Ban these words and phrases for at least the next five years.

Yesterday (Friday, March 14, 2014, that’s Pi Day)  I posted a list of annoyingly abused words and phrases on Facebook and, holy cow, people I haven’t seen in fifteen years started weighing in with their own ideas about overused and irritating verbiage. By the end of the day we had assembled a definitive list of terms that must be banned and banished, if not forever, then at least for a while.

To wit:

Amazing (For the luvvagod, please, please find a new adjective. And why does everybody have to sound like a fourteen-year-old girl when they use it? “Uh-MEEEZ-ing.”)

Authentic (Do you mean crude, unprocessed, unedited, uncurated, unimproved, just simply spewed forth in raw form from some fundamental source? I’ll pass. Thanks.)

Artisanal (I saw a plastic package labeled Artisanal Lettuce in a grocery store a few days ago. It’s a plant. It grows out of the dirt. Unless scientists are “crafting” the genome of this stuff in some wonderfully, special way, there’s nothing Artisanal about it. I can’t imagine we need any further proof that this term is now absolutely dead).

Passion (This was a cool and transgressive word between 2009 and 2012. Especially in the business world. I’ll admit to getting some mileage out of it myself. Now, every schmuck’s got a “passion” about something. I just saw a commercial for Lindor proclaiming their chefs’ “passion” for chocolate. It’s made in a big factory, folks. Ditch this word immediately.)

Spot On (I know, that’s two words, so I’m doubly weary of it)

Decimate (unless you actually mean “to kill one out of ten”, and you can’t decimate objects, you can only decimate groups of people, sheesh!)


Literally (When you mean figuratively or metaphorically. That quinoa was not so good that you literally swallowed your tongue. You’d die.)

Innovate and its demon-cursed sister-word Innovation (Again, I’ve milked this one myself. But it’s time to give it the double-tap behind the ear. And it’s a shame, because it’s a real good and useful word that’s just been abused into meaninglessness.)

Wait for it…


World Class

Thought Leader (And, by the way, you don’t get to call yourself a thought leader. Somebody has to confer that title on you. But it’s still stupid. Don’t use it.).


At the end of the day…

That said…

Pivot (Just say “start over”. Please.)

Awesome (Even nine-year-old-boys don’t say this any more because it’s just that passé.)

So that’s our list, created by a couple of dozen “creative professionals” of various stripes. Oh! Wait! I have to add a term.

Creative (This is worthy of a post all its own. It may be one of the most abused terms in the business world. For now, use it very cautiously. Be thoughtful about what you label “creative”.).

Does anybody have anything to add? “Input” is welcome. There’s a term I love. “Input”. A more honest label would be “interference”.



  1. Thank you for your post and your blog. Words do mean something. What they mean and how they are used is the challenge. My share at this moment is on INPUT. I saw “interference” and it hit home. When one provides input, the receiver of such perceives it as interference because it may be constructive criticism. (oxymoron as it may be constructive from the sender not accepted by the receiver) Stepping off soap box for the next 15 years.


      1. And, by the way, nobody at Domino’s Pizza is an “artisan”. And your hands are not “your tools”. This is not meant to denigrate Domino’s or anybody who works there. Y’all make a very good bulk output pizza. Embrace that. Quit making commercials that imply there’s anything more to your product than that. Maybe those commercials make your employees feel better about themselves and maybe that’s why you make them. But please knock off the aspirations to culinary culinaryness.


  2. I stick in a toe with great trepidation .. not many blogs send me to either a dictionary or thesaurus to reply. I am puking on awesome and the other British import Brilliant! Nest ever was win I asked how an idea became a concept. Answer: concepts cost more. And Billy throw your net wider we all know your vocabulary is bigger than ours. And let’s not get into SAT scores. Altho I’m safe I never took it

    PS if you are reading this blog I know you are planning a trip .. .. I can help.

    OK how much for that ad?


    1. The ad space is free for you, Uncle Don. But how would you know a reader is planning a trip? If you’ve figured out a way to aim advertising messages within digital content (ooh, there’s another word I’m tired of, “content”) that accurately, then you and I need to be hitting up some VC’s and eyeballing some office space in Boston’s new Innovation District (previously known as Fan Pier).


      1. How do I know when you are ready to buy a pair of shoes? I am sure you know the Target story of using big data to anticipate purchase and sent a sting of coupons to a young card holder about baby products. Her father wrote a scathing note accusing Target of defaming his pure anti-sybaritic daughter.
        A few weeks later the apology came. She ‘was’ pregnant and Target’s big data screening was right. Her recent purchases were harbingers of coming events
        One on one instinctive marketing is here .. every 3 weeks or so we get a book of coupons from Kroger offering discounts on everything we have bought! DUMB. Or is it? Chances are in highest quintile we will continue to buy them at full retail and now I can get them cheaper.
        Ah hah. Maybe they have deduced that when I do use them I spend more! Big data.
        Anyway I have no big data I just throw stuff at the biggest wall I can afford and hope a few pieces stick.
        I hope you are watching The Honorable Woman .. good TV.


    1. This is only semi-apropos, but Don Brown’s reference to “off the radar” made me think of it. I love it when people say that something was “below the radar screen.” Think it through, folks. If something was “below the radar screen”, it’d be in the radar operator’s lap. It’s either “off the radar screen” or “below the radar.” Sheesh.


  3. “On the ground,” as in “Our reporter Irksome Blather is on the ground.” Thank you for the clarification. Who would have known?

    “Best practice,” which means someone somewhere does a thing. Probably. So we should do it, too, right?Especially if it’s what I want to do anyway.

    “-gate,” an insufferable suffix that may be dropped into the punch bowl of any noun because it can be typed faster than incomprehensible Mensa words like scandal and debacle.


  4. More let’s lose it

    Where did this advertising identity crisis come from?

    It seems like 1 out of 5 campaigns now insist their actors are some one by announcing “I AM ________ fill in the blank”.

    They can be a bank, a football team, a city, a computer company, a hospital, an aircraft manufacturer. Enough.

    We don’t care who you are. We want to know why we should buy what you want to sell.

    Wearing a T shirt proclaiming your identity doesn’t cut it.

    Old hairy joke of pompous person in a line of some kind not getting his way shouting “Do you know who I am?” and exasperated banker teller/gate agent/receptionist looking back at the endless line saying “This man appears to be lost. Does anyone know who he is?”

    (It’s always a guy. If you tell it with a female it won’t work. Women don’t do that.)


  5. I have to add New Normal. That one’s done. Over. Finished. I don’t care if you’re talking about climate change, technology, NSA surveillance or same sex marriage. I just heard a scientist on a morning TV show use it three times in the same segment about the California drought. Stop using this term immediately. Even a PhD sounds like a drooling doofus using it.


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