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You, Sir, Have a Historic List of Banned Words

They say the way you spend your first day of the new year is the way you're going to spend the entire year.

So, laying on the couch with the flu? No, thank you. But that's where I found myself for the first four days of the new year, fighting for my life, teetering at death's door.

In fact, the only thing that kept me going was that Lake Superior State University (LSSU) released their 42nd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

So I peeled my dadbod off the sofa and staggered to my computer.

Or I nearly did, except "dadbod" is one of the banished words for 2017.

The very first list was published on January 1, 1976, by W. T. Rabe, a public relations director at LSSU, and has been a university tradition ever since.
Writing about the list has been my tradition since 2006, making this the 12th consecutive year I've covered it. This column is also partly responsible for a friend's daughter attending LSSU this coming fall, so I hope the school is appropriately grateful for my efforts.

(Like, say, a nice sweatshirt grateful.)

This is one of my favorite columns to write each year, because I get to tell people to quit using certain words because they're terrible.

The words, not people.

People are fine, for the most part. It's just that some of the words are, well, deplorable in a "bigly" way.

Surprisingly, deplorable did not make the list. But "bigly" did.

Bigly has been an actual word since around 1400. It originally meant "with great force or violently," and was used in the Le Morte d'Arthur tale in 1485. Later, it came to mean "boastfully or haughtily," when Thomas Hardy used it in his novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, in 1874.

However, "bigly" haters, if you're thinking He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named used it in the debates last year, He-Who's son, Eric, confirmed that his dad actually said "big league" during the Republican debates, and not the more archaic and well-read term.

Sort of like that time during the 2000 campaign George W. Bush and Dick Cheney called the New York Times' Adam Clymer a "major league A-hole."

Still, if we're going to kick the year off with a major league banishment, we couldn't do much worse than going after a 600-year-old word. That's some big league stuff.

But the 2016 presidential campaign got a lot of people's dander up. And I'm completely safe in saying that, because LSSU has only put the kibosh on the phrase "get your dandruff up."

This little eggcorn — a misheard rendering of a popular word or phrase — is correctly said as "get your dander up." So I can only conclude that people are tired of hearing about their friends' scalp condition. Either that, or so many people decided to correct this mis-use that it caught the Banished Words committee's attention.

You might say it was their "bête noire." Defined as a person or thing that someone really dislikes, I imagine this 19th century French phrase was just too hoity-toity for some people.

I was surprised the word even made the list, considering I had to look up what it meant. I didn't even know people were using it, let alone overusing it.

My own bête noire was the generally useless, "831," which was probably submitted by people who yell at kids to get off their lawn.

It's a texting abbreviation of the phrase "I love you" — 8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning. Because nothing expresses the deepest of all human emotions like reducing it to a shortcut.

That's about as stupid as "bae," which was banished in 2015, although I don't think many people got that particular memo. They even skipped the town hall meeting we had about it.

Which is unfortunate, because "town hall meeting" got the chop as well, since most political candidates are too cowardly to do real town halls anymore. I haven't seen a political event where real people got to ask real questions since that episode of "West Wing."

Another presidential campaign word I won't miss is "historic." Every presidential election since I've been alive, and I was born the year before Nixon v. Humphrey, has been labeled historic, and this year was no different, except worse. Of course it's historic! If nothing else, this campaign will be discussed in history class in 100 years, assuming our civilization still exists.

Still, the committee saw fit to eliminate the word, saying historians should consider what's historic, not the contemporary media.

(I don't think the contemporary media is fit to pronounce anything historic, since they usually say "an historic," which is completely wrong. It's "a historic," I shout at my TV. "A historic! You, sir, are an moron!")

At least I did until LSSU banished "you, sir."

Because it's from a more civilized era when we settled disagreements with duels and discourse, not Internet bullying by Cheeto-fingered post-truth trolls. Which means we're probably too uncivilized to use it properly.

Fair enough. They banned "post-truth" too.

I just wish they could do something about the trolls.

Photo credit: LSSU Administration Building, where I like to think all this magic happens. Bobak Ha'Eri (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

You can find my books Branding Yourself (affiliate link), No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


  1. An moron, good one. Can we also ban actually, literally, you know, and stuff like that, from the nightly newscast, please?

  2. Hey, I know someone who's going there next year! It's true, folks: if not for Mr. Deckers, my daughter might be staying closer to home and not dying in an blizzard far away someday.

    1. You don't know how proud that actually makes me! I know it's just a happy circumstance, and not anything I actually did, but it makes me proud to think my humor column caused someone's life to take a certain trajectory.


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