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 2024 (and forty-ninth annu­al) edi­tion, for your read­ing enjoy­ment on this New Year’s Day:

HACK — The term “hack” has increas­ing­ly become a pop­u­lar buzz­word, fre­quent­ly uti­lized to impart an aura of inno­va­tion or sophis­ti­ca­tion to var­i­ous sub­jects. Its wide­spread adop­tion in mul­ti­ple con­texts, extend­ing beyond its ini­tial tech­no­log­i­cal con­text, has the poten­tial to lessen its inher­ent sig­nif­i­cance. Using it every­where, even beyond its tech roots, could make it lose its magic.

IMPACT — Espe­cial­ly as a verb, why use this word when we have a per­fect­ly good word that makes more sense: “affect”? Overus­ing it not only takes away its piz­zazz but also robs oth­er words of their spotlight.

AT THE END OF THE DAY [RE-BANISHED] — Some­times a word needs to be re-ban­ished, and this is one of them. Many com­ments note that it is overused and mean­ing­less, often employed as a rhetor­i­cal device that attempts to encap­su­late the com­plex­i­ties of a sit­u­a­tion sum­mar­i­ly, lack­ing nuance and depth.

RIZZ — Rizz, derived as a short­ened form for “charis­ma,” gained promi­nence as Oxford’s word of the year and has become a famil­iar pres­ence in the realm of social media dis­course. The ubiq­ui­ty of this term prompts con­tem­pla­tion on whether it retains its rel­e­vance. With lan­guage doing the cha-cha of change, we’re won­der­ing if this word still rocks the charis­ma scene or if it’s time for a lan­guage remix.

SLAY — While per­fect­ly accept­able in spe­cif­ic con­texts, “slay” has tran­scend­ed its orig­i­nal mean­ing and infil­trat­ed sit­u­a­tions where its usage no longer aligns with its intend­ed sig­nif­i­cance. Its tran­si­tion from a spe­cial­ized term denot­ing excep­tion­al accom­plish­ment to a com­mon­place expres­sion for any achieve­ment prompts scruti­ny into its mis­ap­pli­ca­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of rou­tine or mun­dane actions. Now, it’s sprin­kled everywhere—from wear­ing a styl­ish out­fit to tack­ling the art of par­al­lel parking.

ICONIC [RE-BANISHED] — This one appeared on the list in 2009, so per­haps it’s time for anoth­er attempt to point out its overuse and lack of mean­ing in most sit­u­a­tions. Despite its ini­tial recog­ni­tion as a word wor­thy of dis­tinc­tion, its repeat­ed appli­ca­tion in con­texts that don’t mer­it such acclaim chal­lenges its gen­uine icon­ic sta­tus. It’s like that one-hit won­der play­ing on loop.

CRINGE-WORTHY — From the com­ments: “The use of this term is cringe-wor­thy.” The irony is served hot, as the very term “cringe-wor­thy” finds itself under the spot­light. It’s like a word caught in its own cringe-wor­thy moment. Now, as we ush­er in the new year, it’s time to decide if this lin­guis­tic dra­ma deserves an encore or if we should bid “cringe-wor­thy” adieu to make room for fresh, less cringe-induc­ing expres­sions in 2024.

OBSESSED — The use of this word for things that are not tru­ly being obsessed over makes it a good can­di­date for rethink­ing how we use the word. The casu­al use of “obsessed” to describe rou­tine inter­ests or pref­er­ences under­scores a poten­tial mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of the term, prompt­ing a recon­sid­er­a­tion of its appli­ca­tion. Should one be obsessed with a new kitchen gad­get or a new shade of paint? This year’s con­trib­u­tors think not.

SIDE HUSTLE — The term “side hus­tle” has gained wide­spread use, prompt­ing con­sid­er­a­tions about its impact on how we per­ceive eco­nom­ic chal­lenges. It may be worth reflect­ing on whether its preva­lence inad­ver­tent­ly down­plays the gen­uine real­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion. While ‘side-hus­tle’ adds flair to our lan­guage, our con­trib­u­tors feel that the only hus­tle is the one need­ed to get to their sec­ond job.

WAIT FOR IT — If we’re watch­ing the video, then we’re already wait­ing for it, right? While “wait for it” is try­ing to be the hype mas­ter, let’s ques­tion if it’s adding extra sparkle or just stat­ing the obvious?

Here is LSSU’s press release announc­ing the list:

Sault Ste. Marie, MI — As the new year inspires us to look ahead to the future, it also gives us time to reflect on the past. Lake Supe­ri­or State Uni­ver­si­ty (LSSU) proud­ly unveils this year’s Ban­ished Words List, a live­ly tra­di­tion that began in 1976.

This tra­di­tion high­lights cer­tain words that are often mis­used, overused, or have lost their mean­ing over the past year. It encour­ages us to laugh at our­selves as we recon­sid­er and reflect on the impor­tance of our vocabulary.

Lan­guage is a dynam­ic, ever-evolv­ing enti­ty. The ban­ished words list rec­og­nizes the rapid changes in expres­sion, encour­ag­ing a reassess­ment of the impact and rel­e­vance of our vocab­u­lary. We think you will find this year’s sub­mis­sions tru­ly cringe-worthy.

“This sea­son is marked by var­i­ous joy­ful tra­di­tions, and the Ban­ished Words List remains one of the most icon­ic, humor­ous, and quirky tra­di­tions in the region,” expressed Sheri­dan Worth, Direc­tor of Mar­ket­ing at Lake Supe­ri­or State University.

“The tra­di­tion pro­vides a light­heart­ed oppor­tu­ni­ty to pause and reflect on the past year — our expe­ri­ences, com­mu­ni­ca­tion styles, and the phras­es we com­mon­ly use. At the end of the day, it serves as a plat­form for con­sid­er­ing how we can progress into the new year with a more mind­ful approach to lan­guage,” stat­ed Worth.

LSSU received over 2,000 nom­i­na­tions from around the world, includ­ing sub­mis­sions from Aus­tralia, Bangladesh, Bel­gium, Cana­da, Chi­na, Croa­t­ia, Ger­many, Guam, Ire­land, Lebanon, Namib­ia, New Zealand, Pak­istan, Sin­ga­pore, Switzer­land, Thai­land, Ugan­da, Ukraine, the Unit­ed King­dom, with the major­i­ty com­ing from the Unit­ed States.

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

LSSU start­ing re-ban­ish­ing words it had pre­vi­ous­ly ban­ished a few years ago. That prac­tice now con­tin­ues with the re-ban­ish­ing of icon­ic and at the end of the day. At the end of the day is actu­al­ly being ban­ished for the third time since it was re-ban­ished in 2022. That speaks to how many peo­ple find it very tiresome.

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:

REVENGE TRAVEL — “As more and more coun­tries reopen their bor­ders to eager tourists, a trendy new phrase has emerged on social media: revenge trav­el,” CNN report­ed in May of 2022. Eri­ka Richter, vice pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Trav­el Advi­sors, told the net­work the term dat­ed back to 2021: “Revenge trav­el is a media buzz­word that orig­i­nat­ed in 2021 when the world began to reopen, and peo­ple decid­ed to make up for lost time.” This is anoth­er sil­ly buzz­word we just don’t need. There are plen­ty of good phras­es already avail­able to describe planned trav­el that peo­ple can read­i­ly under­stand, like dream vaca­tion. There’s no “revenge” involved in “revenge trav­el” — let’s send this phrase to the bin.

BOMB CYCLONENom­i­nat­ed by our friends at the Seat­tle Weath­er Blog, this is a slang term for explo­sive cyclo­ge­n­e­sis — “the rapid deep­en­ing of an extra­t­rop­i­cal cyclonic low-pres­sure area,” as put by Wikipedia. Or, in plain Eng­lish, a good ol’ win­ter storm, which “are actu­al­ly com­mon occur­rences in the North Pacif­ic every fall/winter,” as Seat­tle Weath­er Blog observed back in Sep­tem­ber. “So please, no arti­cles about the Pacif­ic North­west get­ting hit by a bomb cyclone. Unless it brings 50 mph+ wind gusts to Seat­tle, it’s very typical.”

DO DAMAGE — The Boston Red Sox made this a team mantra sev­er­al years ago, and it con­tin­ues to crop up from time to time. It’s just not a great euphemism for scor­ing runs or mak­ing offen­sive plays, though. Nor does this phrase have any oth­er pro­duc­tive uses that our team can think of. “Do dam­age” is not some­thing that peo­ple should want to do. There’s enough war, pol­lu­tion, and envi­ron­men­tal destruc­tion in our world as it is. We need less dam­age, not more.

SOLUTIONING — An invent­ed word from the world of infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy [IT] that has seen some wider usage in recent years. In a 2017 com­men­tary, a Stack­Ex­change user wrote: “Solu­tion­ing is a com­mon­place term in IT and IT recruit­ment… I would define it as the process of cre­at­ing solu­tions,” adding: “Much like vocab­u­lary in med­i­cine, engi­neer­ing, math and sci­ences, soft­ware devel­op­ment, etc. The same term may be used across these domains with rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent mean­ing. As such it must be not­ed while this most cer­tain­ly is an impor­tant term in the IT domain, use out­side of this domain is prob­a­bly a mis­take.” Our team agrees.

I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE — Overused, espe­cial­ly on social plat­forms. con­tribut­ing edi­tor John Bran­don com­ment­ed that it was fun­ny for a while, but “we now gloss right over the phrase and it’s lost all momen­tum.” Lake Supe­ri­or State Uni­ver­si­ty ban­ished a sim­i­lar phrase, I see what you are say­ing, in 1992.

MOST UNIQUE — Gram­mat­i­cal­ly incor­rect. Since unique means “unlike any­thing else”, it isn’t pos­si­ble to have gra­da­tions of unique­ness, as Kathy and Ross Petras point­ed out in a 2021 piece for CNBC. Any­thing that’s unique is by def­i­n­i­tion just as unique as any­thing else that word is applied to. This is anoth­er case where drop­ping a word can yield bet­ter writ­ing with accu­rate grammar.

Pre­vi­ous­ly ban­ished by NPI:


  • Do Your Own Research
  • Pro tip
  • Coastal Elites
  • Adult­ing
  • I Did A Thing
  • All Of The Feels


  • Let’s Go Brandon
  • Cheugy
  • Not Gonna Lie / I’m Not Gonna Lie
  • How It Start­ed, How It’s Going
  • Snack­able Content
  • Phy­gi­tal


  • 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 con­struct (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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