I always look forward to reading Lake Superior State University’s annual list of proposed words to banish from the vocabulary. The list started in 1976 and was the brainchild of the late W.T. Rabe, a public relations director at the school.
The list has grown in popularity over more than four decades, with thousands of nominations coming in from across the country with words and phrases that submitters consider to be overused, misused and abused.
Not surprisingly, “collusion” tops the list of 18 words on the 2019 list, with the nominator suggesting that “we all need to collude on getting rid of this word.”
The 2019 list includes two words and phrases that made some of us in the world of marketing “clutch our pearls”: “Wheelhouse” and “Thought leader.” Admittedly, marketing professionals and businesspeople, in general, are guilty of talking—a lot—about things that are and are not in our wheelhouse. And if “thought leader” were banished. Well, we “can’t even.”
Here are a few more from the Lake Superior list that we found amusing and “spot on”:
Wrap my head around: “Impossible to do and makes no sense.” Linda of Bloomington, Minnesota.
Yeet: “If I hear one more freshman say yeet, I might just yeet myself out a window.” Emily of Sault Ste. Marie.
Accoutrements: “Hard to spell, not specific and anachronistic when accessories will do.” Leslie of Scottsdale, Arizona.
To bolster the list and broaden the fun, we asked for nominations from some of our Jackson associates. We’re not attributing the submissions to protect the innocent and the outraged. Here they are:
Literally: It’s never used correctly. The car was literally crushed. (Insert sigh and eye-roll.)
Irregardless: This one is self-explanatory when you look at the meaning. It literally means, REGARDLESS.
Optics: Oh, please. Just say it looks bad.
Toxic: Whatever happened to poisonous?
Epic: An epic is a lengthy narrative, not your Saturday night out.
GOAT: Clever, but this acronym for the “Greatest Of All Time” needs to stay in 2018.
WOAT: See GOAT.
Lit: Appropriate when talking about how drunk/high you’re getting as a teen at a rave you’re going to, but not as a thirtysomething discussing last weekend’s barbecue.
Very: There are so many more interesting adverbs at our disposal.
Fake News: (This one received several nominations.) This is just another way of saying you disagree with something. Screaming FAKE NEWS with no evidence to back it up is a lousy argument and a cop-out comeback.
Ghosted: When someone “ghosts” somebody, they turn off all communication, which is the opposite of haunting someone. Just because someone stops returning your calls doesn’t mean they’ve turned paranormal.
Shook: What’s wrong with confused, in disbelief or amazed. Let’s leave that one in 2018.
On Fleek: It was funny for about two minutes.
Government Shutdown: It’s not a shutdown when less than 25 percent of the government is affected, and much of that only partially affected. I feel horrible for the 800,000, but let’s call it what it is—not a shutdown.
Score the Ball: The fashionable new term among basketball pundits: “He (or she) can really score the ball.” Huh? When did it become so wrong to say, “he can score” or “she’s a great scorer”? You score points, not the ball.
Points in the Paint: Another favorite among basketball pundits. They’re scoring from the lane, ok? And what about points scored from lanes that aren’t painted?
Yeah, No: A favorite response of Millennials. “Would you like some ice cream?” Answer: “Yeah, no.” Huh? Do you want the ice cream or not?!?! You don’t need to say “yeah” I heard you, and “no, I don’t want ice cream.” Or, did you change your mind mid-thought? I’m not a mind reader, so please answer clearly.
Physicality: Way overused in sports circles, especially by one Kirby Smart. For example, “Our team showed ZERO physicality or much else in last night’s bowl game.” (This one is mine. I’m better now.)
Surreal: Stop trying to be refined. Just call it what it is…bizarre.
Bad actors: Beyond overused by political pundits. A too nice substitute to describe liars and thieves.
Holistic: as in “taking a holistic approach” to a marketing strategy. Overused!
Right?: “So what we want to do is take a holistic approach, right? So, that’s why we need to execute the plan in timing with the trade show, right?” If you’re trying to make a point or give direction, do so confidently, not by unintentionally asking for my validation or agreement.
There it is. Our epic version of the 2019 list of words that should literally be banished from our vocabulary. You can participate by submitting a nomination for Lake Superior State University’s official list for 2020.