Columns > Published on February 24th, 2012

Top 10 Words That Need To Die, Immediately

Header image by Pieter Joost Lemmens

The English language is full of beautiful words. Like effervescent, and skullduggery, and defenestrate

And then there are these. These blights. Affectations that are completely devoid of meaning. Crimes against the English language that, just by saying them, you can lower any IQ within earshot. 

You may look at some of the words and say, "Those are portmanteaus and acronyms and memes! Onomatopoeias and slang terms! Surely they do not count as words!"

But, these are all things I have personally heard people say out loud. Not to mention their constant, unending appearances in every corner of the internet. These are things ingrained in our language so deeply that, no matter where you say them, no matter who you say them to, these things will be understood. That makes them words. 

Words that need to die. 

10. Bromance

Origin: portmanteau of the words brother and romance, created in the 1990s by Dave Carnie (editor of the skateboard magazine Big Brother) to describe the relationships that develop between male skaters.

Why it sucks: The word bromance exists so two guys can be friends without being accused of wanting to touch each other's junk. It's not homophobia, but it's close. Maybe I'm a little European in my thinking, but two guys should be able to be friends without having to create some sort of no-homo shield around it. Also, portmanteaus are generally obnoxious. Putting two words together to create a new word is not a unique, creative skill. It's lazy kitsch. 

9. Man-cave

Origin: The origin of this phrase is not entirely clear. Some say it was born of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. In the book, Gray discusses the propensity of men to "retreat" to their caves, or safe havens, to sort out their problems.  

Why it sucks: Man-cave is less a word and more a marketing term, created to sell pool tables and sports memorabilia to guys who feel they need a masculine refuge from their nagging wives. Here's a fun statistic: 90 percent of people who see my home office call it my man-cave. It being in an attic and full of vintage paperbacks and computer equipment, I don't know what makes it a cave, or manly. Here's another statistic: I don't live in a damn cave. 

8. Awesomesauce

Origin: Unclear, though some people attribute it to Strong Bad, a character from the Homestar Runner series of Flash web cartoons, who refers to a cleaning product with the trade name of Awesome Sauce.

Why it sucks: I don't know why someone thought the addition of the word "sauce" to "awesome" would give it more impact. Maybe because awesome used to be a big, grand word meant to describe the beauty of the universe, not the nachos you had at the bar last night. And again, portmanteaus. They are terrible.  

7. Foodie

Origin: The word was created in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their book The Official Foodie Handbook. A foodie is different from a gourmet; while a gourmet is considered an expert on food, a foodie is an amateur striving to be an expert. 

Why it sucks: Oh, you're a foodie? So you like food? Guess what? So does everyone else on the planet. People assign fancy titles to the things they do because it makes them feel better (than you). I'm a writer, but what would you say if I started calling myself a wordsmith? Foodies should choke on their locally-sourced organic chicken.

6. Irregardless

Origin: Unknown, but many believe it's a portmanteau of irrespective and regardless. Most dictionaries list it as nonstandard or incorrect. 

Why it sucks: This is not a word! It bothers me that I even need to put this on the list, but I still hear people say it, all the time, and not even ironically. They say it because they think it's a real word. But even on the face of it, it doesn't work, because it's a double-negative. The ir- and the -less essentially cancel each other out. This is a jumble of stupid. 

5. Fail

Origin: Unknown. Fail has appeared as an interjection in Urban Dictionary as far back as 2003. Google Trends indicates that internet users began exchanging and searching for pictures labeled with FAIL in 2004.

Why it sucks: This word needs to be put out to pasture, and not just because my mom used it in a text. It might have been clever the first couple of times it was used, because don't we all love laughing at the misfortune of others? But like any joke, by the 9 trillionth time it's been told, it's just not funny anymore. This word, by the way, is rendered even more dangerous by the addition of the word epic.

4. Nom

Origin: A derivative of om-nom-nom, which was first used by Cookie Monster in Sesame Street, and later made popular by brain-numbing web travesty, the lolcat. Technically an onomatopoeia, or a word that suggests the source of the sound it describes.

Why it sucks: More kitsch, and the worst kind. It's a cutesy, childish sound, nearly on the same level of babytalk, but adults use it. Adults! Who are talking to other adults! It's like saying wah when you're upset. Is this what we've come to, America? Babytalking each other?!?

3. Totes

Origin: Unknown. Some believe the word was coined in 2009 by Paul Rudd in the film I Love You, Man. Totes actually appears in Urban Dictionary as far back as 2003. 

Why it sucks: Every time I hear totes I think of tote bags, so the usage is a stumbling block on my path to understanding whatever idiotic thing was just said. It forces me into a hate-spiral of twisted logic: "Oh, this person meant to say 'totally,' but substituted an abbreviation, because shaving off two letters saves time, except for the fact that it took me longer to process what they meant, and then I started thinking about this... and now it's all gone to hell."

2. Winning

Origin: Charlie Sheen. 

Why it sucks: Charlie Sheen.

1. LOL

Origin: The oldest written record of LOL was from a message typed by Wayne Pearson in the 1980s on Usenet. On March 24, 2011, LOL was formally recognized in an update of the Oxford English Dictionary. 

Why it sucks: This is a bane on language. It is barren of meaning. It's barely a punctuation mark. Whenever someone types LOL in conversation, I want to hold them to that: Really? Did your epiglottis actually just constrict your larynx, producing the sound of laughter? Or did you just type it, to take up space, because, why not? 

I think it's the lack of authenticity that bothers me about LOL. To type it is to say that you're expressing a basic understanding of amusement, and nothing more. It's fodder. What um is to public speaking, LOL is to typing. 

And the people who say it out loud. Oh, the people who say it out loud. They are damned. 


Those are mine. Now show me yours. What words do you think need to be eliminated from the English language...

Get New Yorked by Rob Hart at Bookshop or Amazon

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at www.robwhart.com

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