Worst Words of the Decade

Worst Words of the Decade

Since 2010, we’ve compiled an annual list of worst words to highlight the importance of clear public language. We look for new (or newly prominent) words and phrases that are misleading or downright deceitful, unclear or ambiguous, or just plain ugly! Join us as we take a trip down memory lane with the Worst Words winners from 2010 to 2020!

Vertical consumption

2020 was the year of COVID-19, and it generated some less than welcome words. South Australia announced it would ease coronavirus restrictions and allow people in bars to drink while standing up. The SA Government dubbed this vertical consumption.

Freedom gas

Fossil fuels like natural gas needed an image makeover in 2019, so the US Department of Energy came up with freedom gas and molecules of US freedom as its linguistic contribution to clean energy.

External career development opportunities

2018 was a poor year for corporate doublespeak. When our national public broadcaster used external career development opportunities to discuss firing its staff, it joined a long list of institutions incapable of using simple English to describe something difficult.

Alternative facts [Worst Word of the Decade]

Political doublespeak dominated our 2017 list with alternative facts coming out on top. This outrageous take on dishonesty was our clear winner in a decade that saw democracy decline.


Frankenword Brangelexit topped our 2016 list. Combining Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s celebrity moniker ‘Brangelina’ with the ‘Brexit’ vote, it elevated a celebrity divorce to the level of a major world event.

Possible emissions non-compliance

2015 was a particularly bad year for corporate spin doctoring, and possible emissions non-compliance came out on top. Volkswagen’s CEO used this phrase to describe what was actually cheating when regulators tested how much pollution its cars emit.

Conscious uncoupling

Conscious uncoupling was our 2014 winner. Gwyneth Paltrow used this phrase to describe her separation from husband Chris Martin.


HSBC got our 2013 vote when it announced it would be ‘demising the roles of 942 relationship managers’ – or firing nearly 1,000 employees.


When KFC chose Goodification as the slogan for its marketing campaign, we had to choose it as our Worst Word of 2012.

Fugitive emissions

2011 was a banner year for corporate evasion and euphemistic spin, with fugitive emissions (more commonly known as pollution) the worst.

Moving forward

2010 was filled with manglish and gobbledygook, but we couldn’t get past moving forward. Julia Gillard repeated this slogan more than 20 times when she announced the federal election.

A White House podium flanked by two United States flags.

Part of the EdventureCo Group