Words to Retire in 2015: The Millennial Edition

Dec 11, 2014 Samantha McGarry

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, the 2014 word of the year is vape.  This was a surprise to me as it’s not a word I’ve seen much over here in the States, but in Great Britain, it’s most definitely a thing.

British/American linguistic differences aside (of which I am a polished connoisseur), when polling my peers, friends, reporters, and social followers for this year’s post, I noticed I barely knew many of the words they wanted retired next year. This collection of mysterious words reminded me that millennial speak and 40-something speak are, well, generations apart.

Their crimes? These words and expressions are shallow, overused on social networks (often preceded by a hashtag) and have the potential to be here-today-gone-tomorrow. It’s no coincidence that several of these terms also appeared in TIME Magazine’s poll of words to ban in 2015 (note that the publication received much whiplash for its suggestion that the word feminist needed banning.)

So without further ado, here are the ten words that a sampling of in-the-know millennials would like to see retired in 2015:

    1. Bae
    2. Basic
    3. Break the Internet
    4. Sorry I’m not sorry
    5. I can’t even
    6. Srsly
    7. Blessed
    8. Swoll
    9. Ish
    10. Ratchet

In the worlds of PR and content marketing, it’s unlikely that we’ll find much need for “bae” or “ratchet” in press releases, contributed posts or infographics. Phew. But the world of business speak is not without its offenders – words that have been overused or become so generic that they lose their punch. Here are the ones that I’m voting off the island:

    1. First, there’s “nounification” everywhere – think: “the ask, the solve.” It’s a pet peeve of Julie Wittes-Schlack who discussed her frustration with corporate speak recently on WBUR.
    2. Then there’s literally, which is literally used too often.
    3. What about engage? We all want to engage with each other, drive engagement, be engaging.
    4. Let’s not forget disrupt. We are so over the disruption and being disruptive, people. Kevin Roose thinks so too as he opined in this NY Mag piece.
    5. A leading xyz. Either you are or you aren’t and if you are, you should need to state it yourself.
    6. And my pet peeve: leverage. It takes the #1 spot in The Guardian’s PR jargon: the most overused words

As we close out 2014, a new expression was recently brought to my attention: on fleek. If you’re not sure whether you are on fleek, BuzzFeed offers this handy quiz. Savvy brands have already caught on. But watch this space, folks, I’ve a feeling that on fleek is already a strong contender for next year’s list of words to retire. Check back here, December 2015.


Topics: InkHouse
Samantha McGarry

Samantha is the executive vice president of Story Crafting at Inkhouse. Her curiosity for business and technology - combined with her love of semantics and communication - has translated into a 20+ year career in PR.

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