Dictionary.com went full-woke this year, created list of phrases you must "stop using."
· Dec 16, 2020 · NottheBee.com

What would we do without our social betters?

"We all misspeak or misuse words sometimes."

They're trying to break this to us gently, as would a parent to a child.

"Maybe we've latched onto phrases our parents handed down incorrectly."

Stupid parents. They hardly spend any time at all thinking about how each utterance could potentially cause offense due to some obscure historical artifact that a liberal arts major dug up.

"Or perhaps we picked them up from a movie, television, or social media with no clue they were being used inappropriately—"

You see, it's not our fault. We didn't know any better. We are but empty vessels awaiting enlightenment from our moral superiors working at Dictionary.com

"...or even worse, offensively." [emphasis added]

O. M. G. The thought of having inadvertently and unintentionally caused someone offense because of my stupid racist parents is more than I can bear!

"It's OK;..."


"...most of us unknowingly use problematic words and phrases from time to time without thinking about their origins or how they could hurt some groups of people. "

I can reliably say that pretty much every word and phrase I use, I use without first thinking about their origins or how they could hurt some groups of people including everyone in this sentence.

"What's not OK is to keep doing it once you know it's wrong."

Commands corporate owner Rock Holdings, Inc.

"There are plenty of words out there to choose from in the, ahem, dictionary. But, to help narrow it down, we rounded up some commonly misused words and phrases that have the potential to offend."

"The potential to offend." That's pretty much every word in the English language, including "English," and "language."

"We're not going to leave you verbally high and dry either. We're providing some better alternatives for each."

How thoughtful. It's like a woke guide to policing your speech.

"Take a look and see how many you may be misusing."

It's not that you are bad, you're just ignorant, and Dictionary.com is here to help.

Incidentally, all appearances to the contrary, this was not written for children, but rather full-grown adults and appeared in Dictionary.com's editorial section.

Let's dive in!

Spirit Animal.

Beyond mere animals, today people claim their spirit animal to be everything from avocado toast to the movie Deadpool. They mean to imply that they relate with something or deeply love something. But using the term spirit animal in such a way is not only overdone, it's also offensive.

As Dictionary.com patiently explains, the notion of spirit animals are part of some cultures' belief systems, which would be important if you thought those people were as fragile and insecure as the writers at Dictionary.com

Referring to Baby Yoda as your spirit animal is actually cultural appropriation...

You'd be a real saint if you stopped doing that.

Oops, is "saint" cultural appropriation and an insult to Catholics?

Ha ha, just kidding.

...so next time you go to type this on social media, try one of these fun synonyms instead.

If you have to tell someone something is fun, it isn't. If it were fun, they would know it was fun. It's like telling a kid, "it's fun to eat your vegetables," or "it's fun hiding daddy's Amazon packages in your toy chest so mommy doesn't find out," which is something I would never do.

Better alternatives:

Um, no.

Only if you are a liberal arts professor. Or French.

That's just weird.

  • That piano-playing cat is my daemon.

According to Dictionary.com, in classical mythology "daemon" is

  1. a god.
  2. a subordinate deity, as the genius of a place or a person's attendant spirit.

Surely someone is going to be offended by that somewhere, and given that's the standard Dictionary.com is using, they should at least be consistent.


If you don't hail from Tibetan stock and live in the Nepalese Himalayas serving as a porter on mountain-climbing expeditions (yes, we know, that was very specific), you're not a Sherpa.

Huh. I did not know we have decided that language must cease to grow and words are no longer allowed to have fluid meaning over time.

You know, like, "sexual preference."

Nope, not even if you lead your friends to the best burrito spot at 2 a.m. or help your roommate pass their chemistry test.

Are they hip or what? Probably "what."

Sherpa is actually an ethnic group and attributing the title to others is disrespectful.

When you have to go all the way to Tibet to find someone to offend, you are probably trying too hard.

Better alternatives:

  • She is the strong commander our study group needs.

That's not at all clunky. Or weird.

  • I will be your guide to the best dive restaurants.

Kind of bloodless, but okay.

  • I need a coach to help improve my dating game.

I'm starting to get the feeling this entire thing was written by a 21-year-old intern.

  • She was the mastermind of all of our weekend activities.

Masterminds don't coordinate weekend activities. Masterminds conjure up diabolical schemes to corner the market in lithium and rule the world.


Guru is used in a similar way as Sherpa to refer to someone who's good at something or an expert in a subject matter.

The word guru, however, comes from Buddhist and Hindu religions and refers to a spiritual guide or leader who is held in high esteem.

Does that mean we can no longer say "holy cow?"

Throwing the term around casually—as in referring to yourself as a marketing/love/business guru—is disrespectful because it diminishes the importance of the title and its origins.

You won't find any mention in this list regarding the widespread use of "oh my God," and the way that "diminishes the importance of the title and its origins."

Probably just an innocent oversight.

But let's be super respectful of Buddhists and Hindus.

Better alternatives:

  • They are a doyen in the marketing world.

No. Just no.

  • I have learned so much from my uncle, who is a virtuoso in the kitchen


  • I am an authority when it comes to raising puppies right.

Another wholly bloodless substitute. Let's make language as boring and clinically descriptive as possible.

  • The mechanic is truly skilled; he is a maestro.

Go ahead. Call your mechanic a "maestro." Just be prepared to get a socket wrench in the teeth.

Besides, isn't "maestro," an honorific of Italian origin that is bestowed out of respect, and so qualifies as cultural appropriation, too?


Yep, cultural appropriation is the issue again with the word ninja.

No, it really isn't.

The term's origins refer to "a member of a feudal Japanese society of mercenary agents, highly trained in martial arts and stealth (ninjutsu), who were hired for covert purposes ranging from espionage to sabotage and assassination."

Okaaayyyy. And we don't want to insult anyone's deeply held beliefs in sabotage and assassination?

Yet few who throw the word around today pay any regard to the original culture and context of the word.

No, we don't. Like "knight," as in, "my knight in shining armor."

It was a really long time ago.

Much like guru, people use the term to claim expertise in an area, such as legal ninja or writing ninja, and the concern is that the word's origins aren't being respected in such cases.

Whose concern? The 21-year-old classical studies major interning at Dictionary.com?

Better alternatives:



  • That is one ace charcuterie-board maker.

Oh, please, no.

And really, who is this being written by? In whose life is "That is one ace charcuterie-board maker," so common a phrase that you would use it as an example?

Oh, that's right. An upper-middle-class college student whose parents are paying for her college.

  • What a warrior you were on the field!

I thought using "warrior" was racist.

It is so hard to keep up.

This next one is a favorite. What are leftists going to do? Engage in real argument?


We blame Seinfeld's infamous Soup Nazi for the proliferation of this term's use. Technically it describes people who were members of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, which controlled Germany from 1933–1945 under Adolf Hitler.

A part of me is waiting for Dictionary.com to explain how this is culturally appropriating fascism and disrespectful to genocidal maniacs.


Using the term casually, as in grammar Nazi or fun Nazi, makes light of the horrible atrocities they committed.

In other words, too soon?

Better alternatives:

  • My father-in-law is a cookie boss.

Yeah, no. Don't say that.

  • I go all authoritarian when it comes to the right way to put up Christmas decorations.

Oh, my. Yes, that just rolls right off the tongue.

  • I am an absolutist when it comes to serial commas.
  • He's the top dog and hates when anyone disagrees with him.

None of these quite packs the same punch. I just can't see an Antifa member upon learning you support strong boarders screaming in your face, "You top dog!!!!"

It misses the whole intent.


We throw around terms like binge-watch and cleaning binge all the time when, in fact, the word binge originates from serious eating disorders, including Binge Eating Disorder and bulimia, and should be reserved for discussions about them.

By all means, let's make off-limits a word that is incredibly descriptive.

Better alternatives:

  • I indulged a little too much at the party last night.

Another bloodless entry, stripping the language of any color and sense of whimsy.

  • I satiated my rom-com appetite this weekend.

Satiated? That doesn't mean the same thing. It doesn't mean overdo, it basically means, do.

  • That was one delicious pasta-eating spree through Italy.

Never say that in my presence.

  • I wallowed in chocolate instead of eating dinner. YOLO!

Or that.



If you find something or someone to be hysterical, meaning funny, that's OK. If you're calling someone's actions hysterical because they're being emotional, then you may want to reconsider.

Or not. Probably not.

But here we go anyway.

Far too often women are dubbed hysterical for being outspoken or showing their feelings, and that wades into problematic, sexist territory due to the history of the term.

"Problematic" territory. Is there a worse kind? Or more poorly defined?

Plus, have you ever heard a man being called hysterical … we're guessing not.

You guessed wrong. I've heard it often, directed at me, even.

Do you people ever venture off-campus?

Better alternatives:

That's not an alternative. It's an entirely different word.

I felt impassioned after that scene.

Another miss.

And yet another.

  • He made his point with a piercing speech.


They also cover "scalp," and "gyp," but you get the idea.

So, as we head into the new year and are ruminating over resolutions, consider resolving to clean up your language.

Clean it up, you potty mouthed cultural appropriator!

While plenty will claim people are being too sensitive in finding these words objectionable, we'll take a moment to remind you that a synonym for sensitive is understanding.

And I'll take a moment to remind you, in hopefully the same condescending manner, that other synonyms include, touchy, hypersensitive, tense, and unstable.

If your words have the potential to hurt others, why wouldn't you try to find better words?

All words have the potential to hurt someone, and your definition of "better" is about as good as your definition of sensitive.

There are plenty of them to choose from, after all, and we're always here to help.

Honestly, that sounds like more of a threat.

There are a lot of problems here.

Part of it is the selective outrage. You can use the Lord's name in vain with impunity in popular culture, without any social penalty.

But you have to tiptoe around guru?

And nothing from western culture is deemed a problem, from "maestro," (in their own example), to "knight" as in "knight in shining armor."

But Ninja is a problem because of feudal Japan or something.

But the bigger thing for me is the hypersensitivity of it all as if the greatest crime you could commit would be to offend someone.

Honestly, I feel gypped that they act like some kind of guru, going all speech Nazi on us like sherpas for the wokesters embracing sensitivity as their spirit animal as they go bingeing on political correctness like a PC Ninja and would almost certainly become hysterical were I to suggest I feel like they just scalped my morning with this nonsense.

What can I say? I'm insensitive, I guess.

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