The Mash

Offensive or not, many words have evolved to mean something totally different from their original meanings. We rounded up some misused words, what they used to mean and how they’re being (mis)used today.

Think we forgot something? Tell us on our Facebook page or tweet it to us @MashChicago with the hashtag #bannedwords.

>> Censory overload: Has the war on words gone too far—or not far enough?

>> It’s a banned, banned world: things banned at schools

Traditional: Happy; homosexual
Misuse: Refers to something stupid
Example: I got a detention for being tardy to class. How gay is that?

Traditional: Mentally challenged, slow
Misuse: Refers to something that doesn’t make sense or something dumb
Example: I think it’s really retarded how we get more homework on three-day weekends.

Traditional: Hitler’s political group
Misuse: Refers to a controlling person
Example: My friend is such a grammar Nazi. He’s always correcting my English.

Traditional: Sexual assault
Misuse: Refers to something unpleasant
Example: My final exam was total mind rape!

No homo
Traditional: No traditional usage since “homo” is a derogatory slang term
Misuse: Refers to complimenting others of the same gender without wanting to seem homosexual
Example: Even though I’m a guy, I have to admit Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a really attractive man. No homo!

Traditional: A female dog
Misuse: An insult; an act of whining excessively
Example: Stop bitching about your bad day.

Traditional: Attention Deficit Disorder
Misuse: Used when someone has a hard time paying attention
Example: Hey, pay attention to my story. You have such ADD.

Traditional: Inability to walk
Misuse: Refers to something—or someone—that isn’t cool
Example: I don’t want to go out with him. Have you seen his fashion sense? Lame.

Traditional: Short term for hippopotamus
Misuse: Used to refer to someone who’s overweight
Example: Look at her muffin top! She’s such a hippo!

Traditional: A dirty, slovenly woman (obsolete definition); an immoral woman
Misuse: Refers to someone as sexually promiscuous, usually a female, even if they aren’t
Example: She’s gone from one relationship to the other. What a slut!

>> John Mederich of Mather, Rachel Holderman of Bartlett and contributed



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The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free every other Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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