The wordsmiths at Lake Superior State University in Michigan are at it again. Among the words they’re trying to banish for “Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness” are fake news, gig economy, impactful and unpack.
As an unnamed spokesperson said when releasing the 43rd annual list, “We’ve drilled down and unpacked tons of pre-owned words and phrases deemed impactful by hundreds of nominators during 2017.”
The tradition began on January 1, 1976 with the late W. T. Rabe, then a PR director at the university. After a New Year’s Eve party, he and other faculty and staff published the first list of their own pet peeves. That list included macho, scenario and at this point in time.
Since then, word nerds have nominated tens of thousands of words and phrases. The words are always released on New Year’s Day, traditionally a slow news day.
Sadly, making the list does not actually banish awful jargon and overused terms. Incentivize has been on the list since 1983, utilize since 1987 and win-win since 1993, and they Will. Not. Die.
Here are some of this year’s top banned words:
- Fake news: “Once upon a time stories could be empirically disproved. Now ‘fake news’ is any story you disagree with.”
- Gig economy: “Gigs are for musicians and stand-up comedians. Now expanded to imply a sense of freedom and a lifestyle that rejects tradition in a changing economic culture. Runs a risk of sharecropping.”
- Impactful: “A frivolous word groping for something ‘effective’ or ‘influential.’”
- Onboarding/offboarding: “Creature from the HR Lagoon. We used to have hiring, training and orientation. Now we need to have an ‘onboarding’ process. Firings, quitting, and retirements are streamlined into ‘offboarding.’”
- Unpack: “Misused word for analyze, consider, assess. Concepts or positions are not packed, so they don’t need to be unpacked.”
Which word would you nominate for the next round?