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"YOLO" and 15 Other Words That Need To Die Right Now

By Brandon Specktor

Tell us what you think of our new digi-slang, guys: #YOBYOLOO…H

(You Only Banish YOLO Once…Hopefully)

Lake Superior State University just published its 38th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness. Since its first appearance on New Years Day in 1976, this word nerd hit list has endeavored to double-tap such annoying words and phrases as "viral," "sexting," "Git-er-done," and "It is what it is," thanks to yearlong nominations from voters like you. Now including the 12 new entries for 2013, the master list is approaching its 1000th banishment. We're gonna say this while we still can: Swag.

Many of this year's winners (or are they losers?) earned heavy play from media outlets during presidential and Congressional election coverage. Other words fall into the incestuous category of "people on the Internet describing the Internet for the Internet." Some, admittedly, we've seldom heard and don't really have a problem with. All of them, we hope, will make you think a bit about the words you use and what they mean.

Without further word-spewing, here is the LSSU's 2013 list:

1. Fiscal Cliff — Magically, this worthless media buzzphrase both exaggerates the reality of America's economic challenges and undermines American citizens' ability to grasp them. What, exactly, is going to happen to the nation's wealth, Mr. Newsman? "SCARY MOUNTAIN."

2. Kick The Can Down The Road — This metaphor for routine procrastination was a popular cliche in politics and punditry this year. We still prefer the classic, "took a Tumblr break" or, "played Words With Friends on the can for a while."

3. Double Down — Even this classic gambling term fails to make political lollygagging interesting. While we're at it, let's outlaw the KFC sandwich of the same name; a hot vom of cheese and bacon smeared betwixt some scabby chicken buttcheeks is not really a "sandwich" so much as it is "depressing for the future of America."

4. Job Creators/Creation — Another political buzzword played up through the election (we sense a pattern here), this blustery label attributes supernatural powers to the nation's wealthiest businessmen. According to one proponent of this phrase's demise, "Since jobs are only created by demand, consumers are the real job creators." So go forth and buy some dang Twinkies, y'all.

5. Passion/Passionate — Used in advertisements, this manipulative jargon is only a distraction from quality—and an awkward one, at that. Unless the fry cook and his trout did some Tantric snogging for several hours before warming up the batter, don't tell us our fish filet was crafted "passionately," please.

6. YOLO — The abbreviation of "You Only Live Once" was good for some Twitter laughs, but ultimately this hashtag philosophy conveys even less insight than those fortune cookies that only teach you how to say "eel farts" in Mandarin. To quote a modern prophet, "YODO, too."

7. Spoiler Alert — We still appreciate fair warning when some forum doofus is about to blow the ending of the next George R. R. Martin tome, but make sure you employ this phrase as an actual "alert" and not, as one voter says, "an obnoxious way to show one has trivial information and is about to use it, no matter what."

8. Bucket List — One progressive voter suggests, "Let's emphasize life and what we do during it. It's such a grim way of looking at 'what I want to do,' and often it is in selfish terms." True words. Though, if you MUST make such a list to feel complete in your life, at least try giving it a more original name—like "Croak Catalogue," or "Mortality Menu."

9. Trending — In math, data trends in a specific direction; global temperatures are trending upward, for example. To say something is "trending" to signify that it is "popular" is a shallow misuse of an otherwise helpful word, almost always employed to market something dumb. Hey, trend spotters: Is gravity still trending? …How about bowel movements?

10. Superfood — More bogus marketing slang. Contrary to ad crafters' assertions, "radioactive diarrhea" is not a superpower.

11. Boneless Wings — Once again, if only marketers would stop pussyfooting around and just call their crummy products as they are: "Mushy meat from several chickens you can cram haphazardly into your food chute!"

12. Guru — A puffed-up synonym for "expert," often used to describe the most tedious, unholy of expertise. One man's "Social Media Guru" is another man's "jobless jackass."

And here, pending your approval, are 4 more words yet to appear on the LSSU Banned list that we think should embark on a long soul-searching journey through the Himalayas:

I. Social Media — Every subscription-based online sharing platform is fundamentally the same thing: a public scrapbook that your friends get bored of reading long before the advertisers do. Let's stop pretending Facebook or Pinterest are any fancier or more important than that. (Some of us have strong feelings about this.)

II. Hipster — What started as a genuine signifier for '90s counter-culture has been perverted by marketers and comedians into a meaningless, catch-all cliche for young other-ness. You wear colored glasses? You're a hipster. Listen to Grizzly Bear? Totes hipster. You live in Brooklyn, Portland, Seattle, or Austin? Psh, why don't you and and all the other hipsters just secede already and declare the state of Hipstyria? You can fly a plaid flag and pass legislation through Instagram hearts. Hipsters.

III. Indie (music) — Like "hipster," this once-useful marker of self-sufficient musicians distributed by an independent record label has devolved into a broad and inaccurate descriptor for bands with any "alternative" style. Mumford and Sons are not "indie." They are funded by Universal Music Group. Truly independent bands don't have the appeal to headline MTV awards shows. Hipsters.

IV. "No offense, but" — An artificially polite indication that "I'm about to poop in your heart." It's okay to be genuinely offensive. Don't lie about it.

What say ye, word nerds?
Are you sick of hearing any of these phrases?
Which others would you add? (submit them here)
Is "banning" language helpful to clear expression?
Can you think of some original alternatives to these tired phrases?
Is KFC actually food?

Topics: Life
Tags: language, words, lists, 2012, trends

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About the Author
Brandon Specktor

For 22 years, Brandon was a fat kid living in Tucson, AZ, which gave him lots and lots of time to write. He now works at a magazine in New York City, but still loves writing almost as much as he loves muffins.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.