Banished words list: fun for a slow news day

banished words listYou have probably noticed an article or two about the annual banished words list. Did you notice that it came out on January 1?

The public relations department of Lake Superior State University has issued the list since 1976. It’s a lot of fun for word lovers.

New Year’s Day is a slow news day, so when the list was new, it seemed a good day to get some press.

I thought it would be fun to look back at previous lists to see if our society has actually stopped using any of the words.

About the banished words list

Not many people know anything about LSSU. It started in 1946 as a branch of Michigan College of Mining and Technology (surely you know that one!) and became an independent college in 1970. Its Public Relations Director, W.T. Rabe, must have been one fun dude. He founded the Unicorn Hunters and started the university’s annual Snowman Burning on the first day of spring in 1971.

At a New Year’s Eve party in 1975, Rabe and friends compared notes on overused words they wished would go away. The next day, Rabe released the list to the press hoping that, since not much else happens on New Year’s Day, lots of papers would publish it.

unicorn. banished words listIt helps to have a wildly pretentious name to publicize anything so frivoulous, so it is officially the “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.”

Rabe also invited the public to nominate words for inclusion in future lists. And they have.

Rabe retired 30 years ago, but the list lives on. The university copyrighted the idea and has maintained and issued it ever since.

But what has become of the banished words? Have any of them behaved themselves and gone away?

I looked at the lists from 10, 20, 30, and 40 years ago. I’m not still reading or hearing as many of these words and phrases as I anticipated. Maybe some of the people who ran them into the ground don’t realize LSSU has no legal authority to ban anything and stopped using them anyway.

I remember some of the words with a shudder. It’s a good thing the cliché-mongers have lost interest. But of course, they constantly invent new useless phrases. There’s a new banished words list every year to try to undo the damage.

Others I managed to miss entirely. Those would be the ones that come from all the entertainment shows and sites I never watch.

Some never should have been approved for banishment. They actually make more sense than what the nominators put forth as alternatives.

Alas, some, like “awesome” still brazenly parade in public as if they communicated something. Shame seems to have gone out of fashion.

2007 banished words list

  • barbed wire. banished words listGitmo [As a kindness, if you don’t remember what it means, I won’t remind you.]
  • “Brangelina” and other combined celebrity names. [Maybe the entertainment business has to combine names like that because the couples keep splitting up after a while.]
  • Awesome [Should never be used to mean anything other than what produces genuine awe.]
  • Gone/went missing [Is missing a town in Missouri or something?]
  • Pwn or pwned [a typo for “own/owned” that went viral. I had to look it up once. I never did make sense of it. Did anyone else? On the other hand, if viral typos earn royalties, I mistype a lot of words.]
  • Now playing in theaters. [The nominators complained they’d never think to look for a movie in a shoe store. On the other hand, if I want to see a movie on a large screen, it’s nice to know I don’t have to settle for my phone.]
  • We’re pregnant [Somehow I never heard two women say that. Or one, for that matter. A pregnant husband would have made the news.]
  • Undocumented alien [We’ve started calling them illegal again. Some slight return of honesty.]
  • Armed robbery/drug deal gone bad [What good are armed robberies or drug deals in the first place?]
  • Truthiness
  • Ask your doctor [in drug commercials. Ah for the good old days when drug companies, lawyers, and others considered advertising unethical. Now, of course, the commercials say to tell your doctor about all kinds of conditions that he or she already knows.]
  • Chipotle [The word appeared suddenly, and someone soon got tired of it. Good luck avoiding a popular restaurant chain.]
  • iAnything [First Apple issued the iPod, followed by lots of siblings. Other companies got the same fever. Certainly a tiresome cliché that won’t submit to banishment any time soon.]
  • Search [one-year moratorium only. But why banish it? Does anyone google something on Bing? What else are you supposed to do with a search engine but search?]
  • Healthy food [What’s health food? By the time it gets to your plate it isn’t healthy; it’s dead.]
  • Boasts [in advertisements for houses. The house boasts four bathrooms? Some houses are arrogant, I guess.]

1997 banished words list

  • computer keyboard. banished words listAroma therapy
  • As if [as a standalone phrase. It isn’t as if anyone wants to ban a useful phrase used correctly!]
  • Doing the ____ thing. [You know, like doing the word banishing thing, like.]
  • Don’t even go there [No admittance except to authorized personnel?]
  • Down time
  • Get a life {Always spoken to someone who’s been born and hasn’t died yet.]
  • I’m like, he’s like [I guess people got tired going “he goes” but can’t manage “he said.” What horror will come next?]
  • Joe Sixpack [Nominated for banishment by a guy named Joe. He doesn’t like Joe Blow or Sloppy Joe, either.]
  • Just play one game at a time [Aren’t all locker-room interviews interchangeable? Bingo lovers might enjoy a card full of these pearls of wisdom and check them off after every game.]
  • La Macarena
  • Multi-tasking
  • Outsourcing
  • Paper or plastic? [First it was money. Now it’s shopping bags. Here’s the correct answer: this armload of cloth bags.]
  • Phone tag
  • Thank you for taking my call [on call-in talk shows. Come on, people, if you get on one, you’ve got a time limit!]
  • [No one objects to “whatever” if it appears in a complete sentence or phrase. But as a one-word rejoinder, it was tiresome the first time I heard it. Whatever became of it?]
  • Winningest
  • You go, girl!

1987 banished words list

vintage typewriter keyboard. banished words listThe 1987 list is very long and divided into subcategories like “Medical Speak.” I’ll just pick out what seem to be the worst horrors.

The list’s section on “self-contained contradictions” starts with a reward for a special gem: “They both have rather unique positions which are remarkably similar.”

The radio reporter’s name was withheld to protect the guilty.

  • Healthcare delivery system [I remember home delivery of milk. Does healthcare come by the pint?]
  • The patient did not fulfill his wellness potential [The patient died through no fault of anyone else.]
  • Pleaded innocent [something no one can actually do. Pure ignorance.]
  • Turned up missing [Which? Turned up, or missing?]
  • Same difference [I’ve never heard “Different sameness.”]
  • Half dead [I suppose a more precise measurement would be difficult.]
  • Audibleized [As always, the ize have it—and should often be ephemeralized.]
  • Filmed before a live studio audience [Not everything is filmed before an audience, but is anything filmed before a dead studio audience?]
  • Signage [It’s more expensive than ordinary signs.]
  • De-install [It’s more expensive than remove or take out.]
  • Shower activity [Unless the weather person is talking about their plans when they get off the air.]
  • Partly sunny {Does that mean a partial eclipse, or does someone think it sounds like better weather than partly cloudy?]
  • I’m talkin’ _______ here [As in “I’m talkin’ good language here.”]
  • Foreign imports [I want strictly domestic imports!]
  • Potential hazard
  • Arguably [Usually said by someone not prepared to provide the argument.]
  • Tuna fish [I’m in the mood for some salmon fish or trout fish.]

1977 banished words list

rear-view mirror. banished words list

Time to go

  • New dimension
  • To share [as in an opinion, which will be immediately uttered whether the victim actually shares it or not!]
  • Perfectly candid [There are other ways to introduce a lie. I suppose looking at enough of the more recent lists would turn up some companions.]
  • Active possibility [Quick. What’s a passive impossibility?]
  • The Unicorn Hunters asked President Carter to establish a National Federal Word bank to deposit “ultimate four letter words” for a five-year moratorium. “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.”
  • The following words were proposed as alternatives, provided they would be used only in 1977: balderdash, fap & drat, Godfrey Daniels, rapscallion, and mountebank.

Maybe some time I’ll post a list of old words that would be worth using again. I’m not sure I’d include all of those even for a limited reprieve.

The history of word banishment / Lake Superior State University

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *