Banished Words

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Robbinsdale

I was listening to “The Splendid Table” one recent Sunday morning and was appalled to hear Lynne Rossetto Kasper mention a kitchen “hack” for a desired outcome. Until then I had thought I could avoid hearing “hack” (used in place of the word “tip”), if I simply stayed off Facebook and Pinterest. It’s just one of those little new words that drives me a little batty, and apparently I’m not the only one. On New Years’ Day, I came upon this New York Times article about a Banished Words List, issued annually for the past 40 years by the Public Relations Department of Lake Superior State University (in Sault Ste. Marie, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula).

This tongue-in-cheek listing began as a publicity strategy to help LSSU become known as more than a technological institution. “The first list was dreamed up by Bill (William T.) Rabe and… friends at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975. The following day, the “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness” was released – the international reaction from news media and the public was unexpected… Although Rabe retired in 1987, the list has been continued by LSSU’s Public Relations people.    

“People from around the world have nominated hundreds of words and phrases such as ‘you know,’ ‘user friendly,’ ‘at this point in time,’ and ‘have a nice day,’ to be purged from the language.” Some more recent offerings have been: “my bad” (1998), “forced relaxation” (1989), “free gift” (1988), “live audience” (1983, 1987, 1990). 2015’s list included “bae,” “polar vortex” and… “hack.”

It was in some odd way satisfying to find “hack” on the 2015 Banished Words List

“This word is totally over-used and mis-used. 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, N.C.

What word or phrase would you submit to the 2016 Banished Word List?

180 thoughts on “Banished Words”

  1. Do phrases count? If they do, I would like to nominate the phrases “with that said” and “at the end of the day.” The latter seems to be slightly on the decline, but “with that said” continues its rise as a superfluous way to say “but” or “though” or just to connect thoughts. There may be a time and a place for the phrase, I could be convinced, though mostly it seems an attempt to soft pedal disagreement or perhaps a preternatural inability to be concise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Guess I should have read the article first, but glad to know I’m not the only one (you rarely are!) who finds “so” at the beginning of too many sentences objectionable. So there!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Husband wants tasking and branding (unless it has something to do with cattle) banished. Snowzilla can go, too.

    I am tired ofrom hearing people out here “nipping things in the butt” instead of ” bud”.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. A young lady friend once asked if guys ever got their prostate tattooed.
        We laughed at that and I explained it was an internal organ. In her defense… she honestly didn’t know that. I can understand a young woman not necessarily knowing all the internal parts of the male species.

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  3. Thanks, BiR, for letting us blow a little steam on this topic! A word I especially despise is “meme,” a word with special appeal for pretentious journalists. I grit my teeth when people misuse “hone” (and if they say it, they are sure to misuse it). It hurts my ears when people say “reticent” when they mean “reluctant.” And one phrase being beaten to death, even by careful speakers like Barack Obama, is “going forward.”

    Liked by 3 people

      1. The misuse comes when people say “she was honing in on . . . .” Honing is something like polishing, a sharpening process. The phrase is actually “homing in on . . . . ” Because homing in on something implies becoming precise and specific, people have jumped to a word that means polishing something to a fine degree.

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        1. And then it’s on the fast track to becoming acceptable usage. Just like “borrow” in Minnesota often is used when “lend” would be correct; it’s considered a regional peculiarity. A lot of people also don’t distinguish between “infer” and “imply.”

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Mostly I enjoy the history of how words develop over time. Many usages that are standard today once fell outside the pale. However, many usages became common, and many were dropped, fortunately. (Stephen King would be upset that I just used an adverb.)

          When I was in my senior year of preparing to teach high school English, I had an instructor who gave us a list of words and usage habits that we should drive from our students. We had to read two articles. One was about the sad “nominalization” in usage, by which was meant turning other parts of speech into nouns.Then we read an article about the deplorable “verbalization” in usage, meaning, of course, turning nouns into verbs. I am afraid I thought reading those two articles one after the other with their Latinate polysyllabic titles was funny. In an Enlgish class we were reading current literary novels. Many of those good writers played games with the language, including nominalizing and verbalizing. “All good things in restrain” is the lesson I learned.

          Next quarter an instructor told us we were should first be teachers of students and second, if at all, defenders of the language. That was the defining moment for me as a teacher. I committed to being a teacher of students.

          Back to how words develop. Take “hack.” I think the coining of it to mean an overriding of computer defenses, legal or illegal, was clever and gave us a useful word. It is a nice hard sounding word with the “k” at the end, fitting its meaning. Then I assume some person used it as a metaphor to mean sneaky shortcut in some other field.I think the first and then subsequent rare usages of a word such as “hack” as metaphor is a rich part of the language, but not when it becomes so common that it moves beyond the metaphor, it is an irritant. It is possible that the speakers of the language will pick it up, I hope not, and it will one day become a common word for shortcut and lose much of its irritant value.

          “Hone” to a serious user of knives, such as my fellow wood-carvers, has a very distinct meaning. It is the middle step of a three-step process. First you sharpen (give the edge its intended shape), then you hone (refine that shape and take off the minute burrs that interfere with a true cut), then you strop it (polish it with leather, or these days with a composite material). Most technical words get used sloppily (Sorry Stephen King) outside their domain. Words drift. They always have and always will, which is part of the delight of watching language. My father used to “hone” an ax. Only when I became a carver did I realize you cannot hone an ax. The steel in an ax is not of the sort which can be honed. If it could be, it would be too soft to make an ax. Only high-carbon hardened steel can be honed. Axes are hardened but not high-carbon. All that is technical stuff. Over time “hone” was used as a metaphor to mean to refine skills, which makes sense to me. Then one day it jumped into the usage Steve does not like, nor do I. But I bet it lasts.

          This is how language works, especially English, especially American English. Words get abused and drift. Common usage tosses them aside, or accepts them into the cannon, which seems to have little to do with taste. I rant against poor usages and mangling of words, too. It is too much fun not to do so.

          As a sidebar (see, I used a newspaper term as a metaphor), in my childhood, we were taught AXE. Today, the standard is AX. Fun stuff.

          Liked by 4 people

  4. I always listen closely when people use the word “pundit” on the radio. More often than not, it’s pronounced “pundant”.

    Also can’t help wincing at the proliferation of the redundant “is” – as in “The problem is, is that…” The reality is, is that…”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. PJ is right. Language is always evolving. Careful speakers have long shuddered when people say “hopefully” when they mean “I hope.” I think that battle has been lost. The argument against using “hopefully” that way is based on the rules of grammar, such as they are. Objecting to that use of “hopefully” seems pedantic, given how commonly people use the word that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m inclined to defend “hopefully”. The verb – to speak – is implied. We use many words the same way. You can say “Frankly, he lied,” and it is not a contradiction.

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      1. I do think that, in writing, it should be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma. That usually gets left out. And if used in casual speech, a slight pause would be most welcome where the comma would be.

        Quite honestly, I am a little obsessive about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. So I am very guilty of doing the “so” thing. In my own case, I attribute it to lack of confidence in what I am about to say or as a way of getting my turn in a group conversation.
    At the end of the day, I will try to refrain from using it as it will infer my attempts to be a pundant.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Most people have verbal ticks of one kind or another. Once you become aware of them, they are really distracting. But few of us can claim to have none and be truthful.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Phrases or words that are an incomplete sentences – to the degree that I can hardly wrap my brain around what the heck they’re trying to say. I’m thinking particularly of things like:

    This. So much this.
    and
    I can’t even.

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  8. I have been writing dialog between a man and a seventh-grade girl in 1974 Iron Range dialect. So, you see, I have to say so very often.
    The one thing I worked at with the whole class the most about usage was that how you talk is not how you write, thus I banned from their writing “so,” “well,” and “then” as used in Northeastern Minnesota spoken language. Most such issues I dealt with student by student as they occurred in their writing.
    Another sidebar: is it Northeastern Minnesota or Northeast Minnesota?

    Like

  9. I have to go with “amazing.” If everyone, everything, and every event is “amazing,” where the heck did average and normal go? Besides, to amaze someone means to “surprise (someone) greatly; fill with astonishment.” how can my best friend, or an enjoyable concert or other performance, or a TV show, or a favorite vacation or trip destination, be called amazing?

    Does your best friend surprise you or astonish you every moment you are with him/her? Are there no bad musical groups or simply average, competent musicians or singers anymore? Do cities or other places we visit amaze us by changing colors instantly, or have buildings spring up from the ground where an empty field was moments ago?

    I get so tired of lazy language. We have some 500,000 words in the English language, yet it seems we are destined to whittle that list down to the lowest common denominator: 1 noun, 1 pronoun, 1 verb, 1 adjective, 1 adverb, 1 participle, 1 preposition, 1 article, 1 interjection, 1 modifier, and 1 conjunction. *Sigh* Or maybe we’ll all revert to grunting like cave people.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I have a delightful task for the day: I am going to be a beta reader of three poems from one of my favorite students, a forester-poet. A delicate task in which we often discuss the feel and denotations of words as much as connotations.
    I took a fun class on the history of language in college. One of the things we read was an article by some early nineteenth century minor English writer on the growing deplorable use of “special” instead of “especial” as in “she possessed silver she used only for especial occasions.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve always had a problem with what to call people with darker skin than mine. African American is too ostentatious (plus many say, “I’m American, not African American”. People of color doesn’t sit any better than colored people. Even black sounds weird – they don’t refer to us as white, after all.

    I’m amused at Palin’s new words: refudiate and squirmishes. When listening to her screeds, I like the term word salad: noun, verb, pronoun, verb verb verb pronoun verb verb verb adjective verb verb

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m bothered by redundant words, although grumbling about something like that is probably fussy. An example that somehow makes me smile is the insertion of “at” in comments about location. “Where are you at?”

    When my daughter was about ten she noticed that she and her mom were wearing virtually the same outfit. “Mom!” she cried, “we both match together!”

    Liked by 2 people

  13. “Impactful” and “incentivize”.

    I’m on the fence – I completely understand that English is a constantly changing and evolving language, but these two words grate on me every time I hear them.

    And “mute point”.

    And I miss the subjunctive as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I use the subjunctive in my fiction, it sounds wrong even to me, and I fear many readers will think I am wrong. I have been on occasion corrected for using the subjunctive mood. In the end, I avoid expression such as “If she were . . . ” and write out the subjunctitive. But something is lost by doing so.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Damn, I knew I should have taken an English grammar class somewhere along the line so I’d know what the subjunctive is. I’m doing well to be able to tell a noun from a verb.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Subjunctive mood is sometimes called “conditional” mood. I bet it is in Danish. “I wish I WERE a princess” IF she WERE a princess, she would inherit millions.”
          About 2% of Americans understand it.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Renee, I bet he picked it up from his parents, as I did. I had three teachers “correct me” for using it.

          Like

        3. The answer to every grammatical question at our house is: “omsagnsled til grundled.” Husband was never good at, or interested in, Danish grammar, so whenever he was asked by a teacher to label the function a word in a sentence, he’d panic. Then he’d randomly pluck a hifalutin grammatical term, out of thin air. “Omsagnsled til grundled” was his favorite; to this day, he has no idea what the heck it is. For all I know, that’ll be his epitaph.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. ‘Qoupon’ rather than ‘COUPON’… drives me batty.
    Right up there with NUCLEAR.

    Used to work with a guy who’s standard response was ‘sweet!’ instead of OK or Thanks.
    Kelly and I still joke about the wedding photographer we interviewed; he often said ‘OK? OK.’ Even if we didn’t think it was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lumber dealer I knew was called “Yes, Yes, Bob” because he answered every question with “yes, yes” even when he was about to say “no,” like the character in “Vicar of Dibbly.” People would call him and he would answer to “Yes,Yes.”

      Liked by 1 person

  15. When I was at the U of Chi in the mid-sixties, we Midwesterners drove the East Coasters crazy for not finishing our sentences. “I’m going up to the Art Institute. Do you want to?” They would even finish “I’m going up to the Art Institute. Do you want to come?” they wanted it to be “Do you want to come with me?”

    Like

  16. I know it isn’t technically incorrect or at least its incorrectness is disputed, but speakers lose points with me when they refer to their person using the inflationary “myself” when a simple “me” would suffice.

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        1. The most outrageous example of that was someone who used “I” in the possessive form. Something like “John’s and I’s house…” That one made me pound my head against the wall.

          Liked by 1 person

  17. Son sent this to me the other day.

    Why umlauts are important:

    Vermahlen with an umlaut over the “a” means “to marry”

    Vermahlen without an umlaut means “to pulverize”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The question is, how do you write the umlaut on an American keyboard? I know how to do the three Danish letters that are not in the English alphabet – æ, ø, å – but how do you do it with the umlaut? I’m surmising that you don’t know since you didn’t use it in your example above.

      Like

      1. I don’t know how to do that. . I suppose there is a way to turn your keyboard German. Son has friends who were German majors. i will have to ask him.

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        1. In my publishing days, we made a Word page with the special characters we used often and the words in which they appeared. We would keep that page open as we wrote/edited and cut and pasted in characters or words as we needed them.

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    2. sorry to miss the blog for a few days and while clyde was able to join us too. damn
      my despised word is “right?”. at the end of a sentence with the lilt of your voice going up making it a question

      lisa had it sort of above but i hate i. intelligent people who get up in front of a group and make a presentation with ” right?” coming in like an invitation to participate drives me nuts/

      Like

  18. “Like”, if I had to like send in a word for rebuke, or like submit it to Congress to like delete the word from like the English language, or like the dictionary, it would like definitely be the word, “like”! Like, ya know?

    Liked by 3 people

  19. A slight twist on this question; some of the phrases Kevin Kling uses in his stories are hilarious if not grammatically correct. Were they from his dad? Something about ‘these pants are like a $3 hotel’ And there was one about pistol…?
    (I can’t find anything online to post here. But you all know what I mean.)
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to cross the crick and get a pop.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    I am back from California (last week’s absence) so now I am thinking “Out of the Box.”

    And may I nominate that for banishment–drives me nuts.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Didn’t we have a word for a day when we went over 100 comments? I just checked glossary and didn’t see anything. Who has the best memory around here?

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      1. Bill, did you see that someone who responded to your post on Bild suggested that the photographer might have been Mark Twain? He claims that Twain made a trip to Europe in 1904.

        I was struck by how positive all the comments were; not a negative comment in the lot. Well done.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If the photographer were (!) Mark Twain, I think I could retire now. When, I wonder, did Twain become an ace photographer?

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        2. Well, considering what’s in the balance (your retirement), it might be worth checking out. Twain wasn’t known to be an ace photographer (at least not so far as I know), but who am I to dispute that he might have been? Perhaps his artistic talent was broader than generally appreciated.

          Like

  22. OT – Just got word this morning that Barrington Watson, the Jamaican painter I met in Basel so many years ago, passed away last night at his home in Jamaica.

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        1. Sorry to not get back sooner. Today was my Wednesday with Ken, my friend with FTD.

          So, there really isn’t that much to tell about my “relationship” with Barry, but I’ll ponder it and see if I can come up with a blog. Irregardless, you’ve incentivized me to try.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. Sad shortening of baby’s daddy. Instead of saying “John is my boyfriend/partner/husband.” some women say “John is my baby daddy.”

        Like

  23. Many comments earlier, Renee said: “When our son was about 5, he made the starling announcement, “I wish I were a bird of prey”.

    I couldn’t directly reply to her back there for some reason, but here goes:

    Maybe starling instead of startling should be called an Avian slip.

    *You should see the smug look on my face after I came up with that one!) 😉

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 6 people

  24. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    SO Baboons, today I am HOMING in on our last few days in AZ where we have thunk OUT OF THE BOX, and constantly PUSHED THE ENVELOPE while ORIENTATING our dogs to the area. I was afraid they would scare up a scorpion or rattle snake, new INPUT for them. While composing this reply, I find myself NOUNING my VERBS. That, LIKE, drives me crazy.

    But it is all a MUTE POINT anyway.

    Now that was fun.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. I am about to go into Internet Dark.So, what it is is that I am honing in on homing in on going home. If I were going home to the North Shore I would be going to the land of “Well, then” and “then” at the end of sentences, or Da Range where, if you add “eh” to the end of the statement it becomes a question/request. “Going to the movies, eh”

    I need a word for the things that strike me or tickle me or amuse me. Odd behaviors or dress. Coincidences. Striking juxtapositions. Etc. For instance, in our building those of us who have lived here a few years have a hallway friendship, hallway only. Last week I saw into two apartments. First was Amy above me, who teaches statistics online and is an addicted smoker. So she sits on her porch above us in all weather smoking and tutoring students online. Fun person to talk to. I occasionally bake her some artisan bread. I went out in the cold to tell her I was coming up. When I knocked, she opened the door and I stupidly asked, “Are you moving?” It was an invasive question. She looked embarrassed and said, “You mean because I have no furniture? I just don’t need it and don’t care about things like that.” I wanted to ask “Why do you then have a two bedroom apartment?” Her apartment is exactly like ours. From the door I could see into most of one bedroom and I saw no furniture, but I do know she has a TV in there on the wall I could not see. The dining room was bare. The living room had an old couch and a coffee table made of the same white plastic as her deck furniture. I could not see the other bedroom. As I apologized and left, Ann from down the hall called me. She is about 80. She and I are two of the four dedicated bird feeders. Ann walks a little dog four or five times a day, in all weather. Her other dog, a huge smelling dog, died four years ago. So we all urged her to get another dog, telling her the exercise was very good for her as well as having a companion. A year later she found a little pound pup. Ann’s trait is that she unabashedly looks into apartments. She walks by our patio a few times a day in the summer and in the winter if the snow is not very deep. Ann called for me to come to her apartment to get a large bag of bird seed. The hardware store had a two for one sale (And I do hate BOGO for that). She was giving me the second sack. So I stepped into Ann’s apartment to pick up the bag, which was the opposite of Amy’s. Boxes floor to ceiling. An is a hoarder. That was a shock from the character she shows in halls and my yard and a fun contrast to Amy.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. An hour ago the forecast for here was partly cloud and 0% chance of precipitation. 30 minutes ago sleet started hitting the window. 15 minutes ago they changed the forecast to what was hitting the window. So, well, then, now, isn’t that a postcast?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I’m totally confused by weather forecasts here. We have too much geology and geography. Minnesota was so simple, with a gently graduated forecast for most of the state and “up north.” Almost all weather came from the northwest and moved east. Here we have mountains, valleys, a seacoast and a plains region, and don’t forget the Gorge. After a year and a half I don’t know what the “prevailing wind” is.

        I don’t complain. We might hit 60 degrees today. This former Minnesotan will take that and grin. Not bad for mid-January.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. AND the sun shone for about an hour this afternoon!!!! (That really is worthy of several exclamation points.)

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  27. Now that I’m in griping mode, here are a few: “At the sound of the tone, please leave your message. When you are done leaving your message, hang up or wait for other options”. Another one (always from people I don’t know): “Have a good day”, or, “Have a good rest of your day”. Another one is having every human contact begin with, “How are you?”.
    I think that the reason this one annoys me is that I’m always supposed to say it back. “How are you?” followed by “Good” followed by “How are you?” followed by “Good”. Why must there be this caveat to saying what I called to say??

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  28. O/T: I’m heartsick because I learned yesterday that my beloved fur person, Peanut, has mouth cancer and has to be euthanized in the next few weeks. I found this cat on a road when he was only 3 weeks old, brought him into my heart and have slept cheek to cheek with him every night for 13 years now. He’s been the only living presence in the cottage for the 11 years of being single. Getting another cat at this age would likely result in me dying before the cat – something I don’t want to put a cat through.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Losing a beloved pet is always a heartbreak. So sorry, Nancy. Hope you find some comfort in knowing that Peanut was well loved and had a good life.

        Like

        1. He gave me far more than I gave him. I am considering a used cat though. I’d never set foot in Humane Society because every single cat I didn’t choose would feel like I’m giving him a death sentence

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        2. Nancy, look at it this way. You can’t solve all the world’s problems, but you can be part of the solution by doing your bit in whatever way you can. Visiting a shelter is a heartbreaking proposition because you can’t save them all. But if that scares you away, they are all lost. I’m sure you’ll find away of getting another furry companion.

          Liked by 1 person

  29. I am proofreadin a report I dictated, and my secretary typed “more torridly” instead of “motorically”. What a difference !

    Like

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