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7 Words That Must Die in 2010

Another year gone and, with it, another decade in the books. 10 years ago today, we all were frantically wondering what the hell was going to happen when the digital apocalypse descended on us in a thing we all called the Y2K bug. The natural disaster that could have been was the first global digital crisis that never happened. Well, that and AOL chatroom dating, but that’s a different issue.

Over the last 10 years, the digital economy collapsed, but not before laying the groundwork for the digital world we live in now. Massive telecom behemoths riding high on the digital bubble of the late 90s (MCI Worldcom, Global Crossings), laid tens of thousands of miles of fiber traversing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and tying the world together…. and then promptly went bankrupt as a result. But not without leaving their enduring mark on the planet.

MySpace brought social networking to the masses. Friendster tried and failed. Facebook perfected it, kinda. Blogs gave every person the ability to reach the world. Twitter gave every person the ability to live tweet their breakfast experiences. Flickr gave the world a reason to buy digital SLR cameras that most camera owners use embarassingly.

But more importantly, but not unique to our digital world, the web gave us a new language. New buzzwords. New verbal and written diarrhea. These words cause other people, who are a little more grounded in reality, to punch people. But at least the punchee thinks he sounds important.

This past year has brought even new words into our lexicon. As the Washington Redskins are to the chalk marking the endzone, I hope we as technologists, entrepreneurs, digital communicators and, in general, web people can learn to avoid these words in the coming year and decade.

Down Round

With the economy tanking in 2008, the word “Down Round” has been introduced (or re-introduced) to our vocabulary. A down round is a round of financing (generally venture) that is based on a lower-than-before valuation. It does not mean “less money”, though. It generally does mean, however, that the money given is in exchange for a lesser value on the company thus being a greater percentage of company ownership. This word must die because it is not productive for entrepreneurs to get financing just to give away more of their companies in exchange.

Fail-Safe Venture Investment
Photo by Phrenologist

Too Big To Fail

Another product of the financial crisis, the words “Too big to fail” were used to justify bank and corporate bailouts at AIG, GM and other places. Now it has taken on a life of its own where anything that is perceived to be big is labelled “Too Big to fail”… Like Twitter.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is not new but with the Obama administration trying to put a premium on cloud services and the launch of Apps.gov to provide a list of GSA-recommended cloud service providers, everyone is now going in the direction of this technology. Not that it’s a bad technology, but everything in moderation.

Real Time Web

We all want instant gratification, but this push for “real-time” is becoming more buzzword that actuality. Between services like Twitter and instant publication notification services and protocols like PubSubHubBub and RSSCloud, this infatuation needs to get tamed a bit. Incidentally, a similar word that must die and means the same thing is “push”, as in “push notifications”. If your product is real-time, call it something other than real-time for the sake of my sanity.

Zombie

Now I realize this one is a little controversial. I’ll probably get loads of hate mail. In fact… wait a minute….

Okay, I’m back. Just had to create a new Gmail filter to send emails about this post containing the word “Zombie” to the bit bucket.

Alright. Zombies. Let me be clear. There are no zombies. Despite great survival guides for the zombie apocalypse, zombies don’t exist. So let’s stop pretending they do.

Zombie Apocafest 2008 - Justin's quarantine camp
Photo by dunechaser

In 2009, zombies took on a whole new level of myth and legend with plenty of zombie books, movies and games – most notably the Xbox Live bonus “Nazi Zombie map” in Call of Duty: World at War. Just stop.

Social Proof

I hadn’t heard of a term called “social proof” until earlier this year. Apparently, the word has been around for at least a few years. But now that I’ve heard it, I can’t stop hearing it. The word describes a psychological phenomenon where people lend decision making to group-think. We call it crowdsourcing elsewhere. When I determine what my actions will be based on what others are doing, I am demonstrating “social proof”.

Besides the horrible concept of being a lemming and following (the political discourse is a good example here), the word “social proof” must die. It’s bad enough that we use groupthink or crowdsource. We shouldn’t use this one too.

Wave

Whether the new Google product that is in private beta stage, or the new terminology surrounding microcontent as instituted by the new Google product, the idea of a “wave” as a form of communication is ridiculous on it’s face. It’s just as bad as being in a social situation and talking about tweeting. It must die.

Transparency

Another word that has been in our lexicon for a few years now but, if we’re lucky, will be killed in 2010: Transparency. Having its roots in both politics and online business interactions and customer service, it is neither transparent nor endearing. Let me put it this way: If you say you’re transparent, you’re hiding the truth. Let’s move on from the transparent-love.

What words would you kill off?

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

36 thoughts on “7 Words That Must Die in 2010

  1. “Social proof” is a psychological term of art in use for many decades by social psychologists. It also happens to be the driving force behind social media, so don’t hold your breath.

    You know what needs to die? Crowdsourcing. Stupid techno-jargon for simple principles of cooperation (upon which civilization was founded, nothing new).

      1. i think social proof is a legitimate term (agreeing with Brian).
        it’s natural for people to be followers too because people NEED validation from other sources, and I believe validation is synonymous with social proof.
        (@ Aaron) how would many people read CopyBlogger or TechnoSailor? Sure you can argue – because our content is good. and I would say, yes! your content is great! but even with great content, how would people find you or know about you? you can also say – i speak at conferences and people love what I hear, or Google tells people I’m good. those are other sources of validation. If you speak at a conference, there’s someone validating that you’re good, so people should hear you speak. And regarding Google: heavy weight on their algorithm is placed on other links directing to your site. THOSE links created by PEOPLE, are social proof that you are good.

        ok. maybe I shouldn’t argue so hard on the side of defending the buzzword social proof. perhaps the term does suck. im biased. maybe we should just use “validation.” It’s more technical. =)

  2. I refuse to cease using the word “Zombie.”

    BUT since I have yet to ever use any of the other words in conversation or text, I will gladly humor you. 6 out of 7 ain’t bad.

    ZOMBIE!!!!!!!

    1. I object! “Douchebag” is one of the all-time great words. It ranks right up there with “asshat” (another favorite). It’s flexible: can be used as an adjective, a verb … you name it. I’ll grant you “pimp”, but what did a douchebag ever do to you?

  3. 100% agree with earlier post –

    “douche” must go
    … and “pimp” while we’re at it –

    as well as adding “tastic” to the end of other words, ie: “frat-tastic”

    okay, i’ll stop pimpin’ my list.

  4. “At the End of the Day” – Just stop using that. It is like saying “First and Foremost” So many people use those two over and over in the course of buzzword filled meetings. Maybe I’m just sour on meetings, pointless soul sucking chunks of time. Can we get rid of meetings.

  5. Where I come from (bioethics), transparency is an awfully important word, a word (and practice) we need, and I hope it remains in the public discourse.

  6. Aaron, I agree with what @startabuzz said to you on Twitter: We need to kill off the habit of “Twitterfying” words, like “Twitterverse, “Twitvite”, “Tweetup”, “Tweeple”, “Twittersphere”, and so forth.

    It’s kind of like how McDonald’s used to include “Mc” in the name of each of their menu items…but in this case, it’s much more out of control and much more annoying.

  7. Transparency is, without exception, the biggest, dry-heave-inducing, make-me-curl-up-in-the-fetal-position piece of BS EVER. When people start talking about their transparency, red flags go up everywhere. It’s like when people start telling me how pious and religious they are … I generally want to lock up my jewelery.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find a Tworkscrew, so I can have a glass of Twine.

    Just sayin (which is something else that needs to be put out of its misery).

  8. So, if this appears twice … whatever. Sorry.

    The word transparency, as Kevin Kline once said, makes my ass twitch. It is so laden with faux-importance that it instantly gives me dry heaves. When people start talking about their transparency, red flags, alerting me to the mad cache of closet-dwelling skeletons, start flying up everywhere. It’s like when people tell me how pious/religious they are. My general reaction to such things is to lock up my jewelery. But hey … I’m a cynic.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go & relax with a nice glass of Twine.

    Just sayin (which, by the way, needs to be put out of its misery more than just about anything else).

  9. I don’t think “zombie” should die, it must only be used in moderation. What needs to die is the crap about zombies needing to eat brains…they’re dead, why would they even need to eat :P

    And as for words that actually need to die…Apart from everything else mentioned here, I think “may or may not” is long overdue. I’m not sure how widespread the use of this phrase is elsewhere but it sure gets used often in my office. It’s nonsense. Why state the only two possibilities in the world?

  10. 16 words. Yes, it should have been ‘7 phrases’, although there are 3 entries which are ‘one-word phrases’ (?!?) :).

    How about ‘immediate vicinity’. This phrase should fizzle out too. As if vicinity is not immediate enough.

  11. I’m ready to see ‘guru’ get put to rest. So sick of hearing it whether its bashing or bragging.

    ‘Dude’ has become particularly grating as of late. We need a replacement for that as well.

  12. Cloud computing is cool and that term is NOT going away for a very long time. Cloud computing is in its infancy. When any app can run in the cloud easily without any coding changes and the prices come down, it will be ubiquitous. You really can’t kill off a technology phrase that is just starting to become real.

    Wave is cool as well. The potential applications are endless. Its a combination of email, IM, social-networking “walls”, live streams, etc. Whether Google’s particular incarnation of it rules the World or not, its still a killer concept that if nothing else will drive enhanced features from the root applications its attempting to consolidate and replace.

    And lastly, Dude… DUDE… Duuuuud… dude has been used for decades and will likely never die. If you are bored with it, just add something before and/or after it to bring it new life. Like “Dude, man…” or “Man, dude…”. Long live “dude”! :-)

  13. “At the end of the day.” We all go home because your elocution and verbiage have robbed us of life.

    “At this point in time.” WHAT is wrong with the word “now?” I’ll even accept “right now.”

    Everyone today is a “social media guru.” The market is diluted. I don’t need anymore guru’s guiding me toward the light of the digital age.

    “Transparency” is an important concept. Not an important word.

    I’m also siding with Mr. Tipp – “Twilight” must go. Now. “Terrorists” and “war” have needed to be abolished for a long time. The words themselves will endure, unfortunately, so long as we, as a species, continue to practice terror and war.

    “Bob’s your uncle.” He may be, you don’t know him, and I want you to stop pointing out that fact.

    “The world’s your oyster.” Who want’s to live in an oyster? They coat irritants in saliva and we call them gems. SALIVA?

    I could go on. We would need some true revolutionary tactics to bring the horror to an end. Every year new buzz words emerge (anyone remember “rad” or am I really dating myself?) and every year we devise new lists of words that must die. They do. Eventually. We need to be vigilant to prevent their resurrection. And no, that’s not a zombie reference.

  14. hahah the zombie thing is so true. I’ve seen so many websites and books made about “how to survive the zombie apocalypse.”

    Like you said, there are no zombies and never will be. And how would you know how to survive a zombie Apocalypse anyway? Ever survived a zombie apacalyspe? where do you get your knowledge and experience? Movies? psh. the whole concept of zombies can die as far as I’m concerned

  15. Technically most of your chosen words that need to die are actually phrases.

    Okay, now that I got that off my chest I’d just like to say that I am totally onboard with the untimely and abrupt demise of the phrase Cloud Computing. Have you ever gone to ZDNet’s web page? That’s all they ever talk about, and I just want to strangle some of their editors for it. However, such a course of action may prove to be unproductive in that I might incur a fine for freeing the rest of the world from Cloud Computing’s fan base. On the other hand you can’t actually kill a word or phrase thus you might as well just kill the people that run it into the ground. Cure the disease instead of treating the symptoms.

    Have a nice day and peace be with you.

  16. Personally, I have been hearing “I’ll be honest with you” and it drives me nuts. I feel like anyone using that phrase is admitting to me that they lie their ass off unless they qualify a statement with “I’ll be honest with you” first as a disclaimer to the one or two sentences that might me true. I’m sick of the lies and they are everywhere.

    Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

  17. Rockstar.

    In reference to anyone who doesn’t sing or play an instrument on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans (women throwing their panties, optional).

    Happy new year, Aaron

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