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The True Story Behind LSSU’s Yearly List of Banned Words

LSSU releases its annual list of banned words

“Fiscal Cliff,” “YOLO,” and “Superfood” are among this year’s list of banished words stricken from the English language by Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie. This is the 38th year the Northern Michigan school has created the tongue-in-cheek list.

But how did the yearly word eradication come about?

The notion to strike words and phrases because of their overuse and general uselessness was actually conceived by my friend James‘ late father, W.T. Rabe, back in 1975. Rabe was the school’s Public Relations Director, and according to James, the whole thing started when “a bunch of martini-filled college professors were sitting around complaining about the horrible and annoying words and phrases used in TV newscasts.”

“Back in my dad’s day, his office work-study students narrowed the entries to about 70, and then at a drink-filled New Year’s Eve party, a bunch of his college peeps would select the ‘winners’ and just after midnight my dad would go type it up and call it out to the newswires (that’s right…DICTATED it over the phone). Man, that was a long time ago. Then, at 6 am, he’d crawl out of bed and start calling his station list, doing bits across the US and Canada. And by 7am, unsolicited calls started coming in. Was quite the day.”

Technology has changed the way the list is created (Submissions are now accepted via the school’s website), but nearly four decades later, the custom of ousting words that have ‘jumped the shark’ is an annual tradition.

Here’s this year’s Dirty Dozen:

  1. Fiscal Cliff
  2. Kick the Can Down The Road
  3. Double Down
  4. Job Creators/Creation
  5. Passion/Passionate
  6. YOLO
  7. Spoiler Alert
  8. Bucket List
  9. Trending
  10. Superfood
  11. Boneless Wings
  12. Guru

Pop Quiz: Can you remember any of the words that made last year’s list? Think about it, then check here to see if you’re right.

George McIntyre
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