Lake Superior State University preparing annual list of banished words


Every year, the public relations department at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, banishes overused words and phrases from the English language.

The tradition was begun by legendary PR man Bill Rabe on New Years Day in 1976. Since then, the tongue-in-cheek list has relegated hundreds of misused words to the scrap heap. Last year's list included viral, epic, and fail.

Today is the deadline to submit nominations for the 2012 list of banished words.
WKAR's Scott Pohl spoke with Lake Superior State public relations director Tom Pink about the trends he's seeing in the current nominations.

TOM PINK: It's tough to say right now, because we're still weeding through nominations, and there are many. There are several hundred. So far, it's looks like we're seeing the usual distribution between political words and phrases, and things that your teenagers might say that you're sick of hearing. Things about the economy. The word that has received the most nominations is the word amazing, which sort of surprised us, because we thought it had been on the list before. But if we can't find it, the thing is, when this started in 1976, we didn't have any computerized records, and so there may be a time where we've banished a word or phrase twice.

SCOTT POHL: Tom, I find that to be, if you'll forgive the word, amazing!

PINK: I thought so, too!

POHL: Now, I assume people are nominating it because people are using the word amazing inappropriately. Not everything is amazing.

PINK: Correct, just like awesome several years ago, when that made the list.

POHL: Well, I had a word come to mind when I started thinking about this, Tom, that I think might very well appear on the list if not be your top banished word this year, and that would be the word occupy.

PINK: I believe we are seeing a few nominations for that. We like to have good nominations, because the nominations, what people say about the word and phrase, really make the list what it is. We try not to put words in people's mouths, and so I've seen that in the email. I haven't at the nominations closely yet, but that's certainly one that I believe could be a contender.

POHL: Let's describe the process now. You've used the word nominations a few times. This isn't an American Idol sort of vote off thing, where the word or phrase with the most nominations or votes is what you'll ultimately ban, is it? What's the process?

PINK: You're correct. That doesn't make it or break it, but we do pay attention to that.

POHL: Now, I think it's a brilliant public relations idea, because national media will pick this up on New Year's Eve, if only because it's most often a slow news day, and Lake Superior State University gets some national attention every year, even if it's kind of flippant and just for fun.

PINK: That is precisely why Bill came up with it. He was a newsman, and he had that background and knew that this would have legs, I guess they used to say. Looking at the fact, as you said, that New Year's Day is a slow news day, it does get us in just about every North American daily newspaper on January 1 or December 31st, and we've had clips sent to us from all around the world.

POHL: Well, to me, the downside of working on a project like this is that you have dozens or hundreds of reminders of words and phrases that make you grit your teeth and groan. You have to go through a lot of that to work on this project, don't you?

PINK: Yes, we do, and it can be difficult doing interviews sometimes, because there's about 800 words and phrases on the complete list now, which is on our website, and you're trying to step around using those words and phrases!

POHL: Well, the last thing I wanted to say to you is that I'm sure a lot of our listeners will hear about this, be reminded of this, and think oh, if only they could be more effective in actually banning these words and phrases!

PINK: I tell people that we need an enforcement division, but budgets aren't what they used to be!

LSSU's word banishment nomination website