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LSSU's Banned Words for 2013

It's a brand new year, and you know what that means — Lake Superior State University (LSSU) releases its annual list of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. This is their 38th year, and the 7th year I've covered their linguistic eliminations.

As a word nerd, I'm always interested in learning what parts of the language are changing, evolving, or should be smashed with a hammer, so I enjoy seeing what words LSSU wants everyone to stop using.

This year, LSSU received tens of thousands of nominations, totaling more than 800 entries, and 12 finalists. And I liked 11 of them. Normally, I support every banned word, but this year, I passionately disagree with one of their entries and think the people who submitted them are just whiny little gits.

As you probably guessed, "Fiscal Cliff" topped the list, but we've hopefully heard the last of it. I don't think it was that the word was overused all year, but rather, we were drenched by it in December as the media found a new buzzword they could start abusing for their different headlines — driving over the Fiscal Cliff, falling off the Fiscal Cliff, being thrown off the Fiscal Cliff. You know, the kind of headline every reporter writes, cackling at its cleverness, not realizing it's the same as 10,000 other identical headlines around the world.

Not that it bothers me or anything.

What does bother me is "YOLO," which stands for "You Only Live Once," as some sort of a hipster battle cry.

It was 2012's drunken "hey y'all, watch this!" which is hollered seconds before someone injures themselves in a hilariously spectacular fashion. These days, a bunch of jegging-wearing 20-somethings will scream "YOLOOOOOOO!" at the top of their lungs as they launch themselves down a steep hill on a mechanic's dolly.

It may be because I'm in my 40s, but I prefer the phrase YOLFARLT — You Only Live For A Really Long Time — which, as I write it, I realize sounds a lot like "Ya old fart," which I may be. But I also still have all my teeth and no visible scars, so I like my odds so far.

Spoiler Alert: we're all going to die in the end anyway, but some of us — *ahem* looking at you, YOLOers — are just going to go sooner than the rest of us.

Except LSSU is banning "Spoiler Alert." "Used as an obnoxious way to show one has trivial information and is about to use it," wrote submitter Joseph Joly. It originally started out as an alert on websites that detailed movie plots to tell people that if they hadn't seen the movie, they shouldn't read any further. Now it's just used willy-nilly, neither spoiling anything nor alerting anyone.

The entry I hated with a white hot passion was, well, "Passion/Passionate." Apparently a lot of people don't like the word as a way to describe people being overly enthusiastic about a particular hobby or topic, calling it a "phony-baloney word." One person even said "passion is the stuff of Ahab, Hitler, chauvinists of every stripe, and terrorists."

I vehemently oppose the inclusion of the word, because it refers to something deeply felt. According to, it's "any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate." And I question the emotional depth of people who think passion is phony-baloney, or equate it with Hitler, terrorists, and chauvinists. Passion is wild love, the feeling that you can't live without someone or something. It's not something to be dismissed puritanically out of hand, with the emotionlessness a cold fish.

Not that it bothers me or anything.

I was also introduced to a new word, even though it's now banned before I get to use it: "Superfood." These are foods that are so jam packed with nutrition and health benefits — blueberries, salmon, green tea, that sort of thing — that we should eat them as much as possible.

Yeah, right. The only super food I recognize is a cheeseburger with a fried egg on it, although I don't think that's what the superfoodies had in mind. Still, the people who have bought into the superfood mindset are the same people who will wrinkle their emaciated noses at beef and poultry products being eaten at all, and try to convince you that a soy burger with an egg substitute is just as good.

Spoiler alert: anyone who tells you a substitute food is "just as good as" the real thing is lying to you. It's like saying your dinner has a "nice personality." After all, as any egg-on-a-cheeseburger passionista can tell you, YOLO, baby! YOLO.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is now available. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out.

You can get both of them from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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