Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

'Fiscal cliff': banished for overuse

Lake Superior State University's 2012 list of terms that need to be removed from the English language was topped by 'fiscal cliff,"

By Staff Writer / January 2, 2013

President Barack Obama winks as he arrives to speak to the press about the fiscal cliff bill.

Charles Dharapak/AP


The phrase “Fiscal cliff” topped the list compiled for 2012 by Lake Superior State University of words that need to be banished because they have been overused.

Skip to next paragraph

Recent posts

The list’s full title is “The List of Words to be Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness” and has been compiled yearly by the university since 1976, when phrases like “at this point in time” and “détente” were voted for banishment. ("Invented by Henry Kissinger," the university wrote on "détente" at the time. "Nobody else knows what it means, and now even Kissinger has forgotten. [Before the year was out the president of the United States also banished "detente." Later, voters banished Kissinger and the president.]")

The list and its rankings is based on submissions by English speakers who write to Lake Superior State University and complain about certain terms. The compilation is released annually on New Year’s Eve.

“You can't turn on the news without hearing this,” Christopher Loiselle of Midland, Mich. wrote to LSSU about “fiscal cliff.” “I'm equally worried about the River of Debt and Mountain of Despair.”

A contributor known only as Donna, who is based in Johnstown, N.Y., agreed with Loiselle.

“Makes me want to throw someone over a real cliff,” she wrote.

Other now-banished phrases includes the second-most-nominated term, “kick the can down the road,” and the phrase which came in third, “double down.” Mike Cloran of Cincinnati, Ohio explained the first for LSSU. 

“Usually used in politics, this typically means that someone or some group is neglecting its responsibilities,” Cloran wrote of “kick the can. “This was seized upon during the current administration and is used as a cliché by all parties... Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Tories, Whigs, Socialists, Communists, Fashionistas…" 

“Job creators/creation” and “YOLO,” which stands for “You Only Live Once,” also attracted English speakers’ ire. Check out the full list here.


  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer


Editors' picks:

What are you reading?

Let me know about a good book you've read recently, or about the book that's currently on your bedside table. Why did you pick it up? Are you enjoying it?

Doing Good


What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!