The Banned Words of Bleak Mid-Winter


Cartoon by Adam Raffaele

I look forward to this time of season every year. What’s to like about bleak mid-winter – especially since the temperatures are below zero and I have a head cold that’s producing enough mucus to irrigate a small farm field? Why, the “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English,” of course! The list is distributed annually by fellow northerners over at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

At only 2,500 students the university is small, but its influence on writers looms large with a forty-year tradition of publicizing words that are misused, overused, or generally useless to society. The tradition of listing words everyone loves to hate started at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975 and has enjoyed worldwide fame and attention since then.

This year’s list includes several entries that I totally agree should be banned, such as SWAG. Around my house (which contains a highschooler and his friends) this means that someone is “cool” more than it implies a “free gift.” I have heard this word enough times to last a lifetime. Yes, it should be banned for the sake of parental sanity.

Another term that should never be uttered is ENHANCED INTERROGATION, or as the head of the CIA would say for short, EIT (for Enhanced Interrogation Techniques). The term hit the national spotlight last month with the release of the U.S. Senate report on the CIA’s intelligence-gathering tactics under former President George W. Bush. Torture is torture, people. Let’s not sugar-coat it with a lot of extra syllables.

The top word on the list, however, I’d never heard of. It’s BAE, which stands for “before anyone else.” I suppose it could also be a shortcut word for “babe.” Perhaps I’ve never heard this term because I am nobody’s bae (maybe it’s the mucus). But my Facebook friends and my highschooler assure me the word is alive and well among the middle school and highschool crowds, and apparently, people are sick of it.

The other word of note is NATION used as a suffix to denote fans of a team, celebrity, or the like. I thought it was entirely and appropriately ironic that Lake Superior State University encourages people to join the “Laker-Nation” in the standard institutional blurb that’s included at the end of the banned word list story. I hope they did that on purpose.

Some of the other words are featured in the cartoon above. If a word strikes you during the year as one that should be banned, go here to list it with the university and see how it fares in next year’s list. They also have a Banished Words Facebook page that you can join.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go blow my nose again.


6 thoughts on “The Banned Words of Bleak Mid-Winter

  1. I was all for banishing car-cra on the first hearing. Bae I didn’t feel quite as strongly about, but mostly because I’m willing to acknowledge I’m old and uncool and maybe didn’t “get” it’s meaning/application. (like LOL when I first saw/heard it.) I’m ordinarily not a fan of censorship at this level, but I can get behind this group! I just wish they could enforce the edicts.

  2. I also never heard of Bae but then, I don’t really get around… happy missed cra cra too. I must keep swag but only because about a year ago I learned it’s the name for a hanging lamp whose cord runs across the ceiling and plugs into the wall. (I vow I never have and never will use it to refer to swanky stuff!)

  3. I have never heard BAE and even when reading about it here didn’t assume it was meant to apply to a person. From your description I gather it is something like BFF, as in, you prioritize that relationship before anyone else. But my first instinct was to use it to designate how forward thinking you are, such as, “I was totally digging vampires BAE.”

    • Hi Lacey. I’m so glad to hear you had never heard of BAE, either. It’s sort of funny that a word is banned before it’s even saturated society. But I guess that saves some of us from the pain of overuse before we’ve even felt of it. Yes, bae does refer to a person.

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