Best of 2013: The most overused words and phrases this year

ICYMI: 2013, in overused words, is a deceptively simple selfie of a hipster twerking.

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  • "YOLO: You only live once. / The battle cry of a generation," rapped Andy Samberg on the Lonely Island's parodic single about having a single shot at life. The song debuted on Saturday Night Live in January 2013, but YOLO has been prevalent in pop culture for a few years now. Seems that the popular hashtag-which conspicuously ignores those who LMTO (Live More Than Once): Pac-Man, The Crow and nine-lived cats everywhere-just won't die.

  • You've seen it on drink menus and food menus, in restaurant reviews and music reviews. Flavor-infused. Fruit-infused. Jazz-infused. What could these descriptions use? An infusion of orginality.

  • In 2013, we saw many innocuous words smashed up against inspiration-e.g., designspiration, nailspiration, giftspiration-to uninspiring and awkward effect. DIY culture and how-to blogs are key offenders.

  • We used to be meh about its usage; now it's making us woozy.

  • Weirdly prevalent in contemporary music criticism, woozy is often used to describe soft- or indistinct-sounding guitars, vocals or synths. Sounds like those guitars need a barf bag!

  • Deceptively simple. Deceptively complex. Deceptively easy. It would appear there's as much "deception" in movies and art and music and recipes these days as an NSA spying scandal.

  • Like Gollum entranced by his precious ring, the music world is transfixed with the word shimmering. Time for this trend to flicker out.

  • Every time we hear this phrase we think of that treacly Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman movie from 2007. We started watching it on an airplane once, then could no longer keep watching it, then realized what we really want to do before kicking the bucket is buy everything in Skymall.

  • When Rahm E. describes Chicago as a "world-class city," it's like when your dad endorses you on LinkedIn—except not at all cute, strictly embarrassing.

  • Portlandia tackled the farm-to-table phenomenon in its first season: Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are dining at a restaurant and have a barrage of questions for the server about just how local the locally sourced chicken is. (Turns out the chicken's name was Colin.) Food coming straight from the farm is obviously a good thing, but in 2014, let's agree to not be so precious and loquacious in describing the source. Anyway, if we're really being specific, it's "farm to table to toilet."

  • How lazy is it to abbreviate crazy by taking out just one letter? Very lay.

  • This cliché is deployed by politicians, reporters and business people-and it still just makes us think of the KFC sandwich.

  • So many things are described as artisanal now, you'd think we were living in a city of butchers and bakers and candlestick-makers. Oh, wait, we are.

  • An Urban Dictionary contributor named "system f" accurately summed it up this way: "'EDM' is what people who started listening to dance music in 2011 call dance music. The rest of the world knows it as dance music, or they just refer to the various genres within it."

  • This is overused in the same way as artisanal, but with the added gross factor of making us picture someone getting their hands all over/into something we're about to consume or drink. When we said "two fingers of whiskey," we didn't meanactual fingers.

  • An oversimplification of Chicago's high murder rate, Chi-raq waters down a complex problem into a T-shirt-ready catchphrase, when what it really needs is to be talked about more-and with less reductive words.

  • Unflinching is the stuff of book blurbs and movie trailers, and we can't help but flinch at its overuse.

  • What does digital strategy actually mean in 2013? Different things to different companies, sure, but too often it's a meaningless placeholder, rarely accompanied by specifics (and, at least in the print world, often accompanied by layoffs).

  • One of the most-used business clichés of the year. Just once we'd love to hear of a company moving sideways!

  • "Is this the real life? / Is this just fantasy?" We don't know anymore, Freddie Mercury. IRL/in real life we spend a lot of time in virtual realms, so it's all very confusing.

  • There's no special reason this made our list of overused words except that it's just the worst.

  • The only time nom nom is acceptable is when it's coming out of the mouth of Vanessa Bayer's character on the SNL sketch "The Kings of Catchphrase Comedy Tour." Or if you're pretend-eating a baby's foot.

  • Miley Cyrus didn't invent twerking. Nor did she popularize the term. We did: we writers and consumers of media and pop culture. Now it's coming out of the mouths of politicians, teachers, scholars and grandmothers. That's how you know we messed up.

  • Like calling people indie, hipster is just plain vague. Also, as a way to describe people who supposedly care about their "cool" status, it's a word that only makes the speaker sound overly concerned with their "cool" status. Think of a better word.

  • Meals, outfits, Tumblrs, playlists, Pinterest pages, bookshelves, soap collections, sock drawers. Are all of these an act of curation? Or perhaps just examples of organizing, assembling, buying or presenting? Maybe we assign a sense of importance to such activities because we're worried what occupies much of our time is not that important."I tend to roll my eyes at careless, liberal interpretations of curating. The more the word has been thrown about, the more meaningless it seems," wrote the Tribune's Christopher Borrelli. Indeed.

  • The Twitter abbreviation for "in case you missed it" is a quick way of saying, "Hey, seriously. This is worth checking out," or "Heads up: I'm being redundant and I'm aware of that." That's how we use it at TOC, anyway. But often it smacks of self-importance. As we suggested earlier this year, how about something more like," ICYMIADMTMIWIYDTWBFWABP" (in case you missed it and didn't mean to miss it, which if you did, that would be fair; we're all busy people)?

  • It's not surprising that selfie can be traced back to the Aussies. The Land Down Unda has a habit of inventing cute-sounding slang. But that's also why it sounds awkward coming out of the mouths of Americans of all ages and backgrounds-kids, parents, POTUS. It sounds as if we're trying to add silliness/cuteness to what we're doing-i.e., snapping self-portraits in a bathroom mirror (or, erm, at the Nelson Mandela memorial)-when we know full well what we're doing. It was a good hair day. The light was flattering. We were sans tripod, feeling bold/bored/with world leaders. Let's just be honest about what we're doing and bring our social media-enabled narcissism into the open. Or at least call it a "self-po" or something. (Yes, we realize this is a losing battle.)

"YOLO: You only live once. / The battle cry of a generation," rapped Andy Samberg on the Lonely Island's parodic single about having a single shot at life. The song debuted on Saturday Night Live in January 2013, but YOLO has been prevalent in pop culture for a few years now. Seems that the popular hashtag-which conspicuously ignores those who LMTO (Live More Than Once): Pac-Man, The Crow and nine-lived cats everywhere-just won't die.


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