In 2015, What’s Cooler Than Saying ‘Cool’? Saying Something Specific


This Year, Please Do Not ‘Take It To The Next Level’

They banished absolutely! in 1993.

They banished BFF three years ago.

Ginormous has been out since 2012. Metrosexual has been gone since 2004. Don’t talk to me about ginormous metrosexuals or I’ll know you didn’t get the memo. Speaking of memos, they’ve even banished words that aren’t words, such as “momento” in 1992. (The word is memento, not “momento,” you pimento.)

Has anybody asked you for input lately? They’re 38 years out of date.

One panel I moderated at a publishing conference recently included a key panelist who began everything she said with the word so. So no matter what you had asked her, she started the answer that way. So it was annoying, you know? So it’s been banished since 1999.

Did I just say “you know?” They tossed that out — spelling it yuh know — in both 1978 and 1979. You see how successful they’ve been with that one.

Whatsup? has been gone since 1998. Dude went out three years later. Diva was done in 2001.

We stopped bonding in 2003. We threw out bling and bling-bling in 2004. Blog has been a goner since 2005.

As we say in the South, shut my mouth. (I checked. As yet, they have not banished shut my mouth. I probably shouldn’t have called it to their attention.)

Who are “they” and why are they banishing all these things we say?

It’s A Publicity Stunt, And A Good One

Lake Superior State University (LSSU) in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, is “they.” Them. The ones doing the banishing.

The school became independent of Michigan Technological University in 1970.

Worried that the university was still thought of as part of Michigan Tech, an enterprising PR director named Bill Rabe came up with the idea of a “banishment list” of the terms and words you hear so much in daily life that it could drive you to aromatherapy (banished, 1997). The press picked up on the first list faster than you can say i-anything (banished, 2007). Almost exactly (banished, 1990) a year later, in 1977, Rabe declared that the LSSU banished-words list would go on forever, a phrase that should be banished.

It has, however, gone on for four decades. Tongue-in-cheek? Yeah, no.

The formally named LSSU List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness has come out this week with a 2015 round of terms you may feel you hear 24/7 (banished, 2000).

Our latest word banishements are:

  • BAE (even if you do come Before All Else for me, dear reader)
  • Polar vortex (weathermen on override; “winter” still works well)
  • Hack (as in fixing something; the people may want to consider what hacking a life might actually mean)
  • Skill set (the idea being that if you have the skills, you’ve got the set; both words aren’t needed)
  • Swag (because it has come to mean just about everything and pretty much nothing)
  • Foodie (I love the example included in one nomination: “What’s next? ‘Oh, I’m an airie; I just love to breathe.'”)
  • Curate (because we use it to mean merely “select” or “choose,” not to mean bringing expertise and/or other criteria to bear on an issue or situation — people are curating their damned grocery lists these days)
  • Friend-Raising (it’s an age of ambition, isn’t it?)
  • Cra-cra (because it drives us that way)
  • Enhanced interrogation (because torture should be called what it is)
  • Takeaway (when you decide what the main point of something is)
  • -Nation (thank God we decided not to change the name here to Thought Nation)

Frozen And Fallible In Sault Ste. Marie

In case it makes you feel any better, the good folks in charge of these banishments at LSSU aren’t free of error, themselves.

In their precede to this year’s list they write (emphasis mine):

Though other groups and organizations have compiled similar lists over the years – some of which bear some remarkable similarities and contain some of the same words and phrases – none have outlasted LSSU’s list.

That should be “none has outlasted LSSU’s list.” None means no one. Try saying “no one have outlasted LSSU’s list and you sound ready for banishment, right?

It’s okay, though. As I write this, it’s 19 degrees Fahrenheit in Sault Ste. Marie. I’m not going to throw them under the bus (banished, 2008) at least until the first big thaw. It’s going down to 9 degrees tonight, it’s all good (banished, 2000).

And LSSU isn’t the only crowd that can slip on the ice when trying to deal with this kind of material. For example, here’s an ironic editor’s apology from TIME, a note now attached to the top of its Which Word Should Be Banned In 2015? story. As you can tell, this one probably came from some reactions that were super-heated, not cold:

Editor’s Note:

TIME apologizes for the execution of this poll; the word ‘feminist’ should not have been included in a list of words to ban. While we meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year, that nuance was lost, and we regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.

–Nancy Gibbs

I’m glad to see, in fact, that TIME included I can’t even in its list of banishment-worthy phrases. I’d felt the same.

So (1999, remember?), join me in offering a few choice additions to the banishment list.

I’ll start with that one:

  • None have (because it’s strictly bad English)

And then I’ll add a couple more that should have been banished long ago, literally:

  • Literally (because we rarely literally mean literally — most of the time we mean “figuratively” when we say literally. “Literally” means actually. If you say “she literally wrapped her arms around the world with her love for international travel,” you’ve just announced that she has arms at least 12,505 miles long. Why not say “figuratively?” Or better yet, say nothing. Just let a metaphor do its job.)
  • Go on forever (because nothing does)
  • Supersize (because we’ve heard that commercial slang enough)
  • 4-1-1 (because would it kill you to just say “information”?)
  • Shipping (for things having to do with relationship, I’m ready for that one to ship out)
  • Friends and family (you can, in fact, say one without the other)
  • For free (if it’s free of charge, it’s free, not “for free”)
  • Media when you mean medium (because the term “media” is plural. A newspaper is one “medium,” and two TV stations are a couple of “media.” “The social media are popular,” not “the social media is popular.”)

You can propose a word for banishment on the 2016 list, by the way, at the LSSU site.

Or better yet, you can tell me in a comment right here. No extra charge. Happy to ferry your best best to Michigan for you.

In exchange, I’ll tell you why these banishment lists are useful, even if they are crass publicity grabs for attention by an otherwise fine, freezing, and funny university staff.

An ‘Alternative Lifestyle’ (Banished, 1988)

When we see these lists of steaming terms we could so easily and readily do without, they bring them up to consciousness for us.

There just isn’t an app (banished, 2010) for that stuff we all need more of call self-awareness. We’re all so busy multi-tasking (banished, 1997) that we don’t realize we’re speaking and writing on automatic pilot most of the time.

What do we want instead of this kind of annual aha moment (banished, 2011)?

We want to be specific. We want to empower (banished, 1993) ourselves and those we love (or hate) to use the full range and breadth of the language (banished, 1983), to engage each other in precise (banished, 1983) and user-friendly (banished, 1984) exchanges.

Why sound like a mall rat, when you could think about your vocabulary, use the most accurate, meaningful, and fresh comments you could make, and help those who hear and read you to grow as communicators with you?

Talk right. Or speak well. It’s up to you.

Reach out (banished, 1994) and share (banished, 1981) this with your BAE (banished, 2015), won’t you?

And by the way, per our headline here — cool has yet to be banished.

Cool, huh?