any stadium, any car.” – Jan Shoemaker, English Teacher, Lansing Catholic Central H.S., Michigan

Past experience

C.R. Penson, St. Paul, Minnesota

Politically correct

LSSU had received many nominations for banishment of this phrase and the “idea” of being politically correct. Some of the words and phrases banished during the past few years have been “politically correct” expressions (i.e. Fisherperson in 1992), but “P.C” itself has been left off the list until now. Here are some samples of the calls for nomination:

James B. Whyte of Newmarket Ontario, Canada, said we should continue to use, if not overuse, “politically correct euphemisms such as ‘strategically dehired’ for ‘fired.’ … Used enough times as a term of opprobrium, even the most thoroughly sanitized euphemisms will start to stink, its rigid ‘correctness’ wilting in the light of the truth.”

Tori Cook of MCTV News in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, said, “It’s overused. Besides, most people believe politicians are always wrong.”

Michael Tardif of Lansing Catholic Central High School in Michigan seems to agree with Cook, and said “political correctness and politically correct are oxymorons.”

Nadine Clark of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, said, “Politically correct, politically incorrect … who cares?”


“Corporations don’t restructure anymore, they don’t change direction or focus (another buzzword), they all ‘re-engineer.’” – J.P. Squires, Omaha, Nebraska (LSSU salutes Omaha, the residents of which sent over 100 nominations for this year’s list. They were urged to act by Omaha World Herald Columnist Robert McMorris.)

Reach out

Overused by politicians who ask us to reach out to all sorts of people or ideas which may not be grasped easily. – Ron Karle, East Lansing, Michigan

Columnist Mike Royko, who found hundreds of references to “reaching out” in newspapers, wrote, “I hope this column serves to reach out to public figures and encourages them to shut up about reaching out. This should not become a nation of groupers.”

Reinventing government

“Let’s get rid of any number of politicians who use this expression, along with those who are ‘growing jobs.’” – Joseph Barrett, Berkeley, California

Sketchy details

“An unpardonable contradiction of terms by someone trying to say that information is limited.” – Jack Dietrich, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Skull flattening

“Used by Australia’s Minister for Employment, Education and Training in radio interviews in 1993 to describe cut-backs and job vacancies. The greatest insult since ‘downsizing.’” – Edwin Maher, South Frankston, Victoria, Australia

Stocking stuffer

“Misused and overused. Once described inexpensive trinkets and toys. Now used in advertisements to describe 0 cellular telephones and 0 diamond rings. Stuff the stocking stuffer!” – Trudie Mason, Derek Conlon, Murray Sheriffs, CJAD AM, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Skyrocket and spearhead

“These are non-verbs which should be tossed onto the junk heap.” – Larry Hogue, Corpus Christi, Texas

Stupid (bad) mistake

“Show me a smart (good) one.” – Frank Foley, Boston, Massachusetts

There for me (for you, for us)

“A formula which seems to avoid such words as ‘cares,’ ‘loves,’ and ‘likes.’ It has a ‘hired’ feel to it. ‘Dr. Kervorkian is there for you.’” – Ted DeRose, South Haven Public School, Michigan

Three-three-three …

Jessica Stanaway of Brimley, Michigan, nominated a word which is overused by sports reporters when describing a team which has won three championships in a row. We can’t repeat the words because it’s a trademark held by Pat Riley of the New York Nicks. Stanaway said whenever she hears the word, it makes her what to “thrupchuck.” (She wants to make “thrupchuck” a trademark, too.)

Whoomp, there it is!

“Overused and wasn’t popular in the first place. Sounds stupid and ignorant.” – Joe Clare, Beal City High School, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

Youse or yous

“As in ‘Would youse like coffee?’ … Only in the North American vocabulary.” – Tori Cook, MCTV News, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada


“The former hit TV show ‘thirtysomething’ convinced half of the U.S. population that they are victims of ‘angst’ or just ‘angst-ridden.’ Enough with the ANGST already. It’s making me anxious. Get rid of it. And banish the variations on the theme ‘thirtysomething’ while you’re at it. I’m tired of ‘ fortysomething,’ ‘teenagesomething.’ ‘somethingsomething’ has to give.” – Tom Rademacher, Grand Rapids, Michigan


As in “he died of an apparent heart attack.” It’s “he apparently died of a heart attack.” (Ed.: If the attack were apparent, someone should have noticed.) – Harry Shecter, M.D., Farmington Hills, Michigan


Should be banished as overused. – Norman W. Larson, St. Paul, Minnesota

(Ed.: We’re reasonably supportive of this banishment as in “Bubba is arguably the worst place-kicker in the NFL.”)

As well

“Radio announcers who use the phrase apparently are impressed by their own verbosity. ‘As well’ lacks the succinct dynamism of ‘also’ and the punch of ‘too,’ which it is intended to replace.” – John Pehoski, Lake Superior State University Student, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Bottom line

For terminal overuse. – Sheridan Baker, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Big time

As in ‘he’s doing cocaine big time.” (Ed.: In the big house!)

Cautiously optimistic

“Can you be cautiously reckless, or recklessly cautious? Let’s find a lessbombastic phrase like ‘timidly hopeful’ or ‘hoping timidly.’” (Ed.: We’re cautiously cynical that banishment will be effective.) – David McFarlane, Haslett, Michigan


Should be banished for overuse. “The original meaning of this word has been lost in the media, which blithely gives us such nonsense as the ballet-dancing community; the stock-broking community; the international community (whatever it is) and, my all-time favorite, the intravenous drug-using community.” – Eli Levine, Santa Barbara, California


As in a “heart condition.” What does that mean? (Ed.: We hope, hearts are in good condition.)

Connect or hook up

“I’ll connect or hook up with you later,” and “Thanks for connection (or hooking up) with me.” Good Lord, don’t tell my wife that we “connected.” – J. Gregory Winn, St. Paul, Minnesota 

Customer capital-reduction plan

It means down payment. Why not leave it at that? The only reduction is to your bank account. – Nell Gaball, Marquette, Michigan


As in artwork being “deaccessioned.” This is evidently considered a more-tasteful term than “dumped.” – Gene J. Gilmore, Grand Rapids, Michigan


Needs to go. It isn’t in any dictionary I’ve perused. Yet it is a part of day-in, day-out language.” – Lisse Hill, Ypsilanti, Michigan


And other gender-neutral phraseology. “I am saddened by the passing of MANkind, the huMAN race, the family of MAN, and never again being a chairMAN, alderMAN, or fisherMAN. Fisherperson is unnecessary terminology anyway, given that ‘angler’ already exists. Let’s get rid of ‘political correctness’ and ‘gender neutral’ while we’re at it.” – W. Van Sickle, St. Joseph Island, Ont. Canada

Get with the program

“I reply: ‘it’s being revised,’” (Ed.: correct if addressed to computer operators.) – Wanda Johnson, Wayne, Michigan


When it refers to real estate. Example “home builder.” Others: “Home sales are up.” “An 18th-century home.” “Four homes were destroyed.” These are all institutional references. It’s HOUSE, not home. If you “work outside of the home, “are you employed away from your house, or maintaining the grounds at a mental institution? – Name and address withheld by request.

I see what you are saying

Used by persons with exceptional eyesight and questionable word selection. (Ed.: It’s correct if uttered by a person reading lips.) – Jack Dietrich, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In my humble opinion

Should be banished because it makes me feel abused, amused, misused, confused, suspicious, and nauseous.” – Joan Niederhofer, Frankfort, Michigan

Level playing field

“Is there any other kind?” – Margaret DeChant, Newberry, Michigan


As applied to lay people performing any function whatever in church circles. – Carol Smith, Fairbanks, Alaska

(Ed.: Is there a ministry of snow removal, yet?)


Instead of memento. This mistake is more common in speech than in writing, but a newspaper wrote “officials wanted momentos carved for the 1990 Labatt Brier …” (Ed.: Sounds like a lapse in time.) – Roy Sutton, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Canada

More importantly

“This is the most-overworked phrase in the English language today. What’s worse, it’s grammatically incorrect. Important is an adjective, not an adverb. Translation: this is important; this is more important. Everyone in the U.S.: scholars, media types, politicians, speech writers everywhere, abuse this phrase. Let’s consign this one to the trash can forever.” – Dorothy Powers, WJR Radio, Detroit, Michigan


To mean bad. – Edward X. Tuttle, Southfield, Michigan


(a euphemism for fired)

Talk to Real Live Girls on 900- … (Would you talk to dead girls?); Done Deal: Is that anything like a dead lock?


When we mean supervise or monitor.


“Wouldn’t summary or commentary be better?” – M. June Dohse, Anchorage, Alaska


To mean good.


When used to denote ice cream, time, or merchandise of any kind. “Quality has non anymore because it’s associated with everything from groceries to services and most of the time falls far short of quality.” (Ed.: This qualifies!)

Quality education

“No doubt, higher education define, even quantify this term for their own use. But few if any politicians know what they’re buying with the growing billions of dollars worth of higher education services for which they’re paying. Teaching has become the principal outcome of education, not learning. You can validate this hypothesis by counting the words ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’ in news media coverage of our educators and politicians. This obviates independent learning capabilities as a desired outcome of education because it conflicts with the educators’ goal of indispensability. Ask a shop teacher what time it is and he’ll tell you how to build a clock. “Is it possible that Lake Superior State is a covertly subversive organization? Do you have any idea of the hallowed institutions that are built on jargon?” – Howard Garver, M/SGT retired U.S. Army, Urbana, Illinois


“The baseball term is short for ‘runs batted in.’ Hence RBIs is incorrect. The term, after all, is not ‘runs batted ins.’ Wally Joyner of the California Angels did not have 96 RBIs in 1991. He had 96 RBI. – G.N. Constable, Mansfield, Ohio

(Ed.: And, thanks in part to all those RBI, Wally signed a huge free-agent contract in the off-season with the Kansas City Royals.)


When we mean restriction.

Shallow grave

“Every time the body of a murder victim is discovered in the ground, the news media tell us the body was discovered in a ‘shallow grave.’ What exactly does that mean? How shallow is shallow? Are murder victims ever found in ‘deep’ or ‘average’ graves? Let’s eliminate the cliche. Either tell us how deep the grave was – in feet, inches, meters, etc. – or just report that the body was found buried.” – David W. Downing, St. Paul, Minnesota 

Spousal unit and female brethren

“The author of an article containing both of these phrases is guilty of excessive pseudo gender sensitivity.” – N.O. Stockmeyer, Jr., Lansing, Michigan

Surrounding environs

“Which is a pale redundancy when compared ‘to return back again,’ which I have heard uttered on radio and TV broadcasts.” – Michelle Mooney, Los Angeles, California

The apostrophe

“Get rid of it. Ban it. No one knows how to use it. It is a possessive code mark, not an expression or a word. You cannot purchase 24’s of Apple Crisp or 12’s of your favorite cold capsule. There are no do’s; there are don’t’s. There are no MD’s with special training, nor are there CD’s all in one case. Clothiers do not sell sock’s nor do jewelers deal in 1000’s of items. You might as well banish the apostrophe. Too few Americans have the slightest idea how to use one.”

To be perfectly honest with you

“When someone says that to me, it shows me he has already considered the possibility of lying to me and, for some reason, has discarded it. It also makes me wonder if he’s lied to me before, and now is trying to lead a more moral life. – Dianne Linden, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Ought to be banned, as in ‘let’s be upfront about this.’ It makes me want to upthrow.”

Viable alternative

“This phrase is banned for overuse, resulting in uselessness. The principal meaning of viable is biological: ‘capable of living.’ It has evolved to mean capable of actualization, hence practicable. But its overuse is judged to have degenerated from biological precision to banality. Terminate is viability.” Whenever a politician, educator, coach, or policy analyst cannot explain the status quo, he claims to be seeking one or more “viable alternatives.” Few of these alternatives ever come into being. Everyone is seeking; no one is finding. Alternatives never materialized. Specify the alternatives being considered. Come on, Anglophones, give your alternatives names. Don’t lump or hide them under “viable.” – Prof. Justin Agony, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan


“It’s political double talk, as in ‘We must address that problem.’ Perhaps something would actually get done if people would identify, analyze and resolve problems, not just say ‘howdy’ to them.” – Jack Dietrich, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Apartments now renting

“If apartments can rent, why hire managers?” – Nell Gaball, Marquette, Michigan

Budget/deficit reduction plan

“Get real! The only folks with wallets big enough to tackle America’s deficit are Japanese bankers. We all know how fat their wallets are from the interest alone! Add in new pork-barrel spending programs attached by Congress and what you’ve really go t is a black hole/economic collapse/drag-down plan.” – Nick Sawyer, Escanaba, Michigan

Center median

“As in, “The snow is causing cars to slide into the center median.” Where else could the median be?” – Lucinda Gangler, Durand, Michigan


For planning, rather than dancing.

Close to everything

In the middle of a commercial area

Creative differences

“Hollywood speak for ‘We hated each other’s guts.” – Dale M. Johnson, Cincinnati, Ohio

Dead meat

“About as annihilated as you can get.” (Editor: Meat means edible flesh. Only cannibals are known to find fresh.

Faux pearls or diamonds

“With a certificate of authenticity.” – Marie Pooler, Aurora, Colorado

Handy-man special


If you will

I usually won’t. – William O. Marion, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“A most painful, ear-splitting speech affectation. A day does not pass without hearing it at least a dozen times from every politician, government official, talk show host, newscaster, sportscaster, interviewer, interviewee and pseudo intellectual.”

(Editor: ”If you will” may replace ‘In God We Trust’ as the motto for our ‘kinder, gentler’ and secularized nation.) – Adam E. Klafta, San Diego, California

Longer hours

“Users of this phrase mean ‘more hours’, not longer hours. This is a clear corruption of language and logic”(Editor: A longer hour may be 63 minutes. Watch out workers.) – Marty Bloom, La Jolla, California

Lower level


Mopping-up operation

To refer to a military action. “This is far too friendly a description for a situation where people are being shot. Please eliminate it before we start ‘mopping up in the Middle East.”(Editor: What’s around to mop after the battle? Can you mop-up sand?) – Rick Duerson, Escanaba, Michigan

Mouth-watering prices

“Gosh, even the prices are mouth-watering!”

Multidisciplinary current awareness product

In a news release advertising a research journal from the Institute for Scientific Information, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Anne Woiwode, Lansing, Michigan


The misuse of this reflexive pronoun has been nominated for more than a decade and was banned in 1990. “Please see Mr. Keating (Lincoln Savings and Loan) or myself for any large unsecured loan that you need,” should be “see Charles Keating Jr. or me.” What’s the dodge behind the overuse of myself? The diminishment of personal responsibility? Avoidance of incrimination by self-indulgence? The 1990 worldwide censure failed miserably. Empirical evidence gathered from the press, radio, television (including S-Span) and eavesdropping suggests that myself is disproportionately displacing me in routine usage. The displacement ration is estimated at 5000:1 and maybe expressed, and recalled, if not entirely misunderstood, as E=mc2. E (big Error) = m (me) c (compromised)2 Although no comparable formula had yet been developed, “yourself” and “himself” are fast following “myself” into the helix of misuse. The reflexive pronoun has become a reflex. It appears to be overused or misused by all those who fear being labeled self-serving. It should be termed the “compromise” pronoun. It may also be termed a “refuge pronoun” for those seeking to avoid personal responsibility and any for of accountability and prosecution.


“We have workaholic, spendaholic, shopaholic, chocoholic, foodaholic … popular psychobabble that should be buried alongside the arrogant intellectuals who revel in its use.” – David O’Connor, Willoughby, Ohio

All except

“Entirety can’t have a minus”

Almost exactly

Quoted from Gentlemen’s Quarterly, September, 1989. – Bill Gould, Gladwin, Michigan

Best kept secret

“What has happened to confidentiality? It seems that all over the country, important secrets are being revealed; from the West Virginia official state highway map – ‘America’s best-kept secret; from a Columbia University brochure – Columbia University’s ‘best kept secret(s)’ are the great job opportunities at Columbia Dining Services. Or ‘one of snowmobiling’s best kept secrets: Marquette, Michigan.’ Are we really hearing confessions of previously incompetent advertising? Or desperate attempts to create new categories for the Guinness Book of Records? Or what? (Ed.: We’re not sure, folks. The answer must be another one of those “best kept secrets.” – Jim, Linda, David and Karen Belote Duluth, Minnesota

Climb down

“Climb is up. Down is descend.” – Ben Szczesny, Muskegon, Michigan

Drug Czar

“How about anti-drug czar.” – Ruth Hood, Warren, Michigan

Estates in the names for mobile home parks

“Refinery View Mobile Home Estates.”

Ethics bill

“Congressional expression for ‘pay raise.’” – Jerry Jones, Cincinnati, Ohio

Exact same

Exactly. (Editor: As in “She is the exact same size as I am, large petite.” This phrase was noted in our 1981 list under “Redundancy Alert.” Exact Same now gets a “red alert” and an appropriate banishment.) – Ben Szczesny, Muskegon, Michigan.


New verb – “I hate to hear some one ask , ‘Fax me a copy, will ya?’” (Editor: sounds like what Jack Webb was always seeking on “Dragnet.” “Just the fax, ma’am.” Will some company develop a faster fax, a super fax? A fax tax? A mad fax? OK, Max.) – Ronald R. Watcke, Detroit, Michigan.

Filmed before a live studio audience

(added 1983*, added 1987*, added 1990*)

“The alternative is a bit grisly.” – Ruth A. Hood, Warren, Michigan

From the desk of

“Note pads with this vanity caption. I have seen a lot of desks … never one that can write a note.” From the hand of: David O’Connor, Willoughby, Ohio.


“We can grandfather those items in the labor agreement.”


(The most nominations) – “The effect of a sledge hammer has on a brick wall, or a car on a utility pole. Those who use it otherwise probably don’t know the difference between ‘effect’ and ‘affect.’” (Ed.: Too many times we’re subjected to a radio or television news reader saying something like: “We’ll soon know how we’re to be impacted by the rising costs of groceries.” Perhaps the impact of a good slap in the head would curtail such irritating misuse of language.) – Dave Summers, Holly, Michigan

Large size petites

“If you can have a large size small items, can you have small size large items?” – Beverly J. Welch, Holly, Michigan


“Ugly, ugly word; often mispronounced … visions of four lips stuck together, or an infected lip being treated, or having verbal influence, pull in high places.” – Nadine Clark, Dearborn Heights, Michigan

Maximum leader

“Nice try, General Noriega. It’s a dictator.” Name Withheld By Request, New York, New York.


“Sorry, but you cannot ‘messenger’ anything, anywhere. Messenger is a noun. Why not use a simple verb, ‘send’ or ‘deliver?’” – Carolyn P. Beeker, Charlotte, North Carolina

A mind is a terrible thing to waste

(Several nominations) – “A mind is not a terrible thing; however, it is a terrible thing to waste a mind.” – Maryann McKie, Troy, Idaho

Minor emergency clinic

“Either something is an emergency, or it isn’t.” – Carol A. McClendon, Fort Worth, Texas

The more you buy, the more you save

“Well, honey, how much should I buy?” “Gee, I don’t know sugarplum. Just keep buying until you think you have saved enough.” – Rick Duerson, Escanaba, Michigan

Mute point

Should be MOOT. (Ed.: Unless you’re a mime using a pencil, or a bird-hunting dog.) – Bill Ziegler, Troy, Michigan


“Boofy, Weenie and myself saw another flying saucer last night.” Incorrect Use “.” (Ed.: You should check the dictionary for yourself.) – Helen Larson, Creighton, Nebraska

Outstate Michigan

“This seemingly-innocuous word (OUTSTATE) grates on my sensibilities like fingernails across a blackboard … The implication being that Detroit IS Michigan and the rest of the Michigan land mass is out of the state … What’s Detroit? Instate? … Big city newspapers and “downstate” legislators are the worst offenders … even the Governor is guilty! It’s time us “UP-STATERS” band together and put “OUT-STATE” in its final resting place. Buried forever! (OUT OF STATE) – Yvonne Carlson, Ludington, Michigan

These ones

“Makes me cringe. Why not say what you mean? These socks, these knees, or just plain these.” – Nell Gaball, Marquette, Michigan


“And its feeble first cousin “thusly.” Eliminate this useless, pretentious stall word and all of its thoughtless cousins such as “and what not” and all readers and listeners will be spared hundreds of hours of wasted time.” – David J. Yarington, Orono, Maine


“Used inappropriately by those who don’t use English properly, let alone French.” – Larry McConnell, Sturgis, Michigan

Wanted: part-time person

“What is the person the rest of the time?” (A part time squid?) – Fanet K. Brice, Baraboo, Wisconsin


“As in, ‘YO DUDE’” (Ed.: Remains correct when repeated, yo-yo)

Alcohol-related drunk driving

What other kind is there?

Aussie alert

Mate, Spark Up The Barbie, Too Right – and all the other Australian slang: Aussiisms creeping like crocodiles into North Americans English. Send them back down under to die in the outback. – Susie O’Donnell, a.k.a. The Sooze, Willowdale, Ontario


A cheap catch phrase for people born during a population explosion of their own making. – Dave Frownfelder (News Director), Mike Clement (Sports Director), WLEN Radio, Adrian, Michigan

Catastrophic health insurance

A contradiction in terms. Even if it isn’t, I sure don’t want to buy insurance to make certain that I acquire catastrophic health. I have enough problems as it is. – Karl Zipf, Walla Walla, Washington


Anything classic. Although you banned this in 1982, it has escaped the sportscaster’s lexicon. It now permeates national advertising! Coca Cola has “NEW” Coke banging on “CLASSIC” Coke, which of course is OLD Coke. Students were told about Shakespeare, Van Gogh, and Beethoven classics. Their ad-choked minds may equate classics to “Nude Descending a Staircase – With Coke,” or “The Thinker – With Hamburger,” Or “To Eat Or Not To Eat – That’s the Indigestion.”

Cold glass of beer

Who cares about the temperature of the glass? – Called into the City Desk Show, Joe Easingwood, C-Fax Radio, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


Used by real estate agents because it’s fancier than dead end; means: last street to be plowed after a snow storm. – Bruce Gemmel, Georgetown, Ontario, Canada

Cult classic

Late-night televised movies. “I was a Zombie,” “Teenage Zombie,” “I was a Zombie for the F.B.I.,” “Zombie High School,” “Zombie Surfers Can’t Die.” Presumably these are classics to Zombie Cults.


Used as a verb by sportscasters. “Bubba O’Sullivan is a quarterback who is though to defense.” Use the verb DEFEND. When I hear that folks are DEFENSING, I expect to see a work crew removing lengths of fencing. Will the fences around the stadium eventually disappear? – Robert M Anderson, Chelsea, Michigan


Jeans, blouses, perfume, coats, windows. A designer is the one who plans who designs, who makes original sketches, patterns, scenes. If someone actually drew upon your entire lower body then you could claim to display designer jeans, or a massive tattoo. – Charles Riley, Mansfield, Ohio


Sounds like the high priest of an offshoot Eastern religion. “I went to the high mountain to commune with His Holiness the Docudrama.”


This hybrid, drama/comedy, of the “Moonlighting” genre, sounds like a camel with the shingles.”

Enclosed please find

If it’s enclosed any idiot can find it. – Rosemary K. Burroughs, Bryan, Texas


The downwind “freshness” of many farms reveals this is an ill-chosen term. (Hey there shopper, even been to a farm?) – Jack Dietrich, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Forced relaxation

A modern behavior management technique used on children. Similar to the old fashion “stand in the corner.” According to the descriptive material submitted: “The child is quickly restrained … restricted to a chair or floor … must stay there for a minimum of three minutes PLUS 10 quiet seconds … no struggling before release … Be careful to use ONLY the amount of pressure necessary to maintain the child in the forced relaxation position … be ever ready to reapply the pressure should your child begin again to resist.” (Could adults benefit from this modern technique at the end of a tough day?) An Orwellian oxymoron. – Mary Sullivan, Marquette, Michigan

Fresh baked

How else do you bake it? – John T. Brown, Mansfield, Ohio

Fresh donuts

“We make ‘em fresh every day.” Could they make them stale? (Probably. But who would want stale donuts?) – Jerome Blattner, Lima, Ohio

Fresh frozen

Is “stale thawed” the result? – Robert M. Sage, Ft. Myers, Florida

Glove compartment

Great-Granddad stopped putting his driving gloves in a glove compartment around 1910. We can’t have archaic and eat it too. – Ivan Evasivitch, Chicago, Illinois

Good hands

“He’s got the good hands.” Could be a baseball player, or a football player. Which does a nose tackle need: good hands, or small nostrils? Could he be a tight end with good hands? Are there any loose ends with bad hands? Let’s give ‘em all a hand, with our good hands. – Jim Cook, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada


As an adjective. What, or whom, does “gourmet-flavor” cat food taste like? – George H. Drury, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Hand-blown glass

As a frequent patron of craft shows, I have yet to find any mouth-blown glass. Can craftsmen’s hands do tricks that we don’t know about? – John T. Brown, Mansfield, Ohio

Handicap parking

Is this where you park your disability? – Joanne D. Denko, M.D., Rocky River, Ohio


Another Hybrid, information/entertainment, a Geraldo Rivera specialty. Sounds like a government policy to stem the spread of communism by flooding Third World countries with free copies of The Reader’s Digest. – Keith C. Krahnke, Paradise, Michigan

Ink pen

Is this used to avoid confusion with pig pen? – Ken Terpstra, Jenison, Michigan

Managing terrorism

Book title. Good trick if you can do it. (Must be an autobiography.) – Nadine S. Kapper, Alta Loma, California

Mini series

A movie that has been hacked up because it’s to long, or too boring to show in its entirety on one night. A MINI SERIES should be a series which looks (and looks) at women’s skirts.

Or whatever

When the words won’t come and you’re living on the jagged edge of linguistic endurance, simply insert OR WHATEVER. Here in Canada it’s a kind of hamburger extender for a lean lexicon. – Ron Jeffels, Richmond, British Columbia


On road signs. (If feet are crossing the road, what’s attached? Pretty, Exotic Dancers?) See spin Doctor. – Bob Bates, Columbus, Ohio.

Pizza pie

Why call a pie a “pie-pie?” Fie on the double pie, even if it’s thick crust. – Beverly Murray, Cranford, New Jersey


A funeral home in Gulfport, MS, asks people to do pre-planning. (Probably for their predestination.) – Kathryn H. Stine, Gautier, Mississippi

Prostrate gland

This is not a gland that bows or kneels in adoration; nor does it throw itself on the earth face down. It’s not prostRate. It’s prostate. There is no R in this gland. – Edwina L. Wilkinson, R.N., New Baltimore, Michigan

Pseudo Spanish

Folks out here say “hasta la bye bye” and “hasta lumbago” for “hasta la vista.” This reflects a bad attitude, know here as a TUDE. – Denise M. Brummel, Redondo Beach, California

Quarts watches

Store sign reported in Boston. Could I buy a half-gallon watch? Would it cost me less to buy a pint-size watch? – M.E. O’Rourke, Dorcherster, Massachusetts


This little gem comes from educators, the same functional illiterates who use the word competency.

Read my lips

You should have used my 1987 entry. If it had been banned last year, we would not have had to listen to this throughout the 1988 campaign. In the interest of forging a kinder and gentler nation, I am withdrawing my 1987 suggestion that the lips of all political candidates be fattened up for easier reading. – Michael Locke, Mt. Clemens, Michigan

Scratch biscuits

All of the fast-food outlets now put my breakfast on one of these. It makes me wonder if these products are made form dandruff or fleas. I can also buy steakbiscuits and hambiscuits. If these things grow on a cow, or pig, they must grow where I can’t see them. – Lou Vodopya, Nashville, Tennessee

Soft wheel infrastructure system

Bureaucratic lingo gone mad. Use highways. – Chris Thompson, Duluth, Minnesota

Sound bite

Must refer to the words that a successful candidate will have to eat after the election. – Keith C. Krahnke, Paradise, Michigan

Spin doctor

This must refer to a terrific slam dancer with an M.D. Or does it describe a nice move to the hoop by Julius Erving? What kind of illness can be treated this way, vertigo? – M. DeChant, Newberry, Michigan

Supermarket fresh

This applies to Supermarket donuts? (May be better than farm fresh.) – Henry F. Lauber, Ferguson, Missouri

Total capacity of this room limited to 100 persons

Probably developed by sign makers paid by the letter. Redundant! Total, capacity and limit all have the same meaning. “THIS ROOM” on a sign in a room is also unnecessary, as a sign for the next room wouldn’t be posted in this room. The noun, persons, is superfluous, unless the locals are apt to bring elephants along for a meal.” “Capacity 100” is sufficient for most reasonable, reasoning human beings. – Joseph S. Bommarito, Portage, Michigan

Tough road to hoe

Don’t use a hoe on roads. A hoe is too small and the road is too wide; too tough to hoe. Use a hoe to make rows in fields of soft dirt, but not on a playing field. It’s a tough ROW to hoe, by the Joe. – Vince Greiner, Hart, Michigan.

Wise old adage

I thought ADAGE meant wise old saying. This means, wise, wise, old, old saying; even Ann Landers gets this one wrong. – M.W. Connell, Grosse Pointe, Michigan


This little dandy lurks in the field of espionage, waiting to jump out at us. Crypto equipment is zeroized, rather than reset. Educators could use this euphemism for fail, as in, “Mrs. Jones, your son Johnny has been Zeroized.” (We thought it referred to Little Orphan Annie’s invisible pupils.) – Robert E. Smading, Bellevue, Washington

A tad

As in “ a tad nippier” or “lower your end just a tad.” “A ‘tad’ is a little child, especially a boy.” – George Constable, Mansfield, Ohio


As on the back of Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion (the extra strength variety) “which I would like banished before it gets too popular.” – Denise M. Brummel, Hammond, Indiana


As in “arguably the best boxer.” “A non-source source in support of the writer’s personal opinion.” – James M. McDonald, Jr., Seattle, Washington


As in football. Announcer: Their quarterback audibleized at the line; i.e., he “called signals.” “This makes me want to silencize my TV and turn on the part that is picturized.” – Glenn Ickler, Framingham, Massachusetts

By and large

“This means nothing; but politicians use it to imply vast research resulting in profound thought.” – Art Pickering, Toronto, Canada


Replacing “patients.” “Maybe this means they can charge more.” – Nicholas Naff, Las Vegas, Nevada

Colorize and colorization

“It is bad enough that Ted Turner damages classic films; his disrespect for the language is equally reprehensible. What he means is, “color.” – Paul H. Toepp, Detroit, Michigan


As in “are you comfortable with this?” “I’m tired of hearing this every time an idea is presented.” Makes you uncomfortable? – Jo Ann Krause, Grand Marais, Minnesota


As on Wang Laboratories invoice. “And it cost me 4, but would it cost less if Wang simply removed it or took it out?” – John A. Boll, Detroit, Michigan

Filmed before a live studio audience

“Do they film before dead studio audiences?” – Isabel Grasby, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Foreign imports

“If these have had such a devastating impact on our economy, I shudder to think about the dire consequence of domestic imports.” – T. A. Quinn, Louisville, Kentucky

Half dead

“How is this measured? Why not 1/3 dead, or 18/32; or, if an athlete, 120% dead?” – Lou Vodopya, Nashville, Tennessee

Hands on participatory experience

Meaning, “it’s OK to touch it.” “Destined to fuzz the minds of all English-speaking children.” – John C. Sherwood, Battle Creek, Michigan

I.R.A. account

“Unless you are the Irish Republican Army this is one ‘account’ too many.” – Edward R. Bolt, Grand Rapids, Michigan

I’m talkin’… here

As in “I’m talkin’ baseball, here.” “We’re talkin’ grammar, here!” – Charlotte Head, Nepean, Ontario, Canada

In his words

As in a new reporter quoting the prime minister. “How else would he say it? Would he rent lips?” – Saul Jacobson, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Medical speak

The following phrases turned up again and again in the nominating letters. In previous years bureaucrats, journalists, or educators have inspired the major nominations. This year it’s the people at what Sid Caesar called “The Doctor Place.” However, one suspects that it isn’t the doctors and nurses who invent these silly terms, but administrators and those who write the glossy pamphlets one finds in waiting rooms.

My work in the structure of baseball

As in statement by Jack Morris of the Detroit Tigers: “.2 million is a lot of money, but it doesn’t fit into my work in the structure of baseball.” What he means is, “My job,” but that wouldn’t be worth even .2.

Neonatal unit

This is where they put new baby patients in hospitals instead of a nursery. And, what ever happened to Bye Baby Bunting? – Henry Ward, Detroit, Michigan

Partly sunny

“Does this mean a partial eclipse?” – Daryl Huggard, Bay City, Pupil of Bruce Peasley, Handy High School

Pleaded innocent

Which is simply wrong. “There hasn’t been an ‘innocent’ plea for more than 200 years. A defendant pleads ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ since he is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. – Attorney Thomas H. Edwards, Austin, Texas

Potential hazard

“Of course, a hazard is a potential danger.” – James H. Lindsay, Burnaby, B.C., Canada

Same difference

“The only thing worse would be ‘the same identical difference.’” – Gregory C. Carter, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


Government talk for certain budget cuts. “To me, it has something to do with jury selection.” – Phil Arkow, Cascade, Colorado

Shower activity

“Why not say ‘rain.’” – Jim Althof, Seattle, Washington


“I gag on this because it sounds like the drainage from the sinus passages, as in sewer/sewage. Is ‘signage’ more expensive that just plain signs?” – C. B. Sutton, Westerville, Ohio

ANSWER: Yes! And it takes up to three times as long to engage in “signage” as it does to order and put up “signs.”

The health care delivery system/industry

“Why don’t we have them deliver have a pint of health to our door each morning. – John Jolly, Seattle, Washington

The patient did not fulfill his wellness potential

“This statement not only obscures the fact that the patient died, but places the blame squarely on the patient for this inexcusable failure.” – Emmet Donnelly, Detroit, Michigan

There you go

Recipient of furthest-and-fastest-travel-cliche-award for 1986; probably derived from Pres. Reagan’s similar expletive. “I first encountered this in upper Michigan when a waitress said it every time she served something. I was restrained from ‘going’ each time by my companions. Then I returned to the West Coast and in a few weeks it entered into every commercial transaction.” – Eli Levine, Summerland, California

Tuna fish

Why Tuna ‘fish,’ but not “trout” fish? – Elizabeth A. Levie, Santana High School, Santee, California

Turned up missing

“If they ‘turn up’ how can they be missing?” – Ann Rady Rabe, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan


Replacing “health.” The traditional parting thus becomes, “Go in good wellness.” – Mrs. F. A. Simon, East Lansing, Michigan

You can’t take nothing with you

“Which may be true, but this is a double negative, even when uttered by Chicago Mayor Harold Washington whose predecessors found investigations ‘fruitworthy’ and disliked ‘insinuendos.’” – Denise M. Brummel, Hammond, Indiana. Unicorn Hunters’ official Chicago Mayor Watcher.


As in “inflation busters” and “crime busters.” Drawn from movie world, and applied to almost everything in great tradition of “-arama” (“Crime-arama,” and “Sex-arama”) and “Anatomy of a—“ (“Anatomy of an Opera” and “Anatomy of a Toaster.”)

Bruce Peasley’s English Class at Handy High, Bay City, Michigan, asks if “bare naked” is opposed to “clad naked”?

Up to speed

Is running rampant in government fisheries management administrations. Zap it now or it will zap you. E.g. “The president isn’t up to speed on the budget,” meaning, “He doesn’t know what’s going on.” – John Maiolo, Greenville, North Carolina

Holiday Nog

Instead of egg nog. Let us return the egg to its proper place in Christmas. – Terrence Sweeny, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

In der tat

Which means “indeed.” The latter was also nominated by many from the U.S.A. and Canada, including Bryan Szabo of Eugene, Oregon, who describe it as “the most overused word of the year; indeed, of the century.”

In diesem unseren lande

A cliche meaning “in this, our country,” as used by Chancellor Helmut Kohl and likened on The Cloy Scale to Nixon’s “My fellow Americans.”


And it’s various forms. Of 3,000 nominations received from as far away as Japan and Saudi Arabia, hundreds cited “mandate.” Not all were from disgruntled Democrats. There was a general complaint that politicians use “mandate” to overstate justification for their actions or proposals. “Mandate,” could in some instances mean, “I’ve had two long phone calls on this subject.” Tired, misused, abused and often redundant as “a mandatory law.” – Wayne Saddler, San Jose, California

Mandate – n. 1. commission given to one nation by an associated group of nations to administer the government of a backward territory. 2. pol. policy instruction by electors to legislators. 3. a command. 4. Roman Law. decree by emperor.


And it’s various forms. Of 3,000 nominations received from as far away as Japan and Saudi Arabia, hundreds cited “mandate.” Not all were from disgruntled Democrats. There was a general complaint that politicians use “mandate” to overstate justification for their actions or proposals. “Mandate,” could in some instances mean, “I’ve had two long phone calls on this subject.” Tired, misused, abused and often redundant as “a mandatory law.” – Wayne Saddler, San Jose, California

Mandate – n. 1. commission given to one nation by an associated group of nations to administer the government of a backward territory. 2. pol. policy instruction by electors to legislators. 3. a command. 4. Roman Law. decree by emperor.

Near miss

Should be “near hit” because it didn’t nearly miss, it actually did miss. – Robert D. Hancock, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

No & hearts (as symbols)

Two common symbols are banished – The international road sign of a circle with a line through it meaning “No …”; and hearts meaning “love.” Preston Turengano of San Diego, California, said the road sign was okay on highways, but should never be used for “No burping.”


We have not had a simply “crowded” prison here in Tennessee since 1982. I can grasp the concept of too much of a good thing, as “over-paid”; but I can’t comprehend too much of a bad thing, as “over-poor” or “over-hurt.” – James L. Knight, Nashville, Tennessee

Quality time

As distinguished from “quantity time” is always applied by the fulfilled woman to explain the time they devote to their families. “Quality time” is what we see in the movies – smiling, laughing, having a food fight; tossing one’s child in the air with wild abandon. Unfulfilled women, on the other hand, simply slop through with quantity tie. – Sandra M. Louden, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania


When used as a noun. E.g. “This book is a good read.” Book critics should know better. “Read” is a verb. – Rudy Simons, Oak Park, Michigan

Self-contained reversing verb

As “off-loading,” “up-tick,” and “debrief.” A new category of word banishment contributed by Ed Shoop, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Significant write down

As used in The Wall Street Journal, means “a big loss.” – Frank Hand, East Lansing, Michigan

Star Wars

As applied to military defense system, gives the impression of actually having a meaning; but it has no meaning whatsoever. – Joseph J. Dary, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Vertical access device

Is bureaucracy talk for elevator. – John Constantino, East Lansing, Michigan

Visually eyeball the runway

NASA announcer-talk as space shuttle pilots prepared to land. Nominated for Tautology of the Year Award. – Paul Nolan, Athens, Ohio


From the whimsy of “Valleyspeak.” Where it was amusing, this word now appears regularly in print and broadcast: Detroit Free Press, New Yorker, Newsweek, the latter using it to describe a baseball pitcher. I find it preposterous to believe that all these writers are observing truly awesome performances, people or events on such a widespread scale. – Elnora S. Vader, Escanaba, Michigan

The Unicorn Hunters banish “awesome” for one year, during which it is to be rehabilitated until it means “fear mingled with admiration or reverence; a feeling produced by something majestic …”


Used to upgrade pauses. – June Marx, Farmington Hills, Michigan


Further complicated on NBC-TV news, Oct. 4, 1983, when Chris Wallace explained visuals that there was a build-down rate of 2-1 and 3-2. Pat Kight of Corvallis, Oregon, classifies “build-down” as “unwholesome terminology for an etymological impossibility describing a political improbability.”


A legitimate word led down the garden path and mugged by mobs of copycats too lazy to find their own words.


Has burst out like a pandemic disease, infecting newspapers, TV and radio. Mayor Koch is feisty; Congresswoman Fenwick is feisty; even Mary Poppins was in danger of becoming feisty. – Al Volpe, Woodside, New York

Frontal nudity

How fine must the distinctions be? Is there a “backal nudity,” “testicular nudity,” or “left buttocks nudity”? It would seem that qualifications are no longer needed. We’ve gone about as far as we can go.

High tech

Used by politicians, advertisers, and educators to signify nothing except a vague jumble of concepts which they favor. Its most important contribution to the world of jargon is it s potential for grammatical formulations. Does one use high tech like a wrench? Or operate it like a bulldozer? Practice it like a religion? Was high tech invented, developed, discovered or manufactured? – Fritz Bhalli, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

If you will

I usually won’t. – William O. Marion, Ann Arbor, Michigan

In other words

Why not say what you mean the first time? – Ken Behrens, Bloomington, Illinois

Make babies

Particularly from the word processors or cutesy gossip columnists who have suddenly infested the nation’s newspapers. – Eugene Black, San Francisco, California

New Kid On The Street (Block)

The first usage of I heard applied to adults in new lines of work was merely irksome. When it is used over and over by politicians, businessmen and others I stop listening to what follows.” – Margaret Smedgaard, Racine, Wisconsin

Oh, well

Usually used to change the subject; but it weakens the previous statement, however strong. – Christine Gerber, 10th Grade, Fairview Area Schools, Michigan

Realtime downlink video

In NASA talk (Dec. 4 space shuttle report) this means “current pictures.” – Greg Borgman, WKBZ, Muskegon, Michigan

Terminal cuteness

The obnoxious and indiscriminate use of hearts on bumper stickers and badges. – Milt Ferguson, Hillsdale, Michigan

Time/space fillers

Unnecessary, usually trite words thrown in from time to time because the speakers or writer is afraid of silence or shorter sentences.

User friendly

From the folks who have given us “up” meaning functioning and “down” meaning broken. – Edward C. Loyer, University of Michigan

All songs

With monetary references of less than $5. Such small change is meaningless during present state of inflation. “Pennies from Heaven,” for example, is excluded, but “I Found a Million Dollar Baby in a Five and Ten cents Store” is allowed if cents is changed to “dollars” which is also more realistic. – Everett Hoffman, New York City, Nominator

And how are we today?

Chirped by nurses in blinding white uniforms.

Kay Psyk, DeSoto, Wisconsin, points out that “this phrase is not in general used by younger members of the profession.”


According to Brenda Gorges of New London (Wisconsin) Senior High School: “You can’t even figure out what it means. It’s stupid. ‘Bummer would be sufficient.’”

But you shouldn’t feel that way!

Gerry Walsh, Ormond Beach, Florida.: “This is such a senseless statement. It solves nothing, especially for its victim, who was vulnerable enough to open up his innermost thoughts and feelings. How devastating to have our entrusted emotions minimized as trivial!”

Conceptualize and conceptualization

Advertising agency, business conference, and bureaucratic jargon for “think up” or “idea,” as in “Is this match book cover you conceptualization?” or “Lets conceptualize a new model,” as overheard at the London Chop House (Detroit) bar most afternoons. Nominator Joan Nevala, Austin, Texas.

Deception phrases

These are frequently employed to cover up actual meaning, or lack of facts in press conferences, news releases, keynote addresses, and talks.

He’s some kind of a (quarterback) ...

Ford Wolfertz, Montclair, New Jersey: “Everybody is some kind of something to someone, even athletes, though perhaps only to their mothers.”

Highway user fee

Bruce Peasley, Handy High School instructor, Bay City, Michigan, say means “gasoline tax.”

Lah-de-dah banishments

For the over-application of words with otherwise limited meanings:


Banished to union contract negotiators for six months.

G. Howard Gillelan, Royal Oak, Maryland: “often used when ‘wording’ is meant.” Acceptable, however, if the contract is written partially in Latin or Polish.

Office effectivity

University of Michigan assistant registrar Edward C. Loyer found this in several departmental reports, including: “Overall office effectivity improvement will come only through increased automative support.” This means: “We need new equipment.”

Out there

As in “There are thousands of people out there.”

Roy Sutton, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, asks: “Out where?”


Received more nominations than any other word, reflecting, perhaps, dissatisfaction with the results rather than the actual word. Some pointed out that the President never used the term. – Michael R. Moloney, Lexington, Kentucky

“It wasn’t invented by the president, he doesn’t know what it is, nobody understands it, and it isn’t working.”

Daniel L. Bammes, Salt Lake City, Utah: “Nobody at home or abroad knows what it is.”


Often “sent” by foreign powers, or political opponents.

E. Delores Dickey, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada: “Do they use Boy scout signal flags? Don’t diplomats ‘talk,’ ‘discuss’ or converse’?”


One year probation. Popularized by the Polish Workers, movement of the same name, “solidarity” is good old American Labor Movement, as in the song, “Solidarity Forever,” quite often sung at contemporary labor rallies.

Dan DeBono of Wayne State University and Mt. Clemens, Michigan: “It had been overused since the polish crisis, and should be forbidden members of athletes’ labor unions.”

Sports jargon

Sometimes creeps into real life talk, as “first time ever,” which in recent years moved from sporting reports to page one to editorial pages.

State of the art

Which is applied to everything from plastic garbage to the Mona Lisa.

Denny MacGougan, Tacoma, Washington, points out “latest design” or “modern” would suffice.

Alexander Haig

U.S. Secretary of State, because of his misuse and abuse of the English Language over an extended period (even longer, when listening), his convoluted syntax, and his apparent use of confusing English to avoid answering questions he wishes unanswered, is herewith Forbidden the Use of English (oral and written) and required to communicate in classical Latin for six months probation. – Some of his favorite phrases: counterproductive (they aren’t doing what I want them to do), value judgment (I don’t agree), maturation (getting old), and: I think the issue is that we do have a tendency to indulge in episodic preoccupation, if you will, with one another on the strategic horizon. (??!!)

Appall and obviously

Michele Mooney – of Los Angeles, California. Book Editor art Seidenbaum noted on one of the pages, “Appalling, indeed.” Collection assembled over seven months. – stapled to her letter of nomination more than eight pages of sentences and paragraphs which she had clipped from newspapers (mostly, Los Angeles Times) which included “obviously,” 205 times and “appalling,” 132. She complains that this “shows a total lack of imagination on the part of the writers.” As you may deduce, we, too, are distressed.


Every new tournament “in any sport is automatically labeled a ‘classic’ by its promoters.” -Cynthia Pappas.- “The initial game between two lackluster teams is advertised as the ‘First Annual Boredom Classic’ : – Cynthia Pappas, Caldwell, New Jersey

First time ever/all-time record

These two phrases were born on the sports pages, moved to page one, and were indecently exposed on the hallowed editorial pages. It is only a matter of time before they are united into a single monster of redundancy and inaccuracy.

Nominated by John Matheson of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with the comment, “If a record stands for all-time, OK. But if it is broken tomorrow, or the day after, or the next year, or 1988, then the all-time doesn’t stand the test of time.”

Harya Doone

“Is this,” asks Bob Crawford of New York City, “Lorna Doone’s brother?” He ranks it with “gonna.” So say we all!

Hot water heater

“Since when does hot water need to be heated?” – Nominated by anonymous listener to Rob Westaby, WOWO Radio, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Malcolm Baldrige

U.S. Secretary of Commerce, has speeded the nation’s commerce with Washington by fearless banishment from the Department of such phrases as “to liaison with,” “to task out,” “and that’s what it’s all about,” more than two “alternatives” and “in terms of;” – These nominations by the secretary as the worst of a much longer list have all been accepted by the Unicorn Hunters for 1982 banishment. and ordered his word processors (typewriters with pseudo brains) programmed to refuse to print them. For this and other heroic deeds he is dubbed the first Knight Sans Pareil of the Unicorn Quest (with sword): Sir Malcolm of Potomac.


For “importing.” – “If I buy an imported car I am a traitor. If Ford or Gm buy parts in Haiti or Bangladesh, the ae ‘off-sourcing.’” – Donald Smith, Detroit, Michigan

Patriate and patriation

“Coined by Canadian Federal politicians after they discovered that ‘repatriation’ meant being returned to one’s native land, and unfortunately didn’t apply to our own constitution.” – The Sault (Ontario) Star in announcing the winners of their word banishment elimination nominations.

Nominator Susan Metzger added: “Everyone is sick of the word.” The Canadian government has asked the British Parliament to “patriate” a constitution for Canada, a document our neighbors to the north do not have, at the moment.


Can mean “dump.” “Repository” it its use as an euphemism for “dump.” – Dan Bammes, KRSP Radio, Salt Lake City, Utah

Retarded/terminal illness

As being dangerously misleading and over emphatic statements. RETARD means “to gradually make smaller. I know that my daughter’s brain will not get smaller. I also know that with proper stimulation she will be able to learn and to understand much more than we believe possible. Give the mentally handicapped a little help by banishing a very old word which we no longer apply in today’s society. – Christa Buchan of Regina, Sack. Canada

TERMINAL ILLNESS is not “terminal” until the point of death. “Because of a serious illness – the active phrase of which is usually fatal – I am now living with a ‘chronic illness.’ It is being successfully treated but cannot be cured.” – “A friend, as I was recovering, encouraged me to look at words as the symbols they are. He pointed out that until the point of death a disease isn’t terminal but only life threatening. I have found this picture easier to live with. Many people with serious illnesses might help themselves a lot if they could only appreciate how words can affect them.” – E. Delores Dickey, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

Revenue enhancement

Simply means “increasing taxes.” – Nominated by Joseph F. Powers, Jr., Whitmore Lake, Michigan

Sit on it

Teenager Dan Latimore says this is “one of the most stupid phrases in the English language.” Dozens of our nominators agreed. So do we. His teacher, Janice Miller of New London (Conn.) Senior High School, encouraged her class to submit nominations, as did teachers in many other schools. Almost all such nominations were excellent.

World class

Which has come to mean everything . . . and nothing; from “salmon dish” (Detroit News Sunday Magazine) to “swindler” (Washington Post).

Campaign rhetoric

A misleading expression used by politicians to play down the fact that they were lying. – e.g., Detroit’s Mayor Coleman Young: “When I called him ‘pruneface’ that was campaign rhetoric. In the future I’ll call him ‘ President Pruneface.’”


As one of many airport and airplane public address words with which passengers have expressed discontent. Perhaps the heart of the matter is not words per se, but constant repetition of the news that “if your plane falls into the sea your seat cushion will float even if you don’t.” – Charlotte Kratt, Birmingham, Alabama, nominator

Exact same

Which is not to be confused with “Same difference,” generally used in satirical vein. – Kathleen S. Painter, Fort Collins, Colorado, nominator

For sure

In place of “yes.” – Dick Longworthy, Chicago, Illinois, nominator, who said, “Can one imagine Molly, in the final titanic lines of ‘Ulysses,” crying, ‘For sure! For sure!’?”


Does this refer to third rate entertainers worthy of being pelted with ripe fruit? The word appears to have been coined by Chicago’s Mayor Jane Byrne who hoped on radio that “the investigation will prove fruitworthy.” – Chicago Tribune, December 1, 1980 – However, the chicago Tribune (January 4, 1981 editorial: A Fruitworthy Discourse) maintains that this is a good word. “More generally, the quality of fruitworthiness is a mixture of accomplishment and rightness of purpose. And in this sense, Mayor Byrne’s use of ‘fruitworthy’ was ‘fruitworthy’ indeed . . . In a city where the late Mayor Richard J. Daley praised the labyrinthine O’Hare Airport as the ‘crosswords’ of the nation and said he resented the ‘innuendos’ of his critics, she upholds a grand tradition as well.”


As in a Detroit Free Press death notice.- James Sandry, Farmington Hills, Michigan, nominator

Moral majority

“I’m not sure how moral they are, but I’m convinced they are not a majority.” – Micheal R. Moloney in Lexington, Kentucky radio interview. He is believed to be a Southern Democrat of the Anti-Happy Chandler scion.

Our craft, paid my dues, & surviving

Used endlessly by entertainers in talk-show interviews. The latter phrase should be restricted to overcoming drowning, earthquakes, wars and such incidents as the French Revolution. (“J’si survecu.”) An amendment to banish talk shows as the hotbeds of mis- mal- and over-use they are, was soundly defeated 18 to 17

Past history

(Redundancy Red Alert). There was some debate that science-fiction writers might be allowed to use “future history” in conjunction with “past history.” – Louise Knack, Sharon, Wisconsin, nominator

Serves no useful purpose

Vague and cover. The speaker actually means, “I don’t know exactly why it is that I don’t want to do it, but whatever you say I’m not going to do it.”

Share & adult

(Limited banishments: good words gone wrong and forbidden certain classes of speakers) Preachers and after dinner speakers may not use “share” – Robert Sears, Roanoke, Virginia, nominator. May be used rebread crusts or on Wall St. which actually means “shut up and listen to this boring thing I’m going to tell you.” “Adult” – Observed nominator Katharine E. Miller of Ventura, California: “We wait more than 20 years to become one only to find that it now means ‘obscene.’ An adult bookstore should sell Jane Austen and John Galsworthy, not pornography.”

Ball park figure

(Indicating an estimate). A disservice to the great sport which is accurately documented by statistics, ad nauseam. – Prof. Allen D. Bushong, U. of S. Carolina.

Chill out

Used to and/or by children; nominated by many students from P.S. No. 109, N.Y.C. and Monica Swift of P.S. 20Q, Jamaica, N.Y., along with “you are fat,” “you stink.” “you’re ugly,” “shut up,” “hand up your clothes,” “clean up your room,” and “go to bed.”

Come down on

Meaning “this is our position;” forbidden to educational administrations and bureaucrats, as in “institutionally, we come down on the liberal side.” It implies that the policy was arrived at lightly, as in tossing a coin.


Massachusetts Gov. Edward King’s statement, “a 0 million rollback we think is do-able.” – Fred Bauer, Marblehead, Massachusetts

Howard Cosell, en masse

Banished to Neebish Island and its Great Grey Owls. Limited to 14 staff writers and dictionaries and Fowler’s “English Usage” for reading. – Ed Werstein, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is estimated that this banishment will eliminate 33% of the language crisis on continental U.S.A. alone.

Note: Following Dissatisfaction expressed with the site of banishment by residents of Neebish Island, banishment changed to Zug Island in the Detroit River.

In the public interest

Employed by groups which often include only a few members representing interests no broader than their own, but who announce a position claiming “the public” shares their views. – Geoffrey E., Phoenix, Arizona


Used by anyone other than seamstresses, geometricians, or computer operators. – Peggy Elder, New Mexico State University, who writes: “This is a noun; a plane surface forming the common boundary of two bodies or spaces. It may fit into the world of the computer, but to shift its meaning to human beings is an obscenity. If we can’t relate with each other we might as well retreat to the forest and let computers have their way.”

It’s the pits

Isn’t necessarily that bad. – Gregory J. Pittz, Belmont, Wisconsin

No problem

Forbidden to policy makers and supervisors. – Leland D. Ester, Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin who observes: “Whenever I raise a question about something that is not going well and someone tells me ‘no problem’ there is almost invariably a problem.”


Where one means “lectern.” One stands behind a lectern which rests on a podium. – Bernard S. Katz, Washington, D.C.


Used by airport announcers. – Andrew Dantschisch, St. Petersburg, Florida

How can one board an airplane before one has boarded it?

Reading aloud

By TV announcers of printed words displayed on the screen.


If we can send a man to the moon we can … – Monte Hummell, Innis College, University of Toronto.


A memo or document instructing someone to carry out a task.

Dr. Robert C. Larson, U.S. Forces Liaison Officer, Baden-Wuertemberg, who is fearful that this word now commonly infesting U.S.A. military in Germany will spread to the continental U.S.A. in epidemic proportions. He recommends a one-year word quarantine. Done!

The Athens of the …

Referring to a town in a specific area, as in “Madison is the Athens of the Midwest.”

John N. Koch, Madison, Wisconsin writes: “I suspect that residents of many cities large enough to support high school marching bands have been told theirs is ‘The Athens’ of their region, but never on what authority. Let’s place a moratorium on the expression until Athens proudly proclaims itself ‘The Chicago of Greece,’” Done!

Time frame

Replaced “point in time” as a pretentious redundancy. Used by Rep Candidate George Bush “… in the time frame of the next 20 years” and the Shah of Iran’s spokesman, “We have no time frame for his departure.” Why not, “We don’t know when he’ll leave”?

Yuh know

Twice banished, in a dead heat with Have A Nice Day, a banality done to death and used instead of sincere words with real meaning. Several Editorials and letters castigated the Unicorn Hunters “for banishing this nice phrase” and urged reconsideration. The Unicorn Hunters announced a recall referendum an “Have A Nice Day” lost, ten to one.

Ambience & opt

There is nothing wrong with these words, but they are being overused, particularly by restaurant critics and architects (and such usage tends to be pompous).


Which is the ‘Canadian Yuh Know.’ In the same category, a type of verbal punctuation.  This phrase is so cluttering that real words may become obliterated. This phrase receives the Fried Cabbage Leaf Cluster Award.

Energy crisis

Nobody knows what constitutes an energy crisis, what to do about it, or even, for certain, if one exists.

I feel

Too often used for “I think” or “I believe.” Since “feel” is emotional, the speakers protect themselves from challenge.

Learning Resources Center

Forbidden to librarians who are attempting to say “library.”


In the same category, a type of verbal punctuation.  This phrase is so cluttering that real words may become obliterated. This phrase receives the Fried Cabbage Leaf Cluster Award.


In the same category, a type of verbal punctuation.  This phrase is so cluttering that real words may become obliterated. This phrase receives the Fried Cabbage Leaf Cluster Award.


In the same category, a type of verbal punctuation.  This phrase is so cluttering that real words may become obliterated. This phrase receives the Fried Cabbage Leaf Cluster Award.

Social Security

Neither social nor secure.

Somewhere down the road

Banished from business but not song lyrics. Frequently used in press conferences to keep department heads and press guessing. Also used by executives if they don’t actually plan on doing something: “That’s somewhere down the road (and if I have anything to say about it we’ll never get there).

The bottom line

Commonly used as the ultimate expression for any ultimate, is banished for use by all save accountants and financial vice presidents.

What are you into?

As in “I used to be into children, now I’m into death.”

Where you stand is where you sit

Apparently means that’s one’s philosophy and opinions are based solely on one’s job. A slight distortion of original coinage by Don K. Price, then a Harvard dean: “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”

Yuh know

Making the list for the second year. All Unicorn Hunters are directed to use the typewriter “c” key (since the cent isn’t worth anything, any more) for this phrase, thus saving great quantities of paper. In the same category, a type of verbal punctuation: Okay, Really, EH (which is the Canadian Yuh Know) and Right. These phrases are so cluttering that real words may become obliterated.



Widely used to mean “it is to be hoped,” rather than its proper meaning, “in a hopeful manner.”

I know where I’m coming from but I don’t know where you are coming from

“This seems to have its root in an argument between two motorists whose cars have collided,” according to Tom Labelle of The Grand Rapids Press. “It quickly found its way into encounter sessions and in the parlance of bureaucrats and politicians.”


We can no longer afford this. It is too expensive. We must return to the less expensive “medicine.”


As in “I’ll memo this proposal.” And its geometric progression (triple) banishee honor: “See how it impacts when it is referentially memoed.”


What some people are reading on broadcast when they see “nuclear.”

Perform surgery

As above, instead of operate.

Prioritize, parenting, orientating

Fancy Dan words.

Situation & process

As in “wet pavement situation” which generally means “pavements are wet” or “it is raining.” There is also a mild vogue in the use of “the eating process.” These are Dress up words.


As in “very unique,” “most unique” and even “uniquely unique.”

You’d better believe

Has an element of unseemly coercion.

Yuh know

This phrase received twice the nominations of any other word this year (and in subsequent years). The Unicorn Hunters admit there is little they can do about it. “Yuh know” is a chronic, probably terminal, disease of the English Language.


Active possibility

Means: “There is no way we’re going to do what you ask.”

Alternative words

In absence of above (1977 only): Balderdash, fap & drat, Godfrey Daniels, rapscallion, and montebank.

Perfectly candid

Means: “I have been caught lying and now I shall see how little of the truth I must tell.”

National Federal Word Bank

The Unicorn Hunters request that President Carter establish this bank to counteract depletion of the audio impact of deflated words. The “ultimate four letter words” would go into this bank with a five-year moratorium on their use. As a result of over use in newspapers, cinema, books, radio-TV and even some comic strips, no strong words are available when a man really needs one, as after hitting thumb with hammer.

New dimension

As in “He’ll add a new dimension to the cabinet.” Means: “I can’t explain why we’re hiring (appointing) him/her.

To share

As in “I’d like to share this with you.” Means: “Shut up and I will cram this down your throat whether you like it or not.”


At this point in time

Why not say “now,” or “today?” Typical Delay-by-Elongation, giving subject at press conference time to think up plausible lie, e.g. “At this point in time we are, err, mmmmm, unaware of the allegation that the earth is round.” -Queen Isabella.

Call for resignation

Of all sports reporter who fail to state clearly in the lead: The winner and the score.

(NOTE: The only police powers of the Unicorn Hunters is to make violatore members of the Unicorn Hunters and then excommunicate them; or, to “put the pips” on the offender. (Printed post card pip forms are available at the packet with instructions.) Final punishment is banishment to Neebish Island in the St. Mary’s River near Sault Ste. Marie, or Zug Island in the lower Detroit River (which is sometimes difficult to find because of industrial smog and oil slick).


Invented by Henry Kissinger. Nobody else knows what it means, and now even Kissinger has forgotten. [Before the year was out the president of the United States also banished “detente.” Later, voters banished Kissinger and the president.]


And its other form Meaningful Dialogue. Neither has meaning remaining in it.

Implement & viable

Gobbledygook disguised as intelligence: as in “that is not a viable alternative which we can implement.” Meaning: “We don’t want to do it and think you have a crazy idea here.”


Has unfortunately replaced “contribution.” Often used in combination; as “meaningful input.”


Seldom pronounced properly and therefore lacks meaningfulness.


Has lost all of its meaningfulness.


Spread like wildfire after Watergate. It can be roughly translated as “I don’t know what had happened (or will happen) but this is a scenario.” Means: “I’m making this up.” Also used when reporter doesn’t want to use “according to unimpeachable source.”