Post your ‘Banned’ nominations here

Got a phrase the folks in the news are driving you batty about?

Click on “Comments” and plug your contribution in there.
Remember, this site is to intended to help professional news people correct bad habits that show up in their work — published or broadcast. If it isn’t in the paper or on the nightly news, it’s not Banned for Life material (which is not to say it shouldn’t be banished, just that it shouldn’t be highlighted here).

74 thoughts on “Post your ‘Banned’ nominations here

  1. Transparency. As in, our newspaper needs to be transparent. Our process needs to be transparent. Find a different word for describing it. Or stop overusing it.

    Transparencies are for overhead projecters.

  2. “Everybody” really bugs me. Well, not everybody, but “everybody”, also “everyone”. When a newscaster says: “Here’s the news everyone has been waiting for”, or “Everybody wants the war to end”, I realize they are merely engaging in hyperbole, but it really irritates me. Yes we’re living during a time of internationalism and global inclusion;
    certainly television and the Internet have effectively made the planet a smaller place, allowing people to experience in real time events transpiring on the other side of the globe. But to say, for instance, that everyone (which means all people on Earth) was waiting for the verdict in the Michael Jackson trial, is simply untrue.

    What’s wrong with “many of you” or even “a great number of people”? Do the newscasters believe that the information they impart is somehow diminished if there is someone, anyone in the world who has no interest in it?

    I would love to see a return to literalism. Say what you mean, focus on clarity and accuracy rather than obfuscation.

    Surely “everybody” can agree on that.

  3. “Wing” is especially grating when it refers to people who share your political philosophy, because are “-wingers” are by fanatics by default and if you fancy your views reasonable (vs. radical), you’re apt to be annoyed.

    I suspect, though, that this is an annoyance we’re stuck with so long as reporters need some kind of shorthand to place people somewwhere in the political spectrum. (The notion of a spectrum, for that matter, is problematic because opinions don’t exist along a continuum; they’re better described as inhabiting a sphere.)

  4. I’m getting more than a little tired of reading “sectarian violence.” It is accurate of course but I get the sense it’s being used reflexively, without thought, by people who want to sound intellectual.

  5. This might strike many of you as stupid, but it bothers me every time I read of U.S. citizens or U.S. troops refered to as Americans.

    Yes they/we are Americans, but so are
    Canadians, Mexicans, Argentinians, Bolivians, Brazilians, Chileans, Ecuadorans, Falkland Islanders, French Guianans, Paraguayans, Peruvians, South Georgians, Surnamians, Uraguayans, Venezuelans, Columbians, Costa Ricans, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Panamanians. We are all together Americans.

    (Hope I got them all – know I didn’t spell or use the right extensions(?) on all of them).

  6. I nominate the phrase “in a timely manner.” Is “promptly” too concise?

  7. People who say “regularly” when they actually mean (or they hope you think they mean) “frequently”. As in “We clean the streats regularly.” My common response is “Haley’s Comet is regular, but I don’t want to have wait for it.”

  8. “A phone call to so-and-so was not immediately returned.”

    This little sentence annoys the heck out of me, and seems to be at the end of every other news article recenty. It effectively tells everyone “I was in a hurry and didn’t really bother to try to find a balanced point of view or a good source on this, so I’ll just say I *tried* to do some research and run with my hearsay.”

    It wreaks of lazy, blas

  9. “Mull”!! The biggest crutch used by every headline editor, but reading it just gives me that fingernail -across-the-chalkboard loathsome response. I know it’s short and easy, but PLEASE, get a thesaurus, get creative — or just go back to school.

  10. I should probably read all the others first, but my pet peeve that should be banned for life is “carrot and stick” as the most mangled metaphor. Most use it as a “we’ll offer them a carrot but be ready to hit them with a stick” comment rather than the notion of a carrot dangling on a stick in front of the person being “motivated.”

  11. White stuff and precip: TV forecasters seem to have a congenital aversion to the word snow; since they can’t shorten it, they come up with a two-word expression, which is inherently vaguer, since dandruff and powdered sugar also qualify as white stuff. They may also take the opposite approach, usually when they don’t want to commit to what kind of precipitation might fall. But why cut off the last three syllables? They don’t take up that much space.

    On another note, the business world’s aversion to the word ‘problem’ and its substitution of ‘opportunity’ has long annoyed me. If I fall down and break my leg, in calling for help, should I say, “Help! I have an opportunity! I can’t move!”?

    • I’m also miffed about the weather prediction of “old-fashioned rain” as used to indicate precipitation without severe thunderstorm properties such as hail or tornados. I live in a drought-stricken area, so any rain is welcome, but it need not be old-fashioned.

  12. From UK politicians:

    ‘Joined-up’ policies/discussions/what-have-you
    they mean ‘adult’ but even that’s superfluous

    ‘Multi-cultural’ – it doesn’t happen (at least not here), they mean multi-ethnic

    ‘In terms of’ – politicians here find it impossible to construct a sentence without this phrase

    ‘My constituents are always telling me…’ – liar!

  13. “went missing”, “turned up missing”, and “showed up missing”.
    Maybe we just can’t keep up with our stuff in northeast Texas!

  14. “That’s so gay” has become gay! Why can’t the little homophobic morons spend two extra seconds to come up with an original insult?

    The movie wasn’t gay, it was boring, dull, or uninteresting.

    Your best friend isn’t gay, he’s obnoxious, grating, or uncouth and unkempt.

    Your homework isn’t gay, it’s excessive, pointless, or redundant.

    Your computer isn’t gay, it’s obsolete, anachonistic, archaic, or even a Mac!

    Same goes with fag and faggot. Please, come up with an interesting insult next time. We’ve been given the largest language in the world; it’d be a shame to waste all those wonderfully vicious words. . .

  15. I don’t know when this phrase started being used so often, but I started to notice an over-use of the “sticking point” at the time of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. It’s used to indicate some kind of obstruction or roadblock in solving a problem or reaching an agreement.

    Is this some kind of corruption of “sticking place”, as said by Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”? Was it just made up out of thin air?

    Regardless of whether it’s used correctly or not, it’s time to retire it. I get the feeling that news people/writers just think it sounds cool to say.

  16. Well Tom, we’re coming up on a year here since your last update. Has this site been abandoned?

  17. People have kept adding comments despite the lack of updates, so they haven’t abandoned it.

  18. How about “I was like and then he was like”.
    “Actually”. Actually I’ll be home later.
    “He’s actually on his way in”.
    “Actually I think I sound smart when I’m actually a babbling idiot”.
    During a recent conversation with the store manager I counted 10-11 “actuallies”?

  19. “Last time I checked”.
    “Dude, I was like”.

    Living in Arizona we have recent “Cali-Trash” moving in all the time. Therefore a lot of:
    Most awesome

    My guess it’s evolved from years of “Valley Girl” talk from the 80’s. Frank Zappa’s “Valley Girl” was a mock of them but it didn’t seen to phase that generation or their offspring.

  20. “Multiple.” What’s it supposed to mean? Many? Some? A few? More than one? Vagueness aside, say it out loud and you sound like you’re speaking around a mouthful of marbles.

  21. Just happened across the Banned list; it’s a wonderful resource for those of us who write headlines daily. I’m moved to comment, though, by Tony’s assertion that “A phone call to so-and-so was not immediately returned” means “I was in a hurry and didn’t really bother…” No, what it means is, you need to see this story this century and the guy who seems to be a doofus in the story is, for some reason, not motivated to share his side of it. I simply can’t hold a story indefinitely waiting for a response. In most cases, the call that was not immediately returned was never returned–lawyers, especially.

  22. It’s “fazed” not “phased” and “reeks” (stinks) not “wreaks”. Dictionaries, people, dictionaries!

  23. There is nothing wrong with using the word “American” in the sense of “citizen of the United States.” We are the only people in North or South America referred to as “Americans.” And surely H.L. Mencken knew what he was talking about when he came up with “The American Language” as the title for his multi-volume study.

  24. The “carrot and stick” metaphor, Bradley, is supposed to refer to dangling a carrot from a stick in front of a donkey to motivate the donkey into trying to reach the carrot. Anybody who says differently is mistaken. I’ve heard that phrase since I was a child and that was many years ago. The stick, being used as punishment, would not work quite so well as holding food in front of a being that wants to eat it. This analogy irked me and prompted me to join in. Cheers, everybody.

  25. When did “anytime soon” become the only way to express the forseeable future?? I always know it’s coming and even mouth along with the newscasters. “It doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing a return to 2006 levels ANYTIME SOON.” “After the devastation caused by the flood/earthquake/gas leak/plague of locusts/insert your disaster here, life for the Joneses won’t be back to normal ANYTIME SOON.” ” It doesn’t look like we’ll see a change in policy/interest rates/the weather/the traffic ANYTIME SOON.” Arrrgh! Is anyone else annoyed by this?

    Oh and BTW, I’ve had it with “devastation,” too.

  26. “Deja vu all over again.” Is this a Yogi Berra quote? Who cares? It’s actually completely replaced the phrase “deja vu” to mean “something we’ve seen before.”

  27. In a June 2006 post, Suzanne gave us three versions of this ignorant-sounding phrase but missed the worst: “has gone missing.” “Vanished” or “disappeared” or even “was lost” will do nicely, thank you.

  28. I vote for ‘impact’ or any forms of that word. Read any newspaper or especially anything church related, things are impacting all over the place. Nothing affects anything anymore, it just impacts.

  29. This site is a great resource. My nomination for banning is:

    Any problem in the airline industry that is referred to as “turbulence.”

    Turbulence happens when a plane moves around unexpectedly while flying, not when pilots go on strike or the financial health of the airline is in question.

  30. One phrase I nominate for banning is:

    “At the end of the day…”

    I hear this silly phrase ad infinitum and it makes me want to vomit.

  31. This has probably been mentioned by someone before, but there is one word (mis)usage I abhor: issues

    She is dealing with health issues.

    The athlete has had injury issues in the past.

    …and so on.

    There’s nothing wrong with calling a problem a problem.

  32. I don’t understand how the word “hydroplane” has come to replace slid or skid, especially in radio news. Has anyone else had this reaction?

  33. “America/American” In my 25 years as a Spanish/English translator I must disagree that only people living in the United States are referred to as Americans or from America. Example: I just translated a birth certificate from Mexico stating that the father was born in the “United States of North America.” *Not* simply “America!” Mexico is officially called the “United Mexican States” or the “United Mexican States of North America.” (or the Mexican Republic )I think our country does not have a name which adequately distinguishes us from other countries in these Americas–Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America. When I lived in Europe, the Venezuelans or Chileans I met were happy to meet me–I was viewed as a fellow “American.” We need a name for this country. Any ideas?

  34. Another over-used word: “Passionate.” I read it over and over referring to so many things, ideas. etc. “‘I am passionate about yellow!” or “She’s passionate about her new BMW.” Over-used, uh, to the max! (Sorry, couldn’t resist) I prefer the erotic use of the word–I don’t have a dictionary at hand, so I don’t know the exact definition. Another one” Philosophy.” “My philosophy is to take each day as it comes.” Yuck. I studied philosphy at university–real, thought out, defined philosphers. So, if someone’s “philosophy” is whatever they think or believe, well, I sure don’t see it reasoned out as, say, Plato or Heidegger. Perhaps Passionate and Philosophy are perhaps two examples of our cultural narcissism?

  35. I abhor the cliche “At this point in time….”

    And Heaven forbid they should use

    synonymous phraseology such “Currently,”

    “At present,” “As of now,” etc. Most of the

    newscasters are intelligent. but apparently

    too phobic to be iconoclastic enough to

    annihilate cliches.
    -Stuart Davis.

  36. Sorry if this has already been posted, but:

    “pain at the pump” and “battle of the bulge” are the most lame, overused, boring, annoying new cliches I can think of. Don’t the news people get tired of writing/reading these phrases? If I was on tv news and one of these came on the teleprompter I would rip off my mic and walk off set.

  37. Looked, looking
    i.e. “They were looking to rob him.” Couldn’t someone just say what they mean once in a while?

  38. I nominate “play the race card” and all the variations.

    >>vote for ‘impact’

    I’ve had more than one rant over that. Teeth and bowels become impacted or may be impacted.

  39. How about “fiercely independent” — as opposed to “very” or “highly” or just “independent”? I suppose it’s more restrained than being “wildly” or “savagely” independent. Thanks for giving me a forum to share this!

  40. “Bus Plunge” “Eatery” and “In Hospital” (unless it’s the BBC)

  41. This may be specific to the UK, but it seems that in any story covering changes to the law or legal system, only ‘senior judges’ are ever quoted.

    The status of a ‘senior judge’ is never explored or explained and I think it is used as shorthand to imbue a sense of undeniable wisdom or gravitas.

    Do junior judges exist? If so, why are they seemingly never asked for their opinion?

  42. The word “insurmountable” has become the word of 2008. Newscasters act as if this word was just invented. It’s everywhere, on TV, on blogs by regular Joes… Just say “impossible to overcome.” Stop trying to sound intelligent…we already know you’re not! 😉

  43. “Sense of Place.” How did humanity exist for centuries without having to use this phrase, but now I can’t seem to go an hour without reading it?

    I know even pointing out that “Thinking outside of the box” is a cliche is a cliche in itself. Still, people (and surprising people who are supposed to be creative) use this. Whenever I hear it, I do two things: Laugh and then wonder why, if they’re so creative, they don’t have a new way of saying what they’re trying to convey. Talk about not thinking beyond that four-sided container!

  44. I’ve got two that make my eyes bleed every time I read them or hear them. News reporters use the terms “slam” and “blast” way too frequently. Associated Press is the biggest violator of the overuse and misuse of this word, but I see it all over the place. It used to be just “slam”, but I’ve noticed they started changing it up with “blast” more often, but both are used in the same equally bad contexts. For example, a headline that reads “War Protesters Slam Bush Over Iraq Policy”, or “Angry Parents Blast Violent Video Game Makers”. Every day I see another headline with one of those two words in it.

  45. slammed
    absolutely [spoken]
    ground zero
    on the ground
    kinda [spoken]

    I KINDA detest the above at the end of the day.

  46. Oh, what a great site!

    Regarding common usage, I detest when people say “5 a.m. in the morning.” It’s redundant and does nothing but highlight the speaker’s ignorance.

    It seems to have passed now, but for about 5 years after 9/11, the phrase “Now, more than ever” was an absolute plague. It started out with patriotism: “Now, more than ever, we need to stand together and…..” and then it morphed into some patriotism-invoking BS: “Honda: Now, More than Ever.” What does that even mean? (For the record, I don’t think Honda was the actual offender.)

    Now, for you headline people: could we please dispense with the phrase “brutally murdered”? Murder, by it’s nature, is a brutal affair. Yes, I suppose some forms are less brutal than others, but no one gingerly bludgeons his spouse or gently beheads his neighbour. Unless the adverb actually informs me of something, skip it.

  47. Oh – and to Kate’s post about slam and blast:

    Now you see these words in conjunction with relatively mild statements. I saw a headline about Colin Powell “slamming” someone, and it turns out that all he said was that he didn’t agree with whoever it was on a certain issue.

  48. Where did the phrase “Wouldn’t be drawn” come from?

    It doesn’t mean anything. How many people DO want to be drawn?
    Maybe next time a politician is asked a question they don’t want to answer, the journo should take a photo instead?

  49. Now, more than ever, I’m sick of the phrase, “Now, more than ever.”

    I hear it on the news, in advertisements, and read it in the paper. Every time I come across it, I scream, “Really? More than EVER!” We need to save money now more than they did during the Great Depression? We need our troops home more than we did in Vietnam, Korea, WWII, etc?

    Do a quick web search and you’ll find millions of uses of this meaningless phrase. It’s time to ban this one, now…well, you get the idea.

  50. ‘Slam’ and ‘blasted’

    I’m so glad I found some other people who can’t stand the use of these words! To me, when a journalist uses ‘slammed’ or ‘blasted’ they are adding an opinion of the effectiveness of someone’s criticism. If one person criticizes someone else, are they necessarily blasting them? No, they are criticizing them. Saying they blasted someone is essentially saying ‘boy, they really got them good!’ It reminds me of a 15 year old screaming ‘Burn!’ after one of their buddies insults someone else.

    When Sarah Palin criticized Family Guy, she did just that. Criticized. It would be up to the reader to determine the effectiveness of her criticism.

  51. If I may post another one, I submit it is impossible for an issue to “center around” anything. It can “revolve around” something and maybe even “center on” something, but it is geometrically impossible for it to “center around” anything.

  52. I’m surprised my search of this site did not find this: “easy being green” referring to eco-friendliness. This will be fresh again when it refers to someone who, like Kermit the Frog, is actually the color green.

  53. Pet peeves heard on the air
    (a) You lie on a bed not lay on it.
    (b) Used over and over, using word Kids for children.
    Goats have Kids. people have Children.
    (c) Leaving the LY off as in “drive safe, eat healthy etc.” which should be “drive safely”. (Very common even on NPR)
    Some ugh phrases that I wish would go away!
    (d) “Back in the day”
    (e) I’m good, instead of I,m well

  54. I go apoplectic over misuse of the word “literally.” A few months ago I was listening to NPR when a guest financial expert singled out some market trend or price index or whatever as “the literal 800-pound gorilla in the room.”

    Whatever it was, it was NO GORILLA OF ANY WEIGHT, IN ANY ROOM! I literally clawed my face and screamed at the dashboard in the throes of direst hatred.

  55. I really hate it when people use “cave” as a verb, as in a shortened version of “caved in,” meaning to give up, capitulate, surrender. To “cave in” to demands may be a cliche, but to “cave” to demands is horrible and identifies the writer as being under 30.

  56. I hate when “filmed” is used to describe any video-recording activity.
    If they aren’t using actual film, then it isn’t being filmed.
    If the phrasing hasn’t kept pace with the technology, then let’s come up with new ways to say things instead of misusing old words and phrases.

    “in the process of” is almost never necessary. Someone please tell that to an irritating traffic reporter in New York.

    “at the age of.” Why? “died at age 97” is faster.

  57. Folks (condescending)
    Basically (count them)
    Boutique (hotel, shop)
    Gourmet (lunch, diner, meal)
    In the privacy of

    Basically they are folks that enjoy gourmet meals in the privacy of the super deluxe room of their boutique hotel.

  58. The BBC has ceased to be the the guardian of English as she should be spoke. BBC Radio has been heard to say “almost unique”, so not unique in that case and to describe the adjacent passage of two aircraft as a “near miss” rather than the more accurate near hit.

    Worst of all though is how they describe acts of random and unexpected violence as “terrism”. Go on, just listen to them.

  59. At the end of the day should only be used to describe sunsets. It’s annoying when people throw it in randomly instead of just stating their point, such as: “At the end of the day, I think you’ll find that I’m just a self-centered blowhard who likes to talk, just to hear the sound of my own voice.”

  60. Awesome. Like that is the, like, worst word ever. Like, I like, know everbody like, uses it to death. Like, stop it, like, already.

  61. BRING!!!!! Has everyone forgotten the word “take”? It’s really not that hard. Very much like “come” and “go” or “to” and “from” You “bring” something in; you “take” something out. I’ve been waiting YEARS to say that. whew

  62. “Staycation.” I loathe this term…it embodies everything I despise about the ratings-grubbing media (and I don’t hate them overall, just useless crap like this). It’s time off from work when you stay at home, people!

  63. Skill set. Enough! It sounds like swingset, or tool set, or mindset, or skill saw. Employees used to have skills, or abilities, or experience, or potential, or the ability to adapt quickly, or use keen reasoning. They needed to be able to use “x” software and perform “y” tasks, or even to be a fast learner. Apparently, all one needs these days is the right “skill set.” Right. Is there a compendium somewhere listing what those “sets” are called, and which skills they include? If you can’t desribe what you want, perhaps you need a …..pill set. Argh.

  64. “End result!” Can’t anyone refer to a result rather than an end result anymore? Doesn’t the grating term mean the same as result unless one is trying to distinguish between interim results and final results?

    “Appalled!” Really? Does seeing something you dislike or disagree with really make you turn pale?

    “Literally” when you don’t really mean literally. E.g., I was literally appalled at the end result. Grounds for capital punishment.

    “Apposite.” The problem is that this word, meaning the same, is the opposite of an antonym: “opposite.” Especially misused by lawyers. Even worse when used with negatives and double negatives, e.g. (and I have seen this repeatedly): “Case A is not inapposite to Case B.” You have to count the negatives to figure out what is being said. Why not just say, “Case A is the same as Case B?”