Should overused words be banished?

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:
Baby Bump
Shared Sacrifice
Man Cave
The New Normal
Pet Parent
Win The Future
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?

Sign up for our Newsletter!
Start your day with weird words, fun quizzes, and language stories.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Dictionary Is More Than The Word Of The Day

Enter your email for quizzes, quotes, and word facts in your inbox every day.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.