Monday, January 17, 2011

Banishing a Word of the Year

I like good strong words that mean something. - Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

I found it surprising that an innocuous word like epic made it to the banished and the word of the year lists.

According to, epic means:
1. noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style: Homer's Iliad is an epic poem.
2. resembling or suggesting such poetry: an epic novel on the founding of the country.
3. heroic; majestic; impressively great: the epic events of the war.
4. of unusually great size or extent: a crime wave of epic proportions.

Banishment seems like a tough sentence to give a poor little word, but Lake Superior State University (LSSU) has been coming up with this list since 1976. They receive over 1,000 nominations annually. Linda Lseszczuk’s has also written a blog about these banished words. Check it out to discover the other words that share this mark of distinction with epic.

So what has this four letter word done to be placed on the LSSU 2011 List of Banished Words? Tim Blaney suggests, "Over-use of the word 'epic' has reached epic proportions.”

Epic is also one of the 2010 People’s Choice Words of the Year. According to,
“Was 2010 an “epic” year? Many of the people who nominated the word associated epic with the slang phrase “epic fail,” as in a major screw-up. Others nominated the word as a comment on how often they heard the word misused to describe events that clearly were not of an epic nature.”

To my way of thinking both sources are saying the same thing. It can’t be easy being a favorite and least favorite word. It must take a special word to earn these conflicting honors. I wonder if the word of the year award offsets the banishment?

The other People’s Choice Words were:
Defenestration - I had to look this up - it means the act of throwing someone out a window. (Funny that I haven't had the need to use this word - ever.)

However, selected the word “change” as their Word of the Year based on a surge of look-ups over the past year.

I don’t know what qualifies a word for this illustrious list, but the winners are words that have been around for some time. I expected a list of newer, more creative terms.

What word would you nominate for 2010 Word of the Year?

Tags: Louisa May Alcott, Banished Words, People’s Choice, epic, word of the year


Old Kitty said...

Poor epic!! I want to set up a "leave epic alone!" campaign now!!

Word of last year? "wikileaks"! If that qualifies - only because of the fallout and long-term global political repurcussions of news containing this word! Take care

Joanne said...

"Withstands." Here's why ... I can't tell you how often I've heard this past year that something "stands" the test of time. I don't know where that came from, but it doesn't even make sense. The correct term in that phrase is "withstand," so I'd like to nominate it to draw attention to it :)

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm not awake enough yet to think of a choice word. I never heard that word for throwing someone out a window either. Sounds more like throwing someone over a fence. Maybe a cowboy made it up :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Tchotchke is kind of fun. Actually, all the synonyms for tchotchke are fun--knickknacks, bric-a-bric, bauble...

I feel a little sorry for 'epic.'

Darcia Helle said...

I like the word epic! My vote for a word to be banished is 'babymama'. That word is even making it onto mainstream TV shows now. I get annoyed every time I hear it.

I had never heard of defenestration, either. And, like you Jane, have never had cause to use it. I'll keep it in mind, though, just in case I get the desire to toss my husband out the window one day!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Old Kitty, I can’t think of a better person to lead the campaign for “epic.” Wikileaks is a great suggestions for word of the year. Maybe it’ll make next year’s list.

Joanne, maybe we can start our own word list of the year from a writer’s point of view and then we can be sure "withstand" will be on it.

Carol, now you make me want to look up the etymology of defenestration to see if a cowboy did make it up.

Elizabeth, tchotchke is so much better than brouhaha or any other words on the list. It’s funny how it also has great sounding synonyms. You can join Old Kitty’s campaign to quit picking on epic.

Darcia, I would vote to banish that word, too. I can’t figure how a word that no one seems to know, made it to word of the year. Maybe we missed a big story that featured the word defenestration. Hopefully, you won’t have an occasion to use it.

Arlee Bird said...

I am guilty of using the word 'epic', but I feel no guilt in doing so. These lists are dumb lists perpetrated by silly academes who have little better to do with their time if they are being serious. And if they are trying to be humorous, well they are mildly so but give me an intelligent stand-up comedian anyday. Perhaps somebody should defenestrate people who come up with dumb lists like these.

Tossing It Out

KarenG said...

Who decides what words are banished anyway? Also this year *chick lit* was banished, and I love that genre. Sometimes the *experts* are just annoying.

Hart Johnson said...

*giggles* It's not EPICs fault that people abuse it so! That cracks me up it's on both lists. I do hear it abused... and it does sorta bug me...

If I were banishing... I'd have to go with PANTS *shifty*

As for FAVORITE words... advance.... published... best selling...

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I like Epic Fail - why would they want to banish that?
I wonder where un-friend and un-follow fell in the lists?

Linda Leszczuk said...

Thanks for the mention, Jane. I probably should have added a disclaimer to my post that I don't agree with all the words on the list - although some I definitely do. There are words I think need not be banished, simply returned to their original meaning, i.e. "awesome". When I listen to my grandchildren, it appears everything these days is awesome.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm with you on the 'leave epic alone.'
In educaction I'm really tired of hearing, 'essential.'

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Lee, thanks for using defenestrate in a sentence! ) True the lists may be dumb, but they really are popular and the LSSU banished word list has been going strong for over 30 years.

Karen, I think anyone can nominate a word for banishment throughout the year and then the ones that receive the most nominations win that’s why it’s hard for me to believe a word like defenestrate is on that list. I enjoy chick lit, too, but I think they can give it a name that might appeal to more people.

Hart, I thought it was funny, too. I haven’t heard of your banished word, but now I bet I start seeing it everywhere. As for your favorite words, you picked the best ones EVER.

Diane, I’m guessing they think epic is being trivialized by using it to describe less than epic situations. I don’t think those words were on the list, but Google and Facebook used as verbs were.

Linda, I just went to an eye doctor who used awesome a lot, but I liked it. It made me feel that the ability to not see even the huge E on the chart without my glasses was somehow special – I mean awesome.

Susan, it’s interesting how certain words gain popularity and then lose it for no apparent reason. Maybe ‘essential’ will fade out, as well.

Teresa aka JW said...

I can't think of a word, but there is a phrase that is used way too much's the thing. I can't stop saying, "Here's the thing...."

I will try and ban it from my vocab.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Teresa, I am always surprised at how much I use a favorite word or phrase. Thank goodness for the search/find/and replace option for manuscripts.

Stephen Tremp said...

I'm surprised to hear epic is on the list. I would put just about any word used in rap and other crappy music on the list.

Life 101 said...

ReInTarnation - that's where you die and come back as a hillbilly :)
I can make this joke, because I'm already a hillbilly.

N. R. Williams said...

How about disgusted. I am disgusted with many events that have translated into more epic troubles than are deserved. LOL
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Jen Chandler said...

Hey Jane! Sorry it's taken me soooo long to stop by!! Geez...

That's funny. I've been rather annoyed by the overuse of the word "epic", but I've been known to use it from time to time.

I love the word "defenestration". I want to put this word to use many, many times a day.

Thanks for stopping in!
~Jen :D

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Stephen, I’d have to be able to understand them first before I could add them to a banishment list – I’m assuming that’s the list you meant and not the word of the year list :)

Life 101, thanks for the chuckle.

Nancy, well put!

Jen, I know there are so many blogs and so little time. I don’t make it around as often as I’d like either. I do appreciate you stopping by when you get the chance. I’ll have to get by more frequently so I can see if you use 'defenestration' in your blogs!

Paul C said...

Interesting post. Apparently business people are tired of words like social media, social networking,synergy, innovation, value/value added, going green, free, ROI/return on investment, culture change, think out of the box, and integration. Also getting mentioned in a survey were proactive, multi-tasking, and end of the day.

Clarissa Draper said...

Poor, poor words!

Why can't they just leave the words alone. Pick on someone their own size.

Priya Shankar said...

That's sad that epic was banned! I would say "IPad" or "facebook" is the word of the year for how obsessively people use those two words!

The Words Crafter said...

Hey Jane, nice to meet you:) Thanks for stopping by and following!

I'd ban all the celebrity name contraction. Ugh!

I love epic and hope that, since it appears on both lists, it breaks even and simply remains.

I also love discombobulate! It's really fun to say:P

Patricia Stoltey said...

I don't know about word of the year, but a word I'd like to ban is "issue." There are weather issues, traffic issues, mental health issues, etc etc.

Helen Ginger said...

I'm having trouble thinking of a word. One that I'd like to see go out of use is "actually".

Jan Morrison said...

For word of the year, I'd like to nominate luminous.
For words I hope never to see again I'd nominate -really.
really I would.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Why would anyone want to banish a word, when words fall off the map through sheer disuse?
And nothing wrong with epic proportions, is there?
Word of the year? Can't think of anything just yet.

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