The 18 most abused phrases of 2009

Ian Lurie

Shoutout to LyndiT for pushing me to write this via Twitter.

The year’s not even over but we’ve already beaten the crap out of so many phrases I figured I’d better get started. So, in no particular order, here they are:

  1. Engagement. Marketing isn’t combat, or marriage. Stop trying to tell me I need to propose to every single potential customer who comes to my site.
  2. Twitterverse. Just. Don’t. Say. It.
  3. Tweeple. You KNOW you’ve got a winning media platform when you can generate two hated terms in the same year.
  4. New media. Are you FREAKING KIDDING ME? This term is back again? Bury it. Forever.
  5. Social media. So prevalent that I have to use it in training and sales presentations, even though mouthing the phrase sends jolts of nausea through me.
  6. Tiger Woods. Ah, crap. I just said it.
  7. Change. No political agenda here – totally behind Obama. But for all the other millions of wannabe politicians, writers, gurus, experts, authors and whatever: I swear I will tune up your car with a claw hammer if you use the term again.
  8. Guru. Actually, it’s OK if someone else calls you a guru. But when you call yourself a guru, you fail on a scale not seen since “read my lips: no new taxes”. You’re crowning yourself a genius. It’s artificial, and it stinks.
  9. Acai Berry. Will no more help you lose weight than a Kit Kat. You have to get off your ass and start eating healthy food. Maybe walk around a little.
  10. Crowdsourcing. Also known as stupidsourcing. You get to replicate your mistakes a thousandfold via tons of people who have no zero accountability. Actually, I kinda like the concept. But it terrifies me, too. Sort of like nanotechnology: Cool but likely to wipe us all out in Crichton-esque fashion.
  11. Twilight. Yes, the series of books and movies is now a phrase to me. It represents the destruction of every cool vampire mythology ever created. Bram Stoker is going to rise from his grave and start devouring the entire cast.
  12. Green. Green factories. Green toilet paper. Green TV sets. This color is now splashed across every thing we consume. That’s supposed to help us ignore the fact that all this ‘green’ stuff is being built by contaminated underpaid workers 1000s of miles away. See – we’re greener. Didn’t say anything about anyone else.
  13. ROI. Oh God. Spare me. Even I’ve beaten this one to death. Why do we have to tell people what we’re doing will help you make money? How is that even a question?
  14. Web 3.0. I will slice out your tongue with an infectious plastic spork.
  15. SEO expert. I think this is more a translation problem. In some other language, it seems to mean “I built a web site in Dreamweaver, and know how to use SubmitEase.” Like guru, above, it only seems to go horribly wrong when people apply it to themselves.
  16. Content marketing. Another translation problem. Seems to mean “Write drivel. Publish to my site. Repeat.”
  17. Conversation. Dammit, I stole this from the ClueTrain Manifesto first. The rest of you slackers quit copying my theft.
  18. Free. “Free” is not the new “money”! Don’t believe me? Go to McDonalds and try to buy a burger with a blog post. It doesn’t work.

K, let me have it – what’d I miss?

Related and utterly irrelevant fun

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Attribution.
    Although, I swear you already wrote a post on how it’s a nice term, but nobody knows what it means or how to use it.

  2. I have to disagree on engagement. I think it implies interaction and interest as opposed to talking at disinterested parties.
    I very much agree with a lot of the others.

  3. Well, don’t come after me for *saying* it… I just don’t know what Web 3.0 is supposed to be.
    As for #2 and #3, John Cleese often greets his followers by saying, “hello my twittering twats.” Somehow coming from him this is not actually offensive.

  4. “Try and buy a burger with a blog post”
    Great article; very entertaining!
    The self-pronounced ‘SEO Experts’ are the one’s which worry me though. Nail on the head.

  5. When I saw the title of the post from myu feedreader, I just KNEW “engagement” would be on the list. OK, maybe it’s overused, but what would you suggest we use instead? Same with “social media” and “ROI”. I mean, we’ve been using these terms for more than just a year now (the latter for much longer than the former), and they’re just now considered abused?
    I agree on “new media” and “guru”. The latter makes me cringe and I can’t stand when people refer to themselves that way. I also don’t like when a company says they’re looking for a “guru” in a job advert. What exactly is the job description for a guru and what kind of degree do you need to be one, anyway?

  6. @Kari For “ROI” I’d like to just see “value”. ROI implies some straightup dollar-for-dollar trade off that MAY exist in some cases but creates very shortsighted thinking on the part of most CMOs. For “engagement”, I’d rather see folks use terms relevant to each case: “Communication”, “downloads”, “participation” and yes, in some cases, “engagement”. But I finally lost it when I heard a recycling plant marketer talk about “engagement”.
    “Social media” is easier: It’s media. Always has been.

  7. what about the word “tween”? All this talk of marketing to spoiled tweens and tweens taking over the world with their texts and tweets. Isn’t a tween just a pre-teen? The word makes me want to vomit.

  8. This is perfect, exactly what I was hoping for. Thank you for empathizing with me about these horribly over used terms for 2009. A couple more to add:
    Out of the box
    Web 2.0 (I know, it’s a bit ironic)
    “Its the economy”
    SEO expert
    At the end of the day
    long tail
    critical mass
    user generated content
    Adding “centric” to anything
    Oh… and how I could go on…

  9. Transparency…… Why is it when I hear this word when it comes to strategy it’s like pulling teeth to get a straight answer as to actually what they mean by it.

  10. Great list!
    I’d add:
    Innovative – Every little thing is not “innovative” and sometimes reinventing the wheel just does not make sense.
    No Brainer – just hate this phrase. Sounds stupid.
    Utilized – stop trying to sound smart and just say “used,” which makes more sense 99% of the time.
    Love the “guru” and “seo expert” comments!

  11. Have to second Lyndit’s mention of the economy but need to splice into “In this economony…”[rest of statement I’ll ignore] and “… especially in this economy”[sending me into a 4 second spate of silent rage]

  12. I have two: the first would be “guru shopping,” especially in reference to SEO instruction. And my 2009 list would not be complete if it did not include “there you go.” Everyone says it, yet it conveys nothing. Argh!

  13. App
    I am so sick of that word!

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