Wait What? Banished Words Announced for 2022


By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

New ways of using familiar words often serve as a fresh way of expressing ourselves. New phrases catch the listener’s attention and give the speaker an air of sophistication. But once a new idiom catches on, it can be used ad nauseam.

To help us keep things in check, Lake Superior State University (LSSU) in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, annually culls words and terms guilty of misuse, overuse, and uselessness from English parlance in its tongue-in-cheek Banished Words List. They’re just trying to keep everyone up to speed (banished in 1986).

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

More than 1,250 words and phrases were submitted for consideration from the U.S., Norway, Belgium, England, Scotland, Australia, and Canada this year. It is a global effort to hold the English language in check, in my humble opinion (banished in 1993).

The number one linguistic offender this year is “Wait, what?” According to many nominators and the contest judges from the LSSU English Department, these two four-letter words should not go together under any circumstances because the two-part halting interrogative is disingenuous, divergent deflective, and other damning and derogatory terms that begin with the letter d. I know, right? (banished in 2021).

This year’s list has also provided what may be a curious peek into the pandemic. In last year’s list, seven of the ten banished words and phrases related directly to the coronavirus. This year’s list has three. One explanation could be we’ve desensitized and are moving on from pandemic concerns. I’m just sayin’ (banished in 2011).

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. That’s a lot of input
(banished in 1976).

I think you’ll agree that at least some of the choices for 2022 are awesome (banished in 1984 & 2007).

1. Wait, what?

As mentioned above, this is 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.

2. No worries

This phrase incorrectly substitutes for “You’re welcome” when someone says “Thank you.” A further bungling relates to insensitivity when used as a flippant and dismissive response to an apology.

3. At the end of the day

Twenty-plus years after the original banishment of this phrase in 1999, the day still isn’t over for this misused, overused, and useless expression often employed by blathering 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.

5. Asking for a friend

This cutesy phrase, often deployed in social media posts in a coy attempt to deter self-identification, is an overused tag some people still like to use, but many more are tired of hearing.

6. Circle back

The most overused phrase in business, government, or other organizations since synergy (banished in 2002) is an evasive blanket terminology and smarty-pants puffery.

7. Deep dive

Do we need “deep”? Does anyone dive into the shallow end?

8. New normal

“Those clamoring for the days of old, circa 2019, use this to unintentionally signal that they haven’t come to terms with what ‘normal’ means,” a contributor stated. The phrase was previously banished in 2012.

9. You’re on mute

One submission stated, “We’re two years into remote working and visiting. It’s time for everyone to figure out where the mute button is.”

10. Supply chain

“Supply chain issues have become the scapegoat of everything that doesn’t happen or arrive on time and of every shortage,” said one contributor. It is banished for 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?”

Image credit: Doug Marrin

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