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Forbidden Words of the ‘00s

John Henshell humorous writing sample

A decade ago, cartoonist Matt Groening, who was raised in Portland, produced an amusing, yet subjectively accurate list titled “Forbidden Words of the 1990s.” The list primarily included words and phrases created in the 1980s. Lawyer and lexicographer, Bryan Garner, author of the fine new book, “A Dictionary of Modern American Usage,” calls these language abuses “vogue words.” 

Some of the words on Groening’s list were unfamiliar to me, but maybe that’s because I’m a “baby boomer,” one of the phrases on his list. Others really did disappear in the ‘90s: cocooning, def, D.I.N.K., gorby, illin’, Ninja, power lunch, robo anything, and synthpop. Before you feel too relieved, consider that these seem to have become a permanent part of the lexicon: bimbo, boombox, evil empire, go for it, hyper anything, infotainment, just say no, life’s a beach, peacekeeper missile, rocktober, and yuppie. 

Still other words and phrases have a continuing relevance: Jazzercize, lifestyle, lotto, nerd, networking, Nutrasweet, politically correct, sound bite, surround sound, and wannabe. While some of those terms initially made me wince, I have subsequently accepted many of them; the original negative connotations have become amorphous. The most offensive are the most overused. Remember the “not” fad earlier in this decade? People would say something inane and contradict it by saying, “Not!” 

“Dude” has no excuse, but has made a comeback in each of the past three decades. As President Eisenhower said, “Things are more like they are now than they ever were before.” 

Here’s my edited list of “Forbidden Words of the '00s.” The list mostly avoids words and phrases many of us feel we’ve already seen and heard too many times (e.g. Monica Lewinsky), and focuses on abuses of the language. 

“nuculer” (sic)

“the Body”



cutting edge


did somebody say…?



diluted share


drop dead date


get a life

get real

go postal

have a good one

identify with

liberal media


lost it/about lost it

make my day



micro tower


need-to-know basis (anti-communicative)

onomatopoeic dysphemisms for bathroom activities

place postage here, the post office…



right on

Ruth’s Chris Steak House




vehicles with names that suggest they will traverse previously undiscovered residential neighborhoods

vehicles with violent names

virtual anything

what up?

world class


your call is very important to us, please hold…

I could wishfully condemn many more tired phrases worn out by teenagers and young adults, but I won’t go there.


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