What English Word Has Got To Go?

Recently, I heard an interesting report on NPR about a New Yorker social media initiative to determine which word is no longer worthy to be a part of the English language. This question was posed in an effort to streamline the language, and readers were totally on board with the initiative. The publication received thousands of enthusiastic submissions, and words like “moist,” “epic,” and “phlegm” topped the list, but ultimately the New Yorker declared “slacks” to be the winner.

It was an amusing piece, and it also got me thinking about words (nothing new for me, I’ll admit). Which word would I want to remove from the English language, if given a vote? The first words that come to mind are actually not true words, and I want them to be discarded forever. You know, “words” like “supposably,” “irregardless,” and “expresso.”

And then phrases that need to be thrown out started coming to mind. “Champing at the bit” (which is the correct pronunciation, rather than the oft-used “chomping at the bit”) should be swapped for the phrase people are actually using. “Literally [insert something that is not, in fact, a literal occurrence]” is quite infuriating. Similarly, “To be honest with you…” needs to go. After all, do you really need to specify? Does that mean sentences that do not begin with this phrase are falsehoods? “At the end of the day” is one that tends to drive me nuts (far too overused). “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” — what the heck does that mean? I found a long and rather boring explanation, but I still don’t think it makes enough sense to stick around at this point.

(Also, as a complete side note, what’s up with using British spelling for words when a person is 1. not British and 2. not living in the UK? Come on — this is ‘merica. We live in apartments — not flats — and “color” does not contain a “u.”)

Then I got to thinking about some of my very favorite words, like “dilapidated,” “passers-by,” “fortnight,” “boisterous,” “ya’ll,” (it makes so much sense!) and “goggles.”

But what about words I would choose to cross out of the dictionary? After much deliberation, I landed on “unique,” — a word which, frustratingly, is neither particularly descriptive nor differentiating.

I’m interested to know: what are your picks for words to be banned from our beloved language?

4 Comments

  1. Kevin

    “Utilize” means “use” but sounds fancier. 90% of the time, when I hear someone use it, I think “you are trying to sound smart right now, but it’s not working.” Thinking that makes me feel like a jerk.
    Knowing that my disposition is unlikely to change, I think it would be better if all of the English-speaking world just struck “utilize” from its vocabulary*.

    *If someone works in Operations, they get exemption.

  2. Nicole Moody

    Dapple/d is my favorite word. Top 5 rounded out: mischevious, ephemeral, particular, and fecetious (a bit odd I think because it sounds like it has the word “feces” in it. but I love it anyway).

  3. Rachel

    Hmmm… I can’t think of a particular word that I would get rid of. I’m reading 1984 at the moment and the idea of newspeak FREAKS me out. Sadly, we’re on our way there with this texting language that has evolved (i.e. tks for thanks, pls for please, brb, lol, rofl, lmao, etc. etc. etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I’ll use them when talking to friends or family, but not in formal communication or in the workplace. It’s so weird to get an email from a client that’s full of btw’s and pls’.

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