English Gone Cra-Cra: 12 New Words Banished by Lake Superior State University

Editorial Assistant, Carnegie Communications

Jan   2015



Students across the country are going to be pretty tongue-tied, with words like bae, cra-cra, and swag officially “banned” by order of Lake Superior State University.

The small public school, located in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, just released its annual satirical “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use, and General Uselessness,” published every year around New Year’s Day for the past 40 years. The 12 words on this year’s list also include:

  • Polar vortex
  • Hack
  • Skill set
  • Foodie
  • Curate/curated
  • Friend-raising
  • Enhanced interrogation
  • Takeaway
  • Nation [see sports fans, like Red Sox Nation]

The very first list of language laments, compiled by former Public Relations Director W.T. Rabe and company at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975, was published as a publicity stunt, according to LSSU.

But what started as a humorous rant on the butchering of the English language has turned into a decades-old tradition that has so far “outlawed” more than 800 words and phrases (chillaxin’! bromance! read my lips!) recommended by thousands of weary wordsmiths (banished in 2008—sorry, guys!) from around the world.

Anyone can nominate a word, and one could argue the best part of each list are the clever comments explaining why a term needs to be put to rest. Peel-and-eat shrimp was banned in 2003, because “Do they think that, if the name did not contain instructions, we would peel-and-throw-on-floor?” asked Miguel McCormick from Orlando, Florida. In 2006, 97% fat free was axed since, as Andrew Clucas from Canberra, Australia, put it: “Still has 3% fat . . . accept it.”

The timely lists seem to reflect the evolution of the English language (or lack thereof). The first batch of words, published on January 1, 1976, included terms like meaningful (which “has lost all of its meaningfulness”) and at this point in time (“Why not say ‘now,’ or ‘today?’”). But more recent rejects reflect an affinity to abbrev. everything (YOLO, banned in 2013), as well as textspeak (banned in 2009).

While some of the banished words make people’s blood boil—“‘Someone who enjoys food’ applies to everyone on Earth. What’s next? ‘Oh, I’m an airie; I just love to breathe,” writes Andy Poe of the word foodie—the objective of the list is much more lighthearted.

“It just seems that language always strikes a nerve with people,” LSSU’s current PR Director Thomas Pink told ABC News. But at the end of the day—banned in 1999!—“We all try to look for things that would make people laugh.”

What words do you think are overused, misused, or totally useless? Let us know in the comments! (And if you feel like banning even more words from your vocabulary, check out the 10 Words and Phrases That Will Kill Your Résumé (and What You Should Say Instead).

Note: Did you know you could win a $10,000 scholarship for college or grad school just by registering on CollegeXpress? This is one of the quickest, easiest scholarships you’ll ever apply for. Register Now »