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The Banned List: Top 100

John Rentoul

tbl The Banned List: Top 100I have an article in The Independent today about the Banned List, so I reproduce the latest version here. These are the top 100 words and phrases to avoid.

Meanwhile, the Committee is working extra shifts compiling  an even longer list in secret, so that no one knows whether they have been banned or not, thus ensuring that self-discipline, originality and the avoidance of cliché is internalised.

Nominations for candidates to go on the new list in the comments, please. Or send me a #bannedlist suggestion on Twitter.

1. It’s the economy, stupid.

2. A week is a long time in politics. Or variants thereof, such as, “If a week is a long time in politics then a month seems an eternity.”

3. What part of x don’t you understand? Although this one seems to have nearly died out already.

4. Way beyond, or way more.

5. Any time soon.

6. “Events, dear boy, events.” (Except as the name of an excellent political blog, currently in abeyance.)

7. Learning curve.

8. Raising awareness.

9. Celebrating diversity.

10. In any way, shape or form.

11. Inclusive.

12. Community, especially a vibrant one.

13. Hearts and minds.

14. Celebrity.

15. Makeover.

16. Lifestyle.

17. Going forward.

18. A forward policy.

19. A big ask.

20. At this moment in time.

21. Not fit for purpose.

22. Hard-working families.

23. Apologies for lack of postings.

24. Black hole (in a financial context).

25. The elephant in the room.

26. Perfect storm.

27. Seal the deal.

28. A good election to lose.

29. Game-changer.

30. Beginning an article with “So”.

31. IMO, IMHO, LOL, ROFL and so on. I mean, whose opinion is it going to be? Genuinely witty abbreviations, however, are permitted, for example, QTWTAIN, YYSSW, IICRS (Questions to Which the Answer is No; Yeah, Yeah, Sure, Sure, Whatever; Iraq Inquiry Coverage Rebuttal Service).

32. Vibrant (when used to mean lots of non-English people).

33. Progressive.

34. Arguably, as in “arguably the most perfect village in the Siebenburgen” (Spectator, 24 July 2010).

35. Headlines beginning “Now”, as in “Now You Pay for Prison Parties.

36. We will take no lessons on x from y.

37. Beginning a report with “They came”.

38. Iconic.

39. “Action” as a verb.

40. Parameter.

41. The level of.

42. A sense of.

43. A series of.

44. The introduction of.

45. A package of. Especially measures.

46. A basket of.

47. A raft of.

48. A range of.

49. The prospect of.

50. (All) the hallmarks of.

51. “Leverage” as a verb.

52. U-turn as a verb.

53. Dislocate as a noun. Or disconnect.

54. Toilet, storyline or any other unsuitable noun as a verb.

55. Exponential or exponentially used to mean big or a lot.

56. Incredible or incredibly as intensifiers.

57. On a daily basis.

58. It’s in his/her/their DNA.

59. Let’s be clear.

60. At the end of the day.

61. Organic, to refer to anything unrelated to farming or to the chemical science that deals with carbon-based compounds.

62. “The truth is…” before the peddling of an opinion.

63. End of.

64. Any journey not describing travel from A to B.

65. A no-brainer.

66. Pot, kettle.

67. What’s not to like?

68. Max out (in relation to credit cards only).

69. He/she gets it. They get it. He/she/it just doesn’t get it.

70. “All the evidence tells us” to mean “I’ve read something about this somewhere that confirms my prejudices”.

71. Fairly unique.

72. Paradigm shift. Or anything to do with a paradigm.

73. Quantum leap, except to mean a very small change of fixed magnitude.

74. Step change.

75. Sea change.

76. Real people and the real world. In real time.

77. Coffee, the waking up and smelling thereof.

78. Ongoing.

79. Project, except in the construction industry.

80. “No longer.” (Following a loving description of The Way We Were.)

81. Agenda, except to describe a list of things to be discussed in a meeting.

82. Out of the box (especially thinking).

83. Kick the can down the road.

84. Psychodrama. (To describe any tense political relationship.)

85. Radar, to be on someone’s, or to be under the.

86. Name and shame.

87. Does what it says on the tin.

88. Stakeholder.

89. Deliverables.

90. Key (adjective). Especially keynote speech.

91. Enough already.

92. Who knew?

93. Epic fail.

94. See what I/he/she did there?

95. Not so much.

96. Beleaguered, except of a city, town or fort with turrets.

97. Rolling out, except carpet, wallpaper or logs.

98. Forward planning (until invention of time machine allowing other kinds).

99. “And yet, and yet …”

100. The suffix -gate added to any news theme supposedly embarrassing to a government.

The original Banned List was, of course, George Orwell’s in 1946: dying metaphors (“Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed”); verbal false limbs (“Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of”); pretentious diction (“Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilise, eliminate, liquidate”); and meaningless words (his examples included “class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality”).

And Orwell’s six rules hold good:

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

It should also be noted that the Committee has decreed that some phrases are compulsory.


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  • Another_old_git

    Meddling……..as we are soon to hear lots of in London 2012

  • psotnik

    End of story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.bearne Chris Bearne

    How could you not include Roller-Coaster in the top ten? A roller coaster is a big dipper in English, which in American of course is the Great Bear. Um. Be that as it may (allowable cliché?), it is so overworked and usually so inappropriate … Oh and can I put in a rearguard pedant’s plea for the de-singularisation of media and data? And the banning of attendees (which surely have to be stretcher cases). I’ll shut up. Thanks for the opportunity to vent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.bearne Chris Bearne

    Not OK as a metaphor derived from bridge, then?

  • http://twitter.com/Gunner42 Gerard Crowley

    “Close knit” or “tight-knit” community – usually used in the aftermath of some tragedy or other. Aren’t there any “loose knit” communities?

  • http://twitter.com/VNsumbu Viya Marie Nsumbu

    Love this!

  • http://twitter.com/ReturnToBohemia Kitty Sheehan

    Please add “underwear bulge” to the list.

  • pambie25

    Inappropriate behaviour is bad enough, but someone is apparently cloning it and making inappropriate behaviours, as in a “range of inappropriate behaviours” heard recently at a presentation about “Customer Facing Strategies”.

  • andronico

    Good question re absolutely. Very popular across latin languages incl French, and the Germans have theirs, used very frequently: “Ja, genau”.

  • andronico

    Fine, but, come up with a replacement first! In fact, Rentoul should have done same with each of his hundred. It is after all easier to prohibit and destroy than to create and think.


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