William ShakespeareCredit: Copyright flickr All Rights Reserved by BaldRUs

Words, Words, Words

In 1977, Lake Superior State University issued its first banned word list in an attempt to generate publicity for the little known school in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The ploy worked. “The annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness has been going strong since New Year's Day 1976”.[1]

Since then, the list started by Public Relations Director W.T. (Bill) Rabe and his friends has grown into a yearly tradition. In fact, “the popularity of the effort shows no signs of dwindling. Hundreds of nominations are received each year…”.[1]

Eager contributors and wordsmiths look forward to the revelation of this highly anticipated list hoping that each cringe inducing utterance that is nominated may once and for all be banished from the lexicon giving ears and minds a much needed respite.

Below is a list of words that are securing their nominations for the 2014 list.


The clarion call of those with a penchant to state the obvious-you only live once- (as opposed to those of us who live more than once), YOLO earned a spot on the 2013 list. Given our propensity to perpetuate annoying words through parody and ironic gestures, YOLO is destined to repeat with an appearance in 2014. Variations of this phrase include the ever popular YODO (You only die once) and Yoda’s OOYL (Only Once You Live). 

Yoda #OOYLCredit: Copyright flickr All Rights Reserved by Benjamin G. Smith

The cousin of “It is what it is”, YOLO proves that apparently we need acronyms since previous statements of redundancy are too lengthy. At least the backlash to YOLO gave us the following satirical gem by SNL cast member Andy Samberg and his group The Lonely Island:


2. Literally

The secret is out! People who use literally figuratively are literally wrong. For years, people have had to suffer through gems such as:


OMG Like Literally All in OneCredit: http://hypervocal.com/culture/2012/13-people-who-dont-know-what-literally-means/

Why do we need to stop using it? The evidence is clear. Literally is misused so often that additional definitions are being added under the original entry.  


Wrong Definition of Literally Makes DictionaryCredit: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/the-wrong-definition-of-literally-is-literally-going-in-the

Even the Oxford English Dictionary broke down and added a disclaimer . Attempts to defend the correct usage and educate the misinformed have been in vain. Accept it. Our only hope of using literally correctly is to intentionally use it incorrectly.  Now that’s “literally” mind blowing.

3. Cray-Cray

Turns out the letter ‘z’ was holding back users of the word “crazy”. Unbridled by the weight of an extra consonant, the term Cray flies out of mouths so quickly that it is often repeated for emphasis. If you want to express to listeners that something is so outrageous that it crosses the normal boundaries of society, call it Cray-Cray. To put it another way, it’s crazier than crazy. This word has been festering in our lexicon since 2011, but it is now swimming in the mainstream since it can be applied liberally to the antics of celebrities. For example:


Lisa Rinna Goes Cray CrayCredit: http://www.etonline.com/tv/133152_Celebrity_Apprentice_13_Clips_Lisa_Rinna_Penn_Jillette_Have_a_Laughing_Fit/index.html

 Still need convincing? Try to stomach this and then make up your mind:


4. War on________

It’s time to declare a War on War on. History has shown us that declaring war on abstract concepts is easy. We’ve had a War on Poverty, War on Christmas,  War on Drugs (Spoiler: Drugs are winning ) and, more recently, a War on Terror. But it was the 2012 elections that gave us the War on Women. What once began as a promising attempt at political discourse, the War on Women quickly became a political talking point to draw attention to the gaffes of politicians ostracizing a large segment of voters in the United States. The problem with this empty phrase is that it trivializes the underlying issues with rhetoric instead of legitimate actions. Expect more wars to come as we are currently embroiled in a War on Whistleblowers. And it's only July. Is it just a coincidence that War on rhymes with moron?


War on ChristmasCredit: Copyright flickr All Rights Reserved by NewsCorpse


5. Selfie

Nowadays photography is quite simple: point and click to capture a digitalized image that can be shared via the internet within seconds. It’s that simplicity that brings about the scourge of the selfie. People tend to take photos of things they find interesting. As it turns out, many people are interested in themselves. Spurred on by the need to plaster social website profiles with images of oneself, the selfie is derived from the ever popular duck face self-portrait taken to use on personal social media such as Myspace, Facebook and Instagram.

 Selfie Conan and RickyCredit: http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/the-absolute-best-selfies-of-all-time

With the advent of Snapchat, this word is guaranteed to hashtag us to death as we are bombarded by momentary glimpses of facial expressions to replace words.  Worse yet, the selfie is at the heart of the Anthony Weiner scandal and similar sexting escapades. But it’s not the self-aggrandizing nature of selfies that is at issue here; it’s the terminology. Any word that makes you sound like a two year old trying to express a simple phrase such as, “I took a picture of myself” ought to be banished.


War of the Words

For those interested in submitting words featured in this article or other words that come to mind, now is the time. Visit Lake Superior State University and declare a war on words.

Submission FormCredit: http://www.lssu.edu/banished/submit_word.php