LSSU Banished Words list, 2008

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Jan 2 16:33:22 UTC 2008

***This year, in a gesture of humanitarian relief, the committee
restores "truthiness," banned on last year's list, to formal use. This
comes after comedians and late-night hosts were thrown under the bus
and rendered speechless by a nationwide professional writers' strike.
The silence is deafening.***

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.

WEBINAR – 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,

WATERBOARDING – "Let's banish 'waterboarding' to the beach, where it
belongs with boogie boards and surfboards." – Patrick K. Egan, Sault
Ste. Marie, Michigan

ORGANIC – 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

"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,

"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,

WORDSMITH/WORDSMITHING – "I've never read anything created by a
wordsmith - or via wordsmithing - that was pleasant to read." – Emily
Kissane, St. Paul, Minnesota.

AUTHOR/AUTHORED – "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.

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.

SURGE – "'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.

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.

'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.

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.

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.

RANDOM – Popular with teenagers in many places.
"Over-used 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,

"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.

SWEET – "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.

DECIMATE – 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,

"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.

EMOTIONAL – "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,

POP – "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.

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,

"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,

"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.

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.

The American Dialect Society -

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