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PAPERWORK: Ban words? Really? Well … maybe

Love words. Yes I do.

However, I have taken issue with certain words over the years.

For example … “wheelhouse.”

I felt clever the first time I heard the word used to describe someone’s area of expertise.

Apparently everyone thought it was clever. So everyone uses it.

Now I see it as a metaphor gone askew. (Ahhhh, askew. Sorry, it’s a word I do like.)

I am happy to report now that “wheelhouse” is at the top of a banished word list.

The list has been around since 1976. Thank you W. T. Rabe, who started the B list.

Rabe was a public relations director at Lake Superior State University in Sault Sainte Marie, Mich.

He and fellow faculty and staff decided to have some fun at a 1975 New Year’s Eve party.

They listed words and phrases that people love to hate based on their own “pet peeves,” according to the brief history on the university’s website.

He published the list on Jan. 1, 1976 … all in fun. But the reaction was strong, they say, adding this:

“Rabe said he knew from the volume of mail he received in the following weeks that the group would have no shortage of words and phrases from which to choose for 1977.

“Since then, the list has consisted entirely of nominations submitted from around the world.

“Word-watchers target pet peeves from everyday speech, as well as from the news, fields of education, technology, advertising, politics and more. An editor makes a final cut in late December.”

Tens of thousands of words are nominated through the university’s website ( or Facebook page.

OK, drum roll please.

Here’s the 2019 “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness”:

>> Wheelhouse, as in area of expertise – Chris, Battle Creek, Mich., “It’s not in my wheelhouse to explain why dreadful words should be banished!”; Currie, Ottawa, Ontario (Canada), “Irritating, has become a cliché, …”; Kevin, Portland, Ore., “… Most people have never seen a wheelhouse.”

>> In the books . . . as in finished or concluded – Sandy, White Lake Township, Mich., “It seems everyone's holiday party is in the books this year, and it's all there for friends to view on social media, along with the photos of the happy party attendees.”

>> Wrap my head around – Linda, Bloomington, Minn., “Impossible to do and makes no sense.”

>> Platform – Michael, Alameda, Calif., “People use it as an excuse to rant. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have become platforms. Even athletes call a post-game interview a ‘platform.’ Step down from the platform, already.”

>> Collusion, as in two or more parties limiting competition by deception — John, Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., “We all need to collude on getting rid of this word.”

>> OTUS family of acronyms such as POTUS, FLOTUS, SCOTUS – David, Kinross, Mich., “Overused useless word for the President, Supreme Court, First Lady.”

>> Ghosting – Carrie, Caledonia, Mich., “Somebody doesn't want to talk with you. Get over it. No need to bring the paranormal into the equation.”

>> Yeet, as in to vigorously throw or toss – Emily, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., “If I hear one more freshman say ‘yeet,’ I might just yeet myself out a window.”

>> Litigate – Ronald, Fredericton, New Brunswick (Canada), “Originally meant to take a claim or dispute to a law court . . . appropriated by politicians and journalists for any matter of controversy in the public sphere.”

>> Grapple – David, Traverse City, Mich., “People who struggle with ideas and issues now grapple with them. I prefer to grapple with a wrestler or an overgrown tree."

>> Eschew – Mary, Toronto, Ont. (Canada), “Nobody ever actually says this word out loud, they just write it for filler.”

>> Crusty – Hannah, Campbellsville, Ky., “This has become a popular insult. It's disgusting and sounds weird. Make the madness stop.”

>> Optics – Bob Tempe, Ariz., “The trendy way to say ‘appearance’.”

>> Legally drunk – Philip, Auburn, Ind., “You're a little tipsy, that's all. That's legally drunk. People who are ticketed for drunk driving are actually ‘illegally drunk,’ and we should say so.”

>> Thought Leader – Matt, Superior, Colo., “Thoughts aren’t ranked or scored. How can someone hold a thought-lead, much less even lead by thought?” Paul, Ann Arbor, Mich., “If you follow a thought leader, you're not much of a thinker.”

>> Importantly – Constance, Pace, Tex., “Totally unnecessary when ‘important’ is sufficient. ‘More importantly’ (banned in 1992) apparently sounds more important but is also senseless.”

>> Accoutrements – Leslie, Scottsdale, Ariz., “Hard to spell, not specific, and anachronistic when ‘accessories’ will do.”

>> Most important election of our time . . . – José, Ozark, Ark., “Not that we haven’t had six or seven back-to-back most important elections of our time.”

That’s the list.

Now, to put this in the books, I admit I grapple with words every week.

Call me crusty if you want, but I probably use words from the banned lists produced over the years.

It’s a personal thing. I say “neat” but you can say “yeet.”

Finally, when I wrap my head around this, I do have to agree there is one word I would eschew.


LONNY CAIN, of Ottawa, is the former managing editor of The Times, now retired. Please email thoughts, comments or ideas to or mail care of The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.

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