Tag Archives: cliches

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Is the baby bump merely a fashion accessory?Lake Superior State University’s List of Banished Words is out a bit early, so we can all slip into 2012 imagining a world where these overused words and phrases are scarcely spoken:


Baby bump.

Shared sacrifice.



Man cave.

The new normal.

Pet parent.

Win the future.



Thank you in advance.

Maybe because of the worlds I inhabit, I’ve never heard of trickeration (from football) and pet parent. And I hadn’t realized how omnipresent amazing has become — “Many nominators mentioned [amazing’s] over-use on television when they sent their entries,” according to the LSSU webpage, “mentioning ‘reality’ TV, Martha Stewart and Anderson Cooper. It seemed to bother people everywhere, as nominations were sent from around the U.S. and Canada and some from overseas, including Israel, England and Scotland.

“Every talk show uses this word at least two times every five minutes. Hair is not ‘amazing.’ Shoes are not ‘amazing,'” Martha Waszak wrote to LSSU.

“The word has been overused to describe things only slightly better than mundane,” wrote Alyce-Mae Alexander. “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’!’

The outrage has grown to the point where there is now a Facebook page called “Overuse of the word ‘Amazing.’ ”

I was part of an online discussion yesterday with a guy who felt the Banished Word List is the product of an elite professoriate trying to police the speech of regular people. My impression is that nominations to the list are made by regular people, and that far from being attempts to muzzle free speech and free thought, nominations and comments are made in a lighthearted spirit. We all use at least some of these cliches. The List of Banished Words helps us hear ourselves talk, and decide whether there will be blowback, or just a response; whether we want to make another Occupy Wall Street reference, or come up with a new way to be clever; and if something is really, truly, undeniably amazing.

I wrote about last year’s list here. And I offered my own list here in 2009.

And, as they say in Public Radio Land, you’re invited to join the conversation.  (I’ll take my response off the air.)



Filed under communications, popular culture

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

6 phrases I wish would go missing.

It's, well, a clicheHere are 6 phrases I’ve heard or seen enough. Feel free to add yours to the list.

1. Sweet spot.

“Working for the government is just one area in which the secretary of state hits the demographic sweet spot,” writes the Wall Street Journal.   “Green Products are the ‘Sweet Spot’ for Spending During Downtown,” says GreenBiz.com.   “Finding That ‘Sweet Spot’: A New Way to Drive Innovation,”  insists Knowledge@Wharton.

2. I’m good.

Waiter: Would you like fresh ground pepper with that?

Diner: No, I’m good.

3. I’m all about / It’s all about.

Back to Wharton: “For most companies, it’s all about inventing everything yourself.”  “It’s all about superior insights and intellect. It’s not all about money and scale.”    “Facebook Announces New Homepages: It’s All About the Stream”   The church is all about Jesus Christ and his mission. Are we now guilty of moving toward an ‘It’s all about numbers’ posture?I’m all about enjoying life – whether you’re 2 or 82.”

4. How’s that workin’ for ya?

Republicans.   Eczema.   The mug.   The book.

5. Went missing/gone missing

It’s ok to use if you’re British. Otherwise, “disappear” is a perfectly good verb.

6. The “…well…” construction.

It’s often used by unsteady hands to denote humor or a light touch. (e.g. “The most expensive burgers, well, ever.”) Please let me know if you find other examples and I’ll post them.

[Addition. Let’s make it an even 7:  “Boyle’s Got Legs, Her Career … Not So Much”   “Respect for Harbaugh rises; Manny, not so much”   “Technology Changes, People Not So Much”  and an article on it all:   “Snappy? Sure. Original? Not so much“]


Filed under communications, popular culture, writing