Banished Words
LSSU's Banished Words List

Every year since 1976, Michigan’s Lake Supe­ri­or State Uni­ver­si­ty has released a thought­ful and humor­ous “List of Words Ban­ished from the Queen’s Eng­lish for Mis­use, Overuse and Gen­er­al Use­less­ness”. Here is the 2022 (and forty-sev­enth annu­al) edi­tion, for your read­ing enjoy­ment on this New Year’s Day:

Mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion? Miscommunication!

If you’re going to turn to the ver­nac­u­lar to make your­self known, be sure you’re accu­rate and concise.

Avoid error in and exploita­tion of every­day lan­guage. In short, do the oppo­site of what the pub­lic and the media did this year.

The irked and the amused from around the coun­try and across the world sent that mock-seri­ous mes­sage in their entries for Lake Supe­ri­or State University’s annu­al tongue-in-cheek Ban­ished Words List. LSSU announces the results of the year­ly com­pendi­um on Dec. 31 to start the New Year on the right foot, er, tongue.

Com­mon par­lance dom­i­nat­ed sub­mis­sions for the past 12 months. More than 1,000 of the 1,250-plus nom­i­na­tions of words and terms for ban­ish­ment for mis­use, overuse, and use­less­ness for 2022 were colloquial.

The No. 1 offend­er: “Wait, what?” These two four-let­ter words should not go togeth­er under any cir­cum­stances, accord­ing to many nom­i­na­tors and the con­test judges from the LSSU Eng­lish Depart­ment, because the two-part halt­ing inter­rog­a­tive is disin­gen­u­ous, diver­gent, deflec­tive, and oth­er damn­ing words that begin with the let­ter d.

“Most peo­ple speak through infor­mal dis­course. Most peo­ple shouldn’t mis­s­peak through infor­mal dis­course. That’s the dis­tinc­tion nom­i­na­tors far and wide made, and our judges agreed with them,” said Peter Szat­mary, exec­u­tive direc­tor of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions at LSSU.

“Also, sev­en of the 10 words and terms that LSSU ban­ished last year reflect­ed real-world con­cerns about COVID-19, while three could be cat­e­go­rized as quo­tid­i­an. This year, as the glob­al pan­dem­ic per­sists along with adap­ta­tions to it, the inverse occurred. Sev­en of the 10 words and terms to be ban­ished are more con­ver­sa­tion­al-based, with the oth­er three apply­ing to the coro­n­avirus,” he added. “One pos­si­ble take­away from all this about the act and art and sci­ence of dis­clos­ing some­thing is the more things change, the more things stay the same. At the very least, it’s complicated.”

LSSU has com­piled an annu­al Ban­ished Words List since 1976 to uphold, pro­tect, and sup­port excel­lence in lan­guage by encour­ag­ing avoid­ance of words and terms that are over­worked, redun­dant, oxy­moron­ic, clichéd, illog­i­cal, nonsensical—and oth­er­wise inef­fec­tive, baf­fling, or irri­tat­ing. Over the decades, LSSU has received tens of thou­sands of nom­i­na­tions for the list, which now totals more than 1,000 entries. Exam­ples of the win­ners (or should that be losers?) to make the year­ly com­pi­la­tion: “detente,” “sure­ly,” “clas­sic,” “bro­mance,” and “COVID-19,” plus “wrap my head around,” “user friend­ly,” “at this point in time,” “not so much,” and “viable alter­na­tive.” The Ban­ished Words List has become such a cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non that come­di­an George Car­lin sub­mit­ted an entry that made the annals in 1994: “badd­a­boom, baddabing.”

This year, nom­i­na­tions came from most major U.S. cities and many U.S. states, on top of Nor­way, Bel­gium, Eng­land, Scot­land, Aus­tralia, and numer­ous provinces in Cana­da. Here are the list of the ban­ished words and terms for 2022 and the rea­sons for their banishment:

1. WAIT, WHAT? — Most fre­quent­ly found in text or on social media, this ubiq­ui­tous imper­a­tive ques­tion is a failed “response to a state­ment to express aston­ish­ment, mis­un­der­stand­ing, or dis­be­lief,” explained a word­smith. “I hate it,” added anoth­er, because the com­mand query is an inex­act method to con­vey the utterer’s uncer­tain­ty or sur­prise. “I don’t want to wait,” either, con­tin­ued the sec­ond impas­sioned nom­i­na­tor. Mis­use and overuse.

2. NO WORRIES — Nom­i­nat­ed by writ­ers nation­wide for mis­use and overuse, this phrase incor­rect­ly sub­sti­tutes for “You’re wel­come” when some­one says “Thank you.” A fur­ther bungling relates to insen­si­tiv­i­ty. “If I’m not wor­ried, I don’t want any­one telling me not to wor­ry,” a con­trib­u­tor expli­cat­ed. “If I am upset, I want to dis­cuss being upset.” Despite its mean­ing­less­ness, the term is rec­om­mend­ed to email­ers by Google Assistant.

3. AT THE END OF THE DAY [RE-BANISHED] — Twen­ty-plus years after orig­i­nal ban­ish­ment of this phrase in 1999, the day still isn’t over for this mis­used, overused, and use­less expres­sion. “Many times things don’t end at the end of the day—or even the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of what­ev­er is hap­pen­ing,” observed a sage. Oth­ers con­sid­er “day” an impre­cise mea­sure. Today? Present times? Ban­ish­ment in 1999: overused syn­op­sis of a con­ver­sa­tion or debate, often by politi­cians and pundits.

4. THAT BEING SAID — Nom­i­na­tors cit­ed this phrase as ver­bal filler, redun­dant jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, and pompous pos­tur­ing. For instance, “how­ev­er” or “but — even “that said” — does the job as a tran­si­tion instead of the wordi­ness. “Go ahead and say what you want already!” demand­ed one entrant. That being said, its use­ful­ness is cer­tain­ly in doubt. As a com­men­ta­tor phi­los­o­phized, “At the end of the day, if you will, it already has been.”

5. ASKING FOR A FRIEND — Mis­use and overuse through deceit—because the friend is a ruse. This cutesy phrase, often deployed in social media posts in a coy attempt to deter self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, isn’t fool­ing any­one. Para­phras­ing one sage, “Once used to avoid embar­rass­ment, as in, ‘Do you know a good proc­tol­o­gist? I’m ask­ing for a friend.’ Some­times an occa­sion­al sit­com joke. Now an overused tag with absolute­ly no rela­tion­ship to its antecedent.”

6. CIRCLE BACK — Treats col­lo­quy like an ice skat­ing rink, as if we must cir­cle back to our pre­vi­ous loca­tion to return to a pri­or sub­ject. Let’s cir­cle back about why to ban­ish this jar­gon. It’s a con­ver­sa­tion, not the Win­ter Olympics. Opined a gram­mar­i­an, “The most overused phrase in busi­ness, gov­ern­ment, or oth­er orga­ni­za­tion since ‘synergy’”—which we ban­ished in 2002 as eva­sive blan­ket ter­mi­nol­o­gy and smar­ty-pants puffery.

7. DEEP DIVE — “The only time to dive into some­thing is when enter­ing a body of water, not going more in-depth into a par­tic­u­lar sub­ject or book,” admon­ished a peti­tion­er. Anoth­er stip­u­lat­ed that peo­ple who float the phrase aren’t near pool, lake, ocean, or sea; thus, rather than dive deeply, they floun­der shal­low­ly. An edit­ing whiz won­dered, “Do we need ‘deep’? I mean, does any­one dive into the shal­low end?”

2022 Ban­ished Words and Terms Deriv­ing from COVID-19 Matters:

8. NEW NORMAL [RE-BANISHED] — Overused catchall for ways COVID-19 affects humankind—and ban­ish­ment final­ist last year for sim­i­lar rea­sons. “Those clam­or­ing for the days of old, cir­ca 2019, use this to sig­nal unin­ten­tion­al­ly that they haven’t come to terms with what ‘nor­mal’ means,” a mon­i­tor elu­ci­dat­ed. “After a cou­ple of years, is any of this real­ly ‘new’?” anoth­er spec­u­lat­ed. Ban­ished in 2012 for impru­dence, defeatism, and apa­thy stem­ming from soci­etal missteps.

9. YOU’RE ON MUTE — Peo­ple switched from in-per­son exchanges to vir­tu­al meet­ings to fol­low the social dis­tanc­ing pro­to­col of COVID-19, and the unwit­ting deaf­en­ing silence hap­pens on both sides of the cam­era. Overuse and use­less­ness, then, due to inep­ti­tude. A dis­cern­ing sub­mit­ter encap­su­lat­ed the issue: “We’re two years into remote work­ing and vis­it­ing. It’s time for every­one to fig­ure out where the mute but­ton is.” Or as a quip­ster sum­ma­rized, “Hel­lo? Hello?”

10. SUPPLY CHAIN — Word-watch­ers noticed the fre­quent, unfor­tu­nate appear­ance of this phrase toward the end of this year as the coro­n­avirus per­sist­ed. “It’s become auto­mat­i­cal­ly includ­ed in report­ing of con­sumer goods short­ages or per­ceived short­ages. In oth­er words, a buzz­word,” con­clud­ed one ana­lyst. “Sup­ply chain issues have become the scape­goat of every­thing that doesn’t hap­pen or arrive on time and of every short­age,” noticed anoth­er. The adverse result: overuse ad nauseam.

“Say what you mean and mean what you say. Can’t get any eas­i­er, or hard­er, than that,” said LSSU Pres­i­dent Dr. Rod­ney S. Han­ley. “Every year sub­mit­ters play hard at sug­gest­ing what words and terms to ban­ish by pay­ing close atten­tion to what human­i­ty utters and writes. Tak­ing a deep dive at the end of the day and then cir­cling back make per­fect sense. Wait, what?”

Lists for pre­vi­ous years are avail­able on Lake Superior’s site.

Ask­ing for a friend and sup­ply chain were good choic­es by LSSU! 

We’d add to this year’s list by adding sev­er­al more obnox­ious phras­es that we’d like to see ban­ished for overuse, mis­use and gen­er­al uselessness:

LET’S GO BRANDON — This minced oath has rapid­ly become obnox­ious thanks to its near con­stant rep­e­ti­tion by the cult that adores Don­ald Trump. The phrase entered the lex­i­con on Octo­ber 2nd, when NBC Sports reporter Kel­li Stavast was inter­view­ing NASCAR dri­ver Bran­don Brown at the Tal­lade­ga Super­speed­way in Alaba­ma. Dur­ing the inter­view, atten­dees of the Sparks 300 race could be heard chant­i­ng (Exple­tive) Joe Biden, prompt­ing Stavast to com­ment “You can hear the chants from the crowd: ‘Let’s go, Bran­don!’ ” Delight­ed Trump fans have since cre­at­ed flags and mer­chan­dise bear­ing the slo­gan, while Repub­li­can office­hold­ers seek­ing to cur­ry favor with Trump vot­ers have been utter­ing it every chance they get. Today marks the begin­ning of a new year. It’s the per­fect time for Let’s go Bran­don to go get banished.

CHEUGY — An annoy­ing made up word defined by the Urban Dic­tio­nary as “the oppo­site of trendy. Styl­ish in mid­dle school and high school but no longer in style. Used when some­one still fol­lows these out of date trends.” Also fit­ting­ly described as “an ugly sound­ing fake word that has zero basis in lit­er­ary or lin­guis­tic root” by one Seat­tle Times read­er, who added: “While I agree that all the things [Gen­er­a­tion] Z has deemed dat­ed are in fact ugly, uncool, and old; because my gen­er­a­tion (X) defined ennui, but that doesn’t mean we need to invent utter­ly stu­pid new words to demean those things.”

NOT GONNA LIE / I’M NOT GOING TO LIE — Nom­i­nat­ed for ban­ish­ment last year by long­time Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate read­er Mike Bar­er, this idiom is unnec­es­sary, off-putting filler that can too often be found in front of state­ments, dec­la­ra­tions, or admis­sions. One col­lege pro­fes­sor who’d had enough of it a decade ago wrote a blog post com­ment­ing on its use­less­ness: “Why inform me of the fact that you’re not going to lie? Because here’s what that does: It leads me to assume that, in oth­er cas­es, you have lied.”

HOW IT STARTED, HOW IT’S GOING — A social net­work­ing meme that was fun for a week in 2020 and then start­ed to get tire­some, espe­cial­ly after being enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly adopt­ed by cor­po­rate mar­ket­ing accounts. It usu­al­ly con­sists of two images post­ed side by side on Twit­ter, with the cap­tion “How it start­ed // How it’s going” or “How it start­ed // How it end­ed.” Fast Com­pa­ny dubbed it “the all pur­pose meme” of 2020. It has def­i­nite­ly now run its course.

SNACKABLE CONTENT — Anoth­er unnec­es­sary made up cor­po­rate mar­ket­ing phrase. It means pret­ty much all posts on any social net­work­ing plat­form, like tweets or Tik­Tok videos, which are short by design. “Snack­able con­tent is a col­lec­tive term for web con­tent that can be con­sumed quick­ly, with­out much effort,” Ionos help­ful­ly explains. “This includes videos, pic­tures, memes, short posts, tweets, and audio files, among oth­er forms. Most of this kind of con­tent is found on social net­works such as Insta­gram and Facebook.”

PHYGITAL — An invent­ed buzz­word that is sup­posed to mean “blend­ing dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences with phys­i­cal ones.” There’s a whole arti­cle on Forbes that attempts to explain the five con­cepts asso­ci­at­ed with this sil­ly made up word. Why not just say phys­i­cal plus dig­i­tal? Nei­ther of those words are par­tic­u­lar­ly long or dif­fi­cult to say, and speak­ing or writ­ing them in tan­dem will require less expla­na­tion than using a grat­ing mashup.

Pre­vi­ous­ly ban­ished by NPI:


  • Can­cel Culture
  • Self-Made Bil­lion­aire
  • All Options Are On The Table
  • Human­ing
  • I Don’t Know Who Needs To Hear This, But…
  • Real Peo­ple Paid For Real Opin­ions / Real Peo­ple, Not Paid Actors


  • We Should­n’t Be Pick­ing Win­ners and Losers
  • News Dump
  • Style Points
  • Cup­cake [in a grid­iron context]
  • View­er Dis­cre­tion is Advised
  • The Stakes Are Too High


  • Spe­cial Snowflake
  • You Do You
  • Back-Break­ing
  • We Should Live With­in Our Means
  • She Shed
  • Please Lis­ten Care­ful­ly As Our Menu Has Changed


  • Alter­na­tive Facts
  • Thoughts and Prayers
  • Zero Sum Game
  • Hive Mind
  • Woke
  • Not/Shouldn’t Be A Par­ti­san Issue


  • Make Amer­i­ca Great Again/MAGA
  • Alt-Right
  • That Being Said
  • ____ Porn
  • Soft Tar­get


  • Net­flix and Chill
  • Explo­sive Play
  • Chip In
  • Yuc­cie
  • Active, Flu­id Situation


  • Chip­py
  • (If You) Work Hard And Play By The Rules
  • Inter­net of Things
  • Pick Six
  • Phys­i­cal­i­ty
  • Boots On The Ground
  • Send A Message


  • Amazeballs/Balls to the Wall
  • FOMO (Fear Of Miss­ing Out)
  • Presh
  • Debt Ceil­ing
  • Enti­tle­ments


  • Adork­able
  • -GEDDON con­truct (e.g. Snowmageddon)
  • Lit­er­al­ly
  • Mom­my Porn
  • Super­storm
  • Meh


  • Guru
  • Some Would Say/Some Say
  • Job Cre­ator
  • Two-Thirds Major­i­ty
  • Let Me Be Per­fect­ly Clear
  • Offer Only Avail­able For A Lim­it­ed Time
  • Incen­tivize


  • Your Call is Impor­tant To Us (an almost iden­ti­cal phrase was ban­ished by Lake Supe­ri­or State Uni­ver­si­ty in 1996)
  • Par­tial Zero Emis­sions Vehicle

Are there words you like to see ban­ished that aren’t on this year’s list – or LSSU’s all time list? If so, let us know in the com­ments. And Hap­py New Year!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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