Drop these words.

"Standards for using 'epic' are so low, even 'awesome' is embarrassed."

The new list of banished words is out. The list is published every New Year’s Day by Lake Superior State University, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Here are the words and phrases which are deemed so overused as to constitute a threat to intelligent communication:

Viral, Epic, Fail, Wow Factor, A-ha Moment, Back Story, BFF, Man Up, Refudiate, Mama Grizzlies, The American People, I’m Just Sayin’, Facebook /Google (as verbs), Live Life to the Fullest.

The words and phrases are followed by comments of those who nominated them. My favorite followed “Epic”:

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

The Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate, in its blog entry on the banished words list, adds two of its own nominations: “Your call is important to us” and “partial zero emissions vehicle.” I offered my own list here in 2009.

The point of such lists is not to reveal to the world what a brittle. humorless pendant you’ve become, but to remind ourselves of basic notions of uncluttered communications, such as George Orwell set down in “Politics and the English Language” (1946).

Orwell wrote:

[O]ne needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out,  always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Now, to begin work on next year’s list. How about, “I reached out to him”? And, “Going forward.”



Filed under communications, popular culture

5 responses to “Drop these words.

  1. HB

    I’m guilty of saying “OMG” out loud, in public and everything. But I see that didn’t make the list. Jus’ sayin’ . . . 🙂

    There is one expression that didn’t make the list . . . I could live a long and healthy life without ever hearing this again (or any variation on it): “So he’ll have to put on his big-boy pants and deal with this.” Worse, “You need to put on your big-girl panties and handle this situation.”


  2. Deborah Holzel

    I’m currently trying to write about the experience of falling in love. Try doing that without cliches. Or, actually, writing about breaking up isn’t a cinch, either. I actually find things like “my blood ran cold” running through my brain.

  3. I wonder what’s left without the cliches.

  4. I think to Google may be a keeper as a verb, just like to Xerox was in an earlier time. Is there any one-word equivalent of Googling? Research? That implies more work. Look up? That implies there’s a one-to-one correspondence like a word to a dictionary definition. Googling leaves room for having to do a bit of research if the first couple of results don’t turn up anything. “web search” or “internet search” is the generic equivalent…. but who used to say photocopy rather than Xerox?

  5. Pingback: Thank you in advance for leaving a comment | David Wrote This

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