Back in 1976, W. T. “Bill” Rabe, who was director of public relations for Lake Superior State University (LSSU) published a tongue-in-cheek list of banished words (inspired by a conversation at a New Year’s Eve party the previous year) as a way to promote the university and to distinguish it from it earlier association with Michigan Tech. (LSSU is located in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, one of the oldest European settlements in the American midwest.) The list, should really be titled “words and phrases from the previous year that are overused or misused and should be retired.” The list was a hit around the globe, and the tradition of publishing a list of banished words on December 31 of each year. After Rabe retired, the university copyrighted the concept in order to “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.” Amen.
Throughout the year, the university invites the public (apologies to the Statue of Liberty) to send us your tired, your hackneyed, your annoying, horrible words, yearning to be excised from the modern lexicon, the wretched refuse of the English language. And the public responds generously: LSSUThe university receives tens of thousands of nominations. LSSU recently published its list of Banished Words for 2023 along with its rationale for inclusion.
1. GOAT (Greatest of All Time)
This acronym gets the goat of petitioners and judges for overuse, misuse, and uselessness. Ironically, “goat” once suggested something unsuccessful; now, GOAT is an indiscriminate flaunt.
2. Inflection point
Originally a mathematical term, it is a pretentious way to say turning point.
3. Quiet quitting
A very misleading term: the definition is not an employee who quietly resigns, but rather an employee who completes the minimum requirements for a position. This is nothing new: older words are burnout, ennui, boredom, disengagement.
The term is often misused as incorrect catchall to refer generally to conflict or disagreement.
5. Moving forward
Related to the term “going forward” that was banished in 2001.
It is a worn-out adjective from people short on vocabulary.
7. Does that make sense?
The term with — its demand, for clarification or affirmation as filler, insecurity, and passive aggression — annoyed many people. “Why say it, if you must ask?
Let’s begin with the obvious: this is not even a word. At most, it’s a nonstandard word, per some dictionaries. Take ‘regardless’ and dress it up for emphasis, showcasing your command of nonexistent words.
Why not simply say “yes.” It is often said too loudly by annoying people who think they’re better than you or it sounds like it comes with a guarantee when it doesn’t.
10. It is what it is
Whether you call it tautology or a verbal crutch, the phrase is absolutely useless, pointless. Of course it is what it is; what else would it be? People who use it are being dismissive or borderline rude.
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For further reading: https://www.lssu.edu/traditions/banishedwords/
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2 thoughts on “Banished Words and Phrases for 2023”
Thank you for this list but I would defend the phrase ‘It is what it is’. Rather than verging on the rude, I have most often heard it expressed in terms of quiet resignation, acceptance of an unsatisfactory situation that has to be endured because it cannot be altered. (I’m thinking of carers wearing themselves out; patients receiving a diagnosis that a medical condition is chronic rather than curable; learning that money lost is gone forever…I could go on but I’ll only depress your readers.) It’s a way of saying I’m looking at the situation straight on, no rose-tined glasses, no unrealistic expectation that someone is going to wave a magic wand. Can we save it for that express purpose and ban people from using it when they really mean ‘Stop complaining. Nothing’s going to change.’
Hi Bridget: Thanks for your note and perspective. Also thanks for your continued support of Bookshelf over the years. Cheers. Alex