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
- 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
- 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
- Not/Shouldn’t Be A Partisan Issue
- Make America Great Again/MAGA
- That Being Said
- ____ Porn
- Soft Target
- Netflix and Chill
- Explosive Play
- Chip In
- Active, Fluid Situation
- (If You) Work Hard And Play By The Rules
- Internet of Things
- Pick Six
- Boots On The Ground
- Send A Message
- Amazeballs/Balls to the Wall
- FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
- Debt Ceiling
- -GEDDON contruct (e.g. Snowmageddon)
- Mommy Porn
- Some Would Say/Some Say
- Job Creator
- Two-Thirds Majority
- Let Me Be Perfectly Clear
- Offer Only Available For A Limited Time
- 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!