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The school that comes on my radar exactly once a year, Lake Superior State University, today released its 39th annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. Or, as I’ve renamed it, the Best Worst Words of 2013.

LSSU releases on New Year’s Eve a list of words compiled from a list of nominations submitted mostly through its website and Facebook page. The list is closing in on its 1,000th word banishment.

“Banishment” is, of course, merely suggested. Language is a fluid thing, and also personal and ephemeral.

Why does one word culturally ignite while another does not? For example, “selfie” is the number-one worst word, according to the LSSU list. Yet my inability to make “us-ie” happen—to describe a group selfie—is one of my biggest disappointments of 2013.

Here’s the LSSU list with its explanations (in quotes), some of them with my edits or explanations (not in quotes), followed by a few I think the judges missed:

Because a self-snapped picture doesn’t need a name all its own beyond “photograph.”

“Bob of Tempe, Ariz. says he responds, ‘T’werk,’ when asked where he is headed on Monday mornings.”

“Is anyone really willing to let this one go in 2014? #goodluckwiththat”

_______ on steriods
“New! Improved! Steroidal!”

“Shortening Armageddon and Apocalypse into two suffixes”—as in sale-ageddon or snow-pocalypse.

Intellectually/morally bankrupt
“Used by members of each political party when describing members of the other.”

Fan base
Classic word inflation: “Why use one word when apparently two are twice as better?”

Also on the LSSU list are:

Adversity (When applied to sports. Which means it isn’t real adversity, after all.)
Mister Mom (Why is it still odd for a man to take care of his children?)
T-Bone (As used to describe any kind of collision)

More worst words of 2013 I would’ve included:

A terrible word that many people in business and education like to toss around to describe things that make an impact. I’ve been stabbing this word in the heart for years. But it keeps rising again, shaking off the dirt and appearing in marketing content near you. I can’t fathom why.

What’s wrong with “use”? “Influence”? “Enhance”? “Harness”? Nothing. So use them instead. This word is the poster child of words that began life as nouns and (perplexingly) find themselves used as verbs.

Amazeballs/Awesomesauce/Fantabulous/Ginormous/Chillaxin’. Frankenwords, all of them. One exception is “awesomesaucenessivity,” coined by my friend Lee Odden in his Christmas card to me, because it’s so weird it’s impossible to look away.

This isn’t mine, actually. I got this from the Huffington Post when Chel Wolverton pointed it out to me. From HuffPo: “Are you 14 and talking about your BFF’s new Harry Styles iPhone case? If the answer to my first question was yes and the answer to my second question was no, then this word needs to stop coming out of your mouth.”

Apparently an article based around a list. To me it sounds like an inventory of testicles. Ew.

Because there is no such thing. You’re either bragging or you’re humble. Pick one.

What would you include as your favorite worst words of 2013?

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37 Responses to The Best Worst Words of 2013

  1. John Eckman says:

    Farticle, for a fake news article used by affiliate spammers. Like listicle, but worse.

  2. Chel says:

    Word on Mister Mom.

    I never understood how humblebrag became a word. You’re bragging, admit it.

    Happy to help you find another word to include in your adorbs list.

  3. I totes have a lump on my listicle.

  4. Jon Aston says:

    Ann, I so love reading you. I don’t do it anywhere often enough.

    I feel compelled to defend the word “Leverage”, so long as users elaborate on how their reader can use what they already have to can get more of what they want. None of the alternative suggestions you’ve offered mean quite the same thing.

    With all of the love, respect and admiration in the world – I wish you and yours the happiest of happy new years.


    • Ann Handley says:

      Well, as I said above, Jon… language is entirely personal and clearly banishment of any word is entirely at the discretion of the individual! Happy new year to you, too — may you leverage 2014 to its fullest! 🙂

  5. I was horrified when I learned that “selfie” was the word of the year. I don’t even want to think about what that says about us. Navel gazing has never been such a predominant element of our society.

    Love to hate the words on your list & would also like to add “whatever” (when used in its usual dismissive and contemptuous way) and “juicy” (when used to inappropriately describe things like webinars and blog posts and such). Just NO.


  6. jocelyn says:

    Pretty much anything ending in “ize.” Optimize and maximize just. wont. die.

    I also hate leverage as a verb. The other day I was in a meeting where one dude used the word SEVEN times in two minutes. I almost leveraged some Xanax.

  7. Breanne says:

    Humblebrag makes more sense if you consider that it’s usually an accusation, not something used to describe yourself. Humblebragging isn’t something people consciously intend to do, most of the time. It’s something a person gets called out on.

    • Ann Handley says:

      Yeah…. I can see that. As an accusation it makes sense. But unfortunately I’ve seen some folks using it as an excuse of sorts, when they are bragging about something while feigning humility. That makes no sense to me….

  8. Adorbs is the new presh (precious).
    Leverage is the new utilize.
    Listicle is just wrong.

  9. Adam Levine says:

    Hi Ann,

    Funny about the word Impactful. I used it in a email or blog or somewhere and of course it was squiggled. So I spent 20 minutes trying to search for it and found out it really was not a word. I used it anyway. To see this post is pretty cool. Happy New Year! Best~Adam

  10. Joanna Young says:

    Ann, salient and amusing article, as usual. Thanks!


    – “Don’t feed the trolls” > Overused and a bit ‘adorbs’…..but admit I like it.
    – “Haters” > Sometimes misused to describe any person or group who disagrees. Thinking differently isn’t hating.
    – Not a word or phrase, but seems to be a lot of strong pro/con feelings about the new practice of naming winter storm events. e.g. current storm #Hercules
    – And re: “leverage” > Guilty as charged.

  11. How about totes? With anything. Unless you’re talking about a bag you carry, mostly on vacation. Although you are totes presh! Put that on your listicle and well, do something with it. Happy New Year!

  12. Vicky Global says:

    “Twerk/Twerking”…I remember Miley Cyrus with this word. Uggh!

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  14. Xien says:

    Social Media has greatly influenced the birth of new words nowadays. I just don’t understand why some people make slang words.

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  16. Doug says:

    Hashtags – bad enough when written but impossible to accept when spoken i.e. #I’msopissedoffwithpeoplesayingthingswith#infrontofthem

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  18. Blair says:

    Love this and the delicious mission it stands for.

  19. Maria says:

    I work in the IT industry, and this word seems to be used a lot this year: “automagically.” As in, “We get your systems up and running automagically.”

  20. Ali says:


    Is this just for those who can’t be bothered to find put how to spell obviously?

    I’m getting old.

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  22. Laura says:

    My favorite line here: “words that began life as nouns and (perplexingly) find themselves used as verbs”

    I’m a real hater where that habit is concerned.

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  25. Lizzie says:

    Awesome post.

    my blog – Business Coachin (Lizzie)

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