5 Words I’d Better Not Hear You Using in 2016

Every year a group of professors and staff members at a small public university in Michigan (Lake Superior State University) publishes a list of banished words. To banish usually means to force someone to leave his or her home city or country, but here it just means to prohibit or not to allow something to happen. The words and expressions on the “banished” list are ones that have been misused (used incorrectly) or overused (used too much) in the past year, and that you should try to avoid using this year.

Anyone can suggest a word or phrase that should be banished. In 2015, Lake Superior State received more than 800 suggestions. They selected 13 of those suggestions for this year’s list.

Here are five that I think are particularly good ones for you to avoid in your writing and speaking in 2016:

So – I’ve written about the misuse of the word “so” before, and even made a video about it that was published originally last year in ESLPod.com’s magazine, Learn English Magazine. Rather than explain again how people misuse this word, you can watch the video (and subscribe to our magazine for free for more cool videos!).

Problematic – This is just another way of saying “It is a problem,” as in this example: “His arriving late to work everyday is problematic.” Some have referred to this term as a “weasel word,” meaning something you say when you don’t have the courage to say what you really mean, perhaps because you don’t want the other person to get angry at you. If someone says to you, “Well, I think your solution to this particular issue here is somewhat problematic,” what he really means is, “Your idea is terrible.”

Price point – A price point is, well, a price! It is often used when people are talking about the cost or price of something very expensive, such as a car or a house. If you are looking for a new house, you could say that your “price point” is $350,000, meaning that you are looking for a house that costs no more than that amount. This expression really bothers me when I hear people using it. In my opinion, there is never a good reason to use “price point.” If you mean “price,” say “price.”

Secret sauce – A sauce is a liquid that is put on or mixed with some food. For example, I eat spaghetti with a tomato and meat sauce. A secret is something that no one else knows, that only you or a small group of people know. The term “secret sauce” was probably first used by a popular restaurant to refer the sauce it puts on its hamburgers. But the term has come to refer to some special factor or reason that makes an organization or a business successful. You could talk about the “secret sauce” of Apple’s success being its cool designs or easy-to-use software. But the expression doesn’t really make any sense, since the “sauce” (reason for success) isn’t “secret” anymore if you are able to talk about it in public.

Break the InternetTo break something is to cause it to no longer function or work properly. You can break your watch if you drop it on the floor or break a coffee mug if you accidentally knock it off your desk (like I did last week). You can also “break your leg” or “break your arm,” meaning to cause one of your bones to crack or separate. However, we don’t usually use “to break” when talking about a complex system of machines and software such as the Internet. Nevertheless, people have started using the expression “break the Internet” to refer to what happens when one or more websites stop working due to a sudden surge (rapid increase) in use. For example, someone might post a video on a very popular website that generates (produces; causes) so much traffic (people going to that website) that the website stops working. You then might say this action “broke the Internet” because that website stopped working.

“Break the Internet” is a good example of hyperbole, when you exaggerate or make something seem more serious or extreme that it really is. In this case, the Internet isn’t actually “broken” when a few websites stop working, even if they are popular ones.

Are there words in your language that have become popular this past year that are misused or overused and that you would like people to stop using? Try to explain them to us (in English, of course!) below in the comments section.


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17 Responses to 5 Words I’d Better Not Hear You Using in 2016

  1. Dan says:

    Hello everyone.

    Sorry Jeff but my social life is so bad that i am not even able to answer your question.
    At least I am honest and aware of that fact. If you wanna know something about crows, I am not sure whether it’s good or bad I can talk about crows.
    The other day for example there was a large white stain on my balcony. Too many peanuts I guess.

    I am just going to say that something I would like to see vanish is those teens that throw too many “like” “awesome” and “honestly” into a sentence.

    Just the other day I was watching Ellen interviewing Caitlyn Jenner’s daughter -she’s 18- and I could not get to the end of the clip because the way she was talking was so annoying.
    “I feel like, honestly, that was awesome, like” I am not sure what was more annoying between her way of delivering the message or the crow’s dropping.

    Hey Pete you know what I am talking about, right? I am sure Jeff knows.
    BTW Pete, I do not like the way Canadians say “about” they say “abeout” something like that.

    That’s enough. Better stop before someone thinks I am crazy.

  2. Mari Carmen says:

    Hello there, hey Dan.

    Just a couple of comments on what you say. I think that the idea of social life is nowadays overvalued. Adolescents are as much as lost as adults, that’s why probably we adults get annoyed on what or how they say.

    Thank you very much.

  3. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    This subject is important for English students just saying they could make a mess with these words. Thanks Jeff for advising us about misuse of some words. I will avoid using them in the wrong way, I promise.

  4. Dan says:

    Hello everyone

    I am so stupid! why I have not thought about this yesterday.
    There are in fact many new words in our vocabulary, and most of those are internet/smartphone related English words.

    Problem is that many of those get Italianized and sound horrible. They become Frankenwords half English and half Italian. Not all though, like selfie for example.

    One new word I have heard recently that made me cringe really bad is “Apericena” it translates Aperidinner. That is bonding together Aperitif and Dinner.
    I do not know you, but to me that sounds bad. “Hey guys! let’s have an aperidinner”

    To tell you the truth, sometimes I use things I hate just because of that and to make other people cringe as well.
    For example air quotes. For those unaware of what those are, is when you rise both your hands at head level, and do like the victory gesture but going up and down with your fingers while sayin something.
    I HATE that and I DO it deliberately to my coworkers in order to make them nervous.

    I better stop. This is getting too messy.

  5. peter says:

    Hi chief
    U r killing me here
    Your post ,as attractive as it seems , is against everything I stand for.

    Your post basically took fun out of all the fun words I ,and by I ,I mean all the people I know use on everyday basis.

    Dude , you lost me at “problematic. ”

    What is wrong with the practice of sugar coding.U wanna say sth to your colleague’s face, or your close friend for that matter , you try to soften the blow.
    Like, the other day my friend posted something terrible on his Facebook page and asked me if it was cool!!
    Honest it looked terrible but I said
    It was very good. Every body knew what ” it was very good ” meant. My friend got it ,my friends got it ,my friends of friends got it.
    u don’t come out and say straight to ur people’s face : ” dude , it was awful !!”

    You see what I mean ?

    Besides , it is relationship 101.you sauger cod every single thing u wanna say to ur girlfriend,or your wife for that matter.
    Sure I use problematic rather than saying “Hun , ur idea sounds terrible ”

    If you are that frank with your wife ,Jeff , I applaud your courage :)))

    I don’t know , as far as I m concerned ,”problematic ” is a as cool word as any.
    Honest , I use it copiously as I like the sound of it.And ,I must say ,I don’t care if some college professors prohibit me from using it. I don’t mean any disrespect !!!

    And I couldn’t disagree with u more about using ” break the Internet ”
    Man it is as cool as it can get
    What is wrong with a bit of creativity.

    I do agree with u on the “sauce secret.”
    I never use it. I find it creepy and weird. I use ” trade secret ” instead.
    In my opinion , it sounds cooler and classier.

    I must say , I enjoy ur little post, boss

    The animation thingy was very entertaining

    A huge fan

  6. peter says:

    Hey Dan,
    If we happen to meet in person u gonna find me like annoying.
    U know , I used” like ” like a lot while comumibstin.

    I mean
    I use it without even realizing it.
    I mean u know it is like when u are telling your friends what happened to or sth.
    It is quite common
    Everybody does that
    Trust me
    I barely say for example

    “I said” I almost always say ” I was like ” instead.
    So , to me , it is not annoying.it is a way of talk

    I know it not abouet that u hear
    It is about but longer


  7. Tania says:

    I’ll try to start this new year in an optimistic way wishing to all of us to have the possibility
    of ” in style ” travelling as
    “there’s such a lot of world to see”.

    “Moon River, wider than a mile,
    I’m crossing you in style some day.
    Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
    Wherever you’re going I’m going your way.
    Two drifters off to see the world.
    There’s such a lot of world to see.”

    Have a good year!


    Moon River song from English Cafe 534

  8. Tania says:


    I was wondering why Jeff did not send a special wish to us at the beginning of the New Year.
    I was waiting for it.
    In fact, this is his wish to us travelling as “there’s such a lot of WORLD to see” or “there’s such a lot of WORDS to see”.
    Jeff can be a very mysterious man.

    Thank you for your original coded wish.

  9. Tania says:

    I have understood the message of the Moon River song thanks to your detailed explanations.
    But I can’t translate the last phrase
    “my huckleberry friend,
    Moon River and me”.

    More precisely the phrase ” my huckleberry friend”.
    For me, “huckleberry” means a forest fruit.

  10. Tania says:


    English Cafe 534… James Whistler, American painter…
    I have to recognize that I have never heard of James Whistler.
    I was curious to see his masterpieces on Internet. Indeed masterpieces even their titles.
    What a nice metaphor…Symphony in White! We use to say a symphony of colors, but a symphony in white
    where everything is white… I like the white color, especially the white flowers, looking at them can make you to think faraway, faraway, farther
    where everything is light and love.
    Symphony in White, No.2… more wonderful her portrait reflected in the mirror.

  11. Tania says:


    James Whistler, Arrangement in Gray and Black No.1, well-known in America as Portrait of the Artist’s Mother…
    According to Wikipedia, this was the first painting by an American to enter France’s national collection
    with a status as an icon.
    Like Mona Lisa, Whistler’s Mother is an icon of Western art.
    Both women are instantly recognizable as art and as symbol:
    Mona Lisa’s smile is a byword for mystery and enigma, while the patient, serious pose of Whistler’s mother
    has come to represent a particularly American strain of Puritan stoicism.

    The U.S. Postal Service issued a Mother’s Day stamp featuring the Artist’s Mother adding
    “In Memory and in Honor of the Mothers of America”.

    Thank you, dear Jeff.

  12. Tania says:


    Thank you for the explanation of the difference between magazine, journal and diary.

  13. Lisa says:


    I will try to explain the last phrase of the song “moon river”. The river, moon river, is located nearby the town Savannah, Georgia in wich the writer of the lyrics, Johnny Mercer was born, we heard in the episode. Mercer grew up there and in his childhood he often was there on the river with his friends, searching huckleberries on the shore of the river. So the words “my huckleberry friend” refers to that thing. This information I found in the internet.

    I think, the message is, we grow up, live our life with all our dreams and hopes (just round the bend the rainbows end? oh no… maybe round the other bend.. or the next….) and sad things and emotions, too. But we can never go back in time, in a good old time (huckleberry-time), where we had a good feeling, we can never get that good feeling back, we once had.

    It’s a very melancholic song, I think. Imagine, Savannah, Georgia, that is the south. It is summer, the nature, the flowers, the trees… The day it was very hot, now in the evening it’s not even colder, there is no breeze, the moon reflects in the river, the insects are making noises, there is a smell of oleander and lavender….

    Hi and sorry for my bad english, I learned in school many years ago. But I try to up my game (English Cafe 536, to up one`s game) with ESL Podcast now 😉

  14. emiliano says:

    Thank you so much Lisa, I like your explanation very much and I do think your English
    is really good.
    Please, write more it would be always a pleasure for me reading you, as in fact our
    friends Dan,Peter,and Aecio seems to be the only one who writes here, so a nice new
    writer will be really welcome.

    The same for you Mari Carmen, it is so nice to see new names in the Blog, I like
    to read your notes too, really I like them.


  15. peter says:

    Lisa ,

    You sneaky gal :)))

    All of a sudden u appear out of no where and wrote a thing or two.

    I like your line

    Keep up the good work


  16. Igor says:

    Du spy Englisch

  17. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Hello, every one. I have a good time reading your words. Thanks.

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