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Words That Must Die in 2009

As this is the end of the year, we are required by some unwritten law to go through certain exercises. Among those are a required “predictions” post, certain holiday-related posts and of course, like last year, a list of words that have been so overused in the past year that we hope they will die a tortured, cruel death in 2009.

  • Change – the buzzword of the 2008 Presidential election. It has become a mantra for utopian-loving citizens everywhere.
  • Meta – Meta is a word to describe descriptive data of descriptive data. Or, better, it is the abstraction of something more well known. It is a catch phrase to describe something as simple as, for instance, one photographer taking a picture of another photographer taking a picture. It is rather difficult to describe because it is so meta.
  • Rock Star – a description of a minor celebrity or demigod, usually in the web space. These are individuals who carry some personal reputation and weight in only their circle but remain relatively unknown “in the real world”. Also describes the blogosphere’s “A List” of top tier bloggers. I, for instance, am a rock star.
  • Cloud – a technology that takes data and operations out of a simple peer to peer concept of client and server, and places it in a massive grid on the internet. Cloud computing is usually powered by Amazon S3 or EC2, Google App Engine or the new Microsoft Azure platform.
  • fail
    Products built “in the cloud” are generally known to buzzword junkies in PR as SaaS (“Software as a Service”).

  • Bailout – By far the biggest word that must die, in word and in deed, is bailout. No explanation necessary as you must be living under a rock if you don’t know what I’m talking about!
  • Ubiquitous – this word tends to revolve in the same orbit as “Cloud”. It is a buzz word often used to describe web services that are always available and tends to apply in the world of mobile. Ubiquitous ensures that everyone can get to everything at any time or any place. And it needs to die.
  • FAIL – This is shortform for the obvious meaning. If something is unsuccessful or stupid on it’s face it is just plain FAIL. Made popular by the Failblog, it has become a common part of geek culture and lingo.

As a bonus, Twitter seems to think “Oh, you know Aaron?” is overused in conjunction with people meeting other random people that know me. :-)

Thanks to everyone who helped me assemble this list!

Additional: Transparency. This has come up in a variety of way. In politics and government circles, the Sunlight Foundation has made a lot of progress (and noise) on the Transparency in government front. In PR, communications people are striving to be “more transparent” online. Regardless of which form of transparency, people need to talk less about it and do more of it. :)


  1. Add “SEO” to the list. :)

  2. “Meta” does need to die. My head-punching first needs a break. ;)

  3. I’m saddened that ‘gamechanger’ didn’t make the list. But at least rock star made it. Also, thankfully, I can continue to use w00t at least three times every day. :)


  4. JJT JJT

    FAIl is a keeper. For me, it works on so many different levels, and I find it appropriate to use at work.

    I would argue “thought leader” is one to get rid of, though. ;-)

  5. While I agree that a lot of these hot-topic words are overused, and in some cases to a stupid extent, I think you missed out on a key opportunity to give constructive criticism as well. These words are roundly disparaged, but what should we use in their place?

    In some cases, for example ‘cloud,’ there isn’t a single word that has the same connotations that can easily replace it. Constantly having to re-describe a concept that is new enough to only have one or two words that encapsulate it well generally makes for rocky reading.

    Of course, other terms such as FAIL should probably DIAF, as you say. There’s a lot of ways of failing and lots of ways of describing them. It’s debatable if putting these descriptions on a picture of a dog getting hit in he head with a tennis ball would be as funny, though.

    • Phil- this piece was intended to be a commentary piece, not a “solutions” piece. I’ll leave it to the astute readership to supply solutions. Regardless, it does not change the fact that these words should die. :)

  6. Good list, although I must live under a rock because I am the only person I know who uses the word “ubiquitous,” and I had no idea it had a web-centered meaning. I will stop now.

    May I add a personal pet peeve — AMAZING. Few things are truly amazing, but everything from appearances — “You look AMAZING” — to food — “this Twinkie tastes AMAZING” — to personalities — “she is AMAZING” — are freighted by this overused and now meaningless word.

    Also “meh” and “oy,” especially among rural WASPs like me, who are AMAZING.

  7. A Non-e-Mouse A Non-e-Mouse

    I agree with “foolery”…die, AMAZING, die!


    “Hope,” “Hope and Change,” “progressive,” “non-rartisan,” “gamechanger,” “mandate,” “happy holidays,” “Obama-” (ie. Obamanomics. This is already really, really old), “centrist,” “Office of the President-Elect,” “bubble,” “tax cuts for 95% of Americans,” “middle class,” “the rich,” “macro,” “billion,” “crater,” “governance,” “global warming,” “green”

    “We ‘hope’ the ‘hope-and-change’ ‘progressives’ span to the ‘non-partisan’ workspace. This would be a ‘gamechanger’ and reveal a ‘mandate’ to cure ‘Obamamania’ and encourage ‘centrist governance.’ Unfortunatley, ‘The Office of the President Elect’ will instead immediately propose ‘tax cuts for 95% of Americans’ and ‘green’ jobs initiatives to solve ‘global warming,’ which will obstensively boost the ‘middle class’ and only lightly burden ‘the rich.’ This trickle-up ‘macro’ approach intends to cure the housing ‘bubble,’ stabilize our economy, and generate ‘billions’ of new revenue for the incoming administration, but it will actually ‘crater’ our economy further.”

  9. Happy Holidays to you too, Christina. :-p

  10. EVER in all caps. As in This is the best Words That Must Die in 2009 list. EVER.

  11. This is such a fail coming from a Rock-Star like yourself. Why are you dampening spirits in a world where thoughts and memes are carried in the ever ubiquitous cloud.? I only hope your readers give this blog the bailout it needs. Really. I mean, c’mon, where’s your passion Aaron? Is this too meta, or does the answer require too much transparency for your comfort? ;-)

  12. Carol: I believe it’s spelled EVAR. :)

  13. Michael: thanks for reminding me I should have added “passion” to the list. :)

  14. Where are the cocktails? I heard there would be cocktails.

  15. Great list; may I add

    “tipping point”
    and “outliers”

    I’m already sick of people quoting Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book title.

  16. I’ll be sure to change my vocabulary on a meta level because I’m not a rockstar and I’ll keep my head out of the cloud before I need a bailout which could be ubiquitous unless I fail to admit I know Aaron in all of his transparent glory.

    Happy New Year Everyone, personally I’m sick of;
    and “social” as a prefix.

  17. I’m just sayin’ as a snark suffix for ideas

    snark and related snark derivatives

    [ insert obligatory X ] and related ad nauseum oriented subreference where X is the subtle or not so subtle jibe at a defined trend

  18. Please add “Outsourcing ” as well

  19. I am with you on the Bailout. Drive me nuts whenever I see that word these days.

  20. I would be thrilled if I never heard the word “Favre” again. “Flacco” on the other hand should become much more widely spoken across the land in 2009.

  21. One more thing. “Whne someone tells me they are looking to hire a “Rock Star” for a given position, I ask “Really? You are looking for a self indulgent, narcissistic, egomaniac who sleeps until noon?”

  22. In re: to #1 – you so should have titled the post “words that must CHANGE in 2009”. That would have been sweet.

  23. Great stuff from a rock star, Aaron! I feel that Twitter has been quite a game-changer for me in seeking greater transparency as a PR professional (do you think struggling PR firms might need their own federal bailout, by the way?).

    In 2009, we can expect more change. After all, the only constant in life is change. I expect more features in emaciated technology publications on cloud computing.

    Happy New Year.

  24. Ok, so I’m two days in to 2009, and I’ve heard FAIL way, way too many times. Let’s bump that puppy up the list, mkay?

  25. I would like to suggest another one: “Secrets”

    There are no “Web 2.0 Marketing Secrets” or “SEO Secrets” or “Secret Secrets” or “Secrets to Getting More Twitter Followers”

    It’s all common sense – There just aren’t enough people with common sense to execute!

  26. jepcke jepcke

    A phrase that must die in 2009 is “I know, right?”. So overused and completely meaningless.

  27. Heather B Heather B

    Joe Plumber :)

    • Heather, I think Joe the Plumber will quickly fade in 2009. Fortunately for all of us :)

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