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Overused words, NPR, pet parents, baby bump, man caveEarlier this week NPR’s All Things Considered announced what they called the 2011 Banished Words of the Year. Compiled by a former journalist at Lake Superior State University in Michigan, the list is an inversion of the 2011 most important words list. Rather than words that accurately describe the past year’s events, the Banished Words are terms that were misused, overused or generally useless, to paraphrase the original title of the list.

The most offending words of 2011 were:
Amazing
Baby Bump
Shared Sacrifice
Occupy
Blowback
Man Cave
The New Normal
Pet Parent
Win The Future
Trickeration
Ginormous
Thank You In Advance

This list does not just reflect new words that entered the language. In fact, only two of these words are neologisms: trickeration and ginormous. Baby bump too has a clear definition, but only came into common usage this year.

“Amazing,” as a banished word, represents a common frustration amongst logophiles: mundane words that are overused, often incorrectly. In December 2010, we discussed the overuse and abuse of the word “ironic.” Read about it here. Another pet peeve word “awesome” was banned – twice! In both 1984 and 2007, the word was struck down.

Read the full list of banished words, going back to 1975, here.

Did the words on the 2011 list make you bristle with discomfort? It certainly does feel like they were used (and overused) in 2011. However, do these anecdotal observations stand up to statistical analysis? One interesting tool to track language, Google’s nGram viewer, allows us to look at how a specific word has trended in print over a given period of time. “Amazing” was widely used in the 1940s but declined until 2000 when its popularity surged again, and “awesome” has been surging consistently since the early 1900s!

What words are stuck in your head from last year? What words should be banished?

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536 Comments

  1. Youtube.com -  February 16, 2014 - 4:55 am

    Yes! Finally someone writes about pictures tattoos.

    Reply
  2. ed -  August 27, 2013 - 4:12 am

    Re the last comment: “thankfulness”. How this word has been used epitomises how too many people just think a word can be used in way they like and use it. How about just plain “thanks”. Less pretentious; long-winded (some hope given the verbal diarrhoea that oozes out of most mouths). The “English” English setting on my computer doesn’t like the spelling of diarrhoae, but it’s correct. Let’s get going on that one shall we – cultural imperialism.

    Reply
  3. play free minecraft survival mode -  January 27, 2013 - 1:31 am

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to
    make your point. You clearly know what youre talking about, why
    waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog
    when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

    Reply
  4. martin -  January 16, 2013 - 12:52 am

    I hope someone includes this one; “wheelhouse.” After the hit movie “The Perfect Storm” came out within 6 mos I started hearing the now familiar phrase, “That’s right in my Wheelhouse” and they use it to denote that a particular action or activity being their delight, or specialty, or their specific cup of tea being used by Sports Announcer’s, Talk show hosts, athletes, on the radio, EVERYWHERE!
    *
    George Clooney, thanks to you we are stuck 4-EVER with a spot of language that belongs ONLY in the Mariner’s Dictionary or spoken by a Sea Captain and in the ear’s of shipmate’s while the boat is out at sea!!

    Reply
  5. guy incognito -  December 10, 2012 - 4:09 pm

    How about…. “you know what im sayin’” or just “nom sayin”

    Reply
  6. ryan -  December 6, 2012 - 2:06 am

    The word “awesome” has become almost meaningless. If a glass of orange juice is awesome, a snot- rocket is awesome, and a Jimmy John’s sandwich is awesome, then nothing is awesome. Seriously.. Okay, maybe not the snot- rocket part. But people need to cool it with their word choice before we start mentioning horse feces and “awesome” in the same sentence.

    Reply
  7. mark -  December 5, 2012 - 4:35 pm

    How about “TRENDING” ? That friggin word is so overused it makes me want to puke every time I hear it. All the news media use it way too much like they’re getting royalties for every time they mention that hideous word.

    Reply
  8. snakey -  October 5, 2012 - 7:10 am

    Also “baby bump”, “pet parent”, “fur babies” and “furkids”, “preggo”" and “preggers” UGH

    Reply
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