The Good, The Bad & The Pedantically Obnoxious: Lake State's Banned Words List

December 31, 2013, 8:50 AM


Lake Superior State has released its annual list of phrases that it says need to be put down like Old Yeller.

As is often the case, some of Lake State's "banished words" are valid while other selections reflect a pedantic opposition to wit and creativity from people who prefer the literalism of a Bob Ross landscape to abstract expressionism. Let's break the list down.

The Good

"______ on steroids": The metaphor that something improved or expanded is "on steroids" is legitimately overused and boring. We can do better.

Mister Mom: Apparently, references to this 30-year-old Michael Keaton film has reentered the lexicon. Everything about the use of Mister Mom to describe stay-at-home dads is wrong, especially the fact that "Gung Ho" was a way better film than Mister Mom. Way better.

Suffixes –ageddon,  –pocalypse: Comparing every little banal political disagreement or weather event to an end times fantasy without any hint of irony is just stupid.

Adversity (in sports): Yes, please. A NFL coach who recovers from a lousy first half of the season to get his team into the playoffs isn't the same thing as, say, a penniless war orphan raising young siblings while putting himself through night school. Sports announcers have a hard time separating first world problems from, you know, real ones.

The Bad

Twittersphere​: Is Twittersphere even used all that often? Like "information superhighway" before it, Twittersphere seems like a phrase that only bothers the few remaining dial-up internet users. It seems silly to "banish" a word that is pretty much dead from neglect anyway.

Intellectually/morally bankrupt: Arguably overused in some contexts, these are useful and descriptive phrases to describe something without either intellectual or moral merit.

Fan base: One word is preferable to two words the argument goes, so just say fans instead of fan base. Economy of language and all of that. However, "the Tigers have many fans in the metro Detroit area" isn't more economical than "the Tigers have a large local fan base."

Pedantically Obnoxious

Selfie​: It is tempting to argue selfie rightfully earned its spot on this year's list. People have taken pictures of themselves for decades, but now the concept of a selfie is treated like the latest new thing because there is a word for it. The problem is people want to "banish" the word selfie because they don't like the act: "It's a lame word. It's all about me, me, me. Put the smartphone away. Nobody cares about you." -- David, Lake Mills, Wisc. 

You don't banish a word just because you don't like the thing it describes. By that logic, we should first banish "child rape" and "genocide." I'm sure even our Lake Mills, Wisconsin friend would agree those things are worse than selfies.

Twerk: Again, the outrage is about the behavior and not the word used to describe the behavior. Twerking describes a dance move that has become insufferably omnipresent since Miley Cyrus twerked on tv and people decided to be completely obsessed with everything about this one middling pop star. That's annoying. However, it doesn't mean that twerk isn't a valid and commonly-understood description of a certain dance move.

Hashtag: The notion that this social media convention has crossed over into other forms of communication has offended the delicate sensibilities of language pedants everywhere. Using a hashtag phrase in everyday conversation isn't really any different than saying someone is "telegraphing their emotions." The English language evolves and adapts to cultural trends. #getoveryourselves

T-bone: Who knew this long-standing and completely accurate metaphorical description of a specific kind traffic collision is a source of consternation for language scolds?

Obamacare: Yes, yes, the damn thing is called the Affordable Care Act. Although, if you want to be technical about it, the health care reform laws passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama are officially titled the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" and "Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010." That's kind of a mouthful. Since both Democrats and Republicans are comfortable using Obamacare as colloquial shorthand, the phrase hardly seems problematic. Unless you insist on using the formal "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001" to describe the Patriot Act, there's no reason to complain about the phrase Obamacare.

Read more:  Lake Superior State University

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Potd_img_2111_444 A fun futuristic mural in Eastern Market by Nick Pizana, from the 2019 Murals in Market festival.

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