Buy Michigan Now
Supporting Michigan Businesses
Buy Michigan Now Social Media

How Lake Superior State Famously Became the 'Word Police'

by Lisa Diggs

It all started on New Year’s Day in 1976, when Lake Superior State University (LSSU) Public Relations Director W.T. (Bill) Rabe unwittingly started an annual tradition by releasing a list of banished words. The tongue-in-cheek List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness, began as a publicity ploy for little-known LSSU. The media response was overwhelming, and launched a process that has continued ever since.

Rabe conceived of the idea in order to create some much-needed attention for a university that was not particularly well known throughout the nation, and at that time, not even all that well known in the state.

For those who are still not familiar, the school was established in 1946, as a branch of the Michigan College of Mining and Technology in order to make room for returning World War II veterans. Eventually, it gained autonomy and morphed into Lake Superior State University in 1987. The university currently offers more than 60 degree programs. The campus is nestled in the shadow of the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge in the U.P--just a quick jaunt from Canada. 

To try to put an end to the school’s marginal anonymity, Rabe came up with several fun ideas. He introduced mythical Unicorn Hunters, and created events like the annual Snowman Burning to welcome the first day of spring. The banished words list was inspired through a gathering of friends at a New Year’s Eve party in 1975. Knowing from experience that January 1 is typically a slow news day, Rabe released the list the next day, and the rest, as they say, is history. Media outlets across the nation and the globe ran with the story and more people discovered LSSU.

Some of the words or phrases banned on the original list featured: input, macho, and at this point in time. Each year the list tends to be indicative of happenings in the world at that given moment. For example, last year’s list included: drill down, fake news, and that infamous error, covfefe.

After Rabe retired in 1987, the University copyrighted the concept and continued the tradition. Since its inception, nominations for words and expressions to be banished have been invited and accepted throughout the year. Nowadays you can make submissions online or weigh-in on the Facebook page.

Hundreds of nominations are received each year, and LSSU Public Relations Office staff conduct dozens of news interviews, largely with radio stations throughout North America and sometimes overseas on all major networks, including Cable News Network, Associated Press, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and more.

The last day to submit a word or phrase for banishment in 2019 is December 26, 2018. 


User Comments (0)

No comments posted yet.


To post a comment you have to login. Login here