Let's Banish These Words in 2019

It's Christmas for language finger waggers!

Lake Superior State University (official motto: "No, the lake is Superior, we're pretty humble.") has released their annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

This year, LSSU received tens of thousands of nominations from people who have found certain words to be grating, overused, or just plain tiresome. And while I'm never in favor of censorship — unless you're a Nazi; Nazis don't deserve to be heard — these are a few words that I wouldn't mind if people would quit using in the media and on certain social media platforms.

In fact, LSSU has banished platform. It has become a catch-all word that refers to not only different social media channels, it's a metaphor for "people who have something to say." Michael from Alameda, California told LSSU, "Even athletes call a post-game interview a 'platform.'"

Platforms should be things you stand on and shoes for people who want to look taller, so I'm with LSSU on this: Platform has to go.

Another word LSSU would like us to eschew is eschew. "Nobody ever actually says this word out loud," said Mary from Toronto, Canada, "they just write it for filler."

She's got me there. I don't say it out loud because I don't actually know how to pronounce it.

Is it "es-shew," like the thing you wear on your foot, or "ess-chew," like a sneeze? I can't stop using it until I know which pronunciation I'm giving up.

One word I will gladly eschew is yeet, which means to show excitement or to express victory. Or as UrbanDictonary.com says, "to give your full power and soul to an action you're doing." I had never heard it until I saw it on the list, and then I had to have my son explain it to me.

Honestly, this is the first time LSSU has banished a word I've never heard. And now that I have, I hope I never hear it again. It makes me feel old.

Maybe we should be ghosting the word, except LSSU wants to exorcise ghosting.

Ghosting is the act of ducking out on a relationship by never calling or texting the other person. It's done by gutless cowards who don't have the maturity to be an adult and say, "Look, this isn't working out."

But what do I know? I've only been married for 25 years, so I guess I don't know how successful relationships work. They're just not in my wheelhouse.

Wheelhouse is getting the boot this year. It means "area of expertise," and it's actually a word I've used for many years. But Kevin from Portland, Oregon told LSSU, "It's an awkward word to use in the 21st century. Most people have never seen a wheelhouse."

Not so fast there, Kevin. Many people have never seen a videotape, but we still "tape" things on our DVR. We also say difficult situations are a "tough row to hoe," even though most people don't garden. And we still "dial" a phone, even though everyone uses smartphones and touch screens. So don't go casting off a word just because you don't know what it is.

In fact, a wheelhouse is the little shelter on a boat to protect the person at the wheel, and we still have plenty of those, so I think the word needs to stay.

Personally, I like to say something is "in my bailiwick" instead, because it sounds a little dirty.

But some people aren't happy unless they're attacking perfectly normal words. They can't wrap their head around the idea that some words actually deserve a place in our everyday lexicon.

Except now wrap my head around is on the list and I can't even, well, fathom that idea. The head-wrapping haters said wrapping your head around something is "impossible to do" because they've apparently never heard of a metaphor and live their lives literally and unpoetically.

Collusion also made LSSU's list, but only because people are getting tired of hearing the word over and over. But I don't think the word is overused, unless you count Donald Trump rage-tweeting "NO COLLUSION!" every three days.

Besides, I think we're going to hear it a lot this year. It doesn't matter whether we think there was any collusion between Russia and Trump's election campaign, this word is here to stay. We're also going to hear terms like "unindicted co-conspirator," "mounting legal troubles," and "impeachment" for many weeks and months, at least until the problem goes away.

Optics is one term I'm happy to see going away. It's nothing more than a jargon-y way to say "appearance," as in "I worry about the optics of a financial planning conference in Vegas."

Just say appearance. Optics is the scientific study of sight and light behavior, such as lasers and the human eye. It's not another linguistic welcome mat for Silicon Valley code bros and PR flacks to wipe their feet on. People who use optics this way make me want to poke them in their own optics.

I always look forward to LSSU's list each year. It helps us think about the words we use every day and makes us more thoughtful about what language is becoming. As a word nerd, I find that very exciting.


Photo credit: Joe Mabel (Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License)

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