#WordUse Series: I’m Over It! (These Words Have Got to Go)

I love slang as much as the next person. As a frame of reference, slang instantly conveys humor, sarcasm, or solidarity. Just think about the meaning occupy has taken on recently, and the myriad ways it’s been applied. Pop culture (that is, the world we live in) is a rich minefield for slang—I particularly love tiger mom and fauxdashian. (I see those eyes rolling!)

I’m less crazy about jargon, although sometimes it can be mildly amusing—say, late on a Friday afternoon when your boss decides to drill down so he can get your buy-in on a project to reach out to opinion formers who demonstrate thought leadership in the blogosphere. (He’ll want you to circle back on Monday to share any light-bulb moments you had over the weekend.) Sigh.

I even like a good cliché. If you write fiction, cliché is actually important to your dialogue, because that’s how regular folks talk. And the fact is a perfectly good word or phrase became a cliché because … well, because it works. Sweet spot, for example. We’ve all got one. Somewhere.

But sometimes these words get on my very last nerve. Sometimes I just want to scream, “Stop! Stop! For the love of the lexicon, stop!” Take these, for example. (Please.) I’m over them.

amazing (I’ve written about this one.)
baby mama
bandwith (“Does he have the bandwidth to take that on?”)
brain dump (Seriously?)
circle back
come alongside
drill down
fail (And the ever popular epic fail.)
light-bulb moment
man up
ninja (Like “he’s a rock star” only implies more talent.)
personal brand
reach out
road warrior
rock (Used as a verb: she’s rocking that bikini.)
share (It’s not a substitute for tell, people!)
take it off-line
take it on board
the new … (The new normal, the new black, the new thirty …)
thought leader
unpack it
viral (A cute cat video goes viral.)
visionary, vision-casting

I just complain about these things, but my friends at Michigan’s Lake Superior State University (go Lakers!) actually do something about it: they have an annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness. The 2012 list includes: amazing, baby bump, blowback, ginormous, man cave, occupy, pet parent, shared sacrifice, thank you in advance, the new normal, trickeration, win the future.

I bet you’ve got some words to add to this list too. Reach out! :)

Tweet: I’m over it! These words have got to go!

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  1. I agree with a lot of them. Baby mama (and its flip side, baby daddy), amazing, and share as opposed to tell all make me a little crazy. I kind of like baby bump but, yes, it overused. Chillax makes me homicidal (as in let me introduce you to a real axe and we’ll see how chill you are then!). I am actually really fond of epic fail, probably because I manage to produce them on a fairly regular basis lol. I’m beginning to think that as I have aged I have developed an allergy to most things popular. Or maybe I’m just trying to hold on to the last shred of common sense remaining. Thanks for the post and the chance to vent.

  2. I’ve found that as my health deteriorates, and the circles of the drain become smaller, I’m eschewing the use of slang. It’s not precise enough for the breath I still have.

    I don’t object to the word actionable, though – its operational use in ‘actionable intel’ is quite precise, and it’s an economical way to get the point across, viz. that a specific body of information can be used directly.

    The slang use of ninja has always baffled me, because in medieval Japan ninja were despised; they had none of the prestige of samurai, being assassins whose methods were devoid of honour.

    One phrase in common usage leaves me distinctly uncomfortable; on “The Voice” the MC was fond of saying “He/She left is all on the stage.”

    Exactly WHAT was left on the stage, and has the janitorial service been called?

    • jamiechavez says:

      The good thing about slang is there’ll be something new next month and these usages that bug us so much will fade away.