Censorship has long been a controversial topic, with debates raging over what is and is not acceptable to be shared or expressed. From book burnings to internet blackouts, censorship has taken many forms throughout history, and the issue continues to evolve as technology and societal norms change. Here is the banished words list from Lake Superior State University in 2022.
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It is suggested that people avoid using words and phrases that are imprecise, unoriginal, and meaningless in an effort to communicate efficiently and effectively. Relying on these types of words can lead to confusion and can be seen as a lazy approach to communication. It is important to strive for clear, accurate, and thoughtful expression.
Language experts from around the world have expressed their disapproval of common language practices that they believe are ineffective at conveying information. These critiques were submitted as part of Lake Superior State University’s annual Banished Words List, a tongue-in-cheek collection of words and phrases that are considered overused, misused, or unnecessary. The list is released on December 31st each year as a way to start the New Year with more mindful language usage.
Many of the over 1,500 words and phrases nominated for the annual Banished Words List for 2023 were criticized for their misuse, overuse, or perceived lack of value in terms of effective communication. These nominations lamented the decline of clear and fundamental expression.
The top spot on the Banished Words List for 2023 is occupied by the acronym “GOAT,” which stands for “Greatest of All Time.” This term has been widely used to describe individuals who are considered the best in their field, such as Olympic gold medalists and Jeopardy! champions. However, many have pointed out the literal impossibility and technical vagueness of the term, as it is subjective and cannot be applied to everyone. Some have also criticized the use of the term in social media posts featuring multiple individuals with captions claiming that they are all “GOATs”.
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“Words and terms matter. Or at least they should. Especially those that stem from the casual or causal. That’s what nominators near and far noticed, and our contest judges from the LSSU School of Arts and Letters agreed,” said Peter Szatmary, executive director of marketing and communications at Lake State.
“They veritably bleated their disapproval about the attempted nonpareil of GOAT because the supposed designation becomes an actual misnomer. The singularity of ‘greatest of all time’ cannot happen, no way, no how. And instead of being selectively administered, it’s readily conferred. Remember Groucho Marx’s line about not wanting to join a club that would accept him as member?
“The nine additional words and terms banished for 2023—from new no-nos ‘inflection point’ at No. 2 and ‘gaslighting’ at No. 4 to repeat offenders ‘amazing’ at No. 6 and ‘It is what it is’ at No. 10—also fall somewhere on the spectrum between specious and tired. They’re empty as balderdash or diluted through oversaturation. Be careful—be more careful—with buzzwords and jargon.”
Since 1976, LSSU has created an annual Banished Words List and later protected the idea under copyright in order to uphold, protect, and support excellence in language by promoting avoidance of words and terms that are overused, redundant, oxymoronic, clichéd, illogical, nonsensical—and other ineffective, perplexing, or irritating—as well as other terms that are confusing, baffling, or irritating.
Over the years, Lake State has received thousands of nominations for their annual Banished Words List, which currently includes over 1,000 entries. Past winners of the list include words and phrases such as “detente,” “surely,” “classic,” “bromance,” and “COVID-19,” as well as “wrap my head around,” “user friendly,” “at this point in time,” “not so much,” and “viable alternative.” The Banished Words List has gained such popularity that even comedian George Carlin submitted an entry that was included on the list in 1994: “baddaboom, baddabing.”
Most major U.S. cities and many U.S. states, as well as Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Portugal, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, India, China, Namibia, South Africa, Nigeria, American Samoa, Malaysia, the British Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and the entirety of Canada, submitted nominations this year.
The list of words and phrases that will no longer be used in 2023, along with an explanation of why, is provided below:
The term “GOAT,” which stands for “Greatest of All Time,” has been widely criticized for its overuse, misuse, and lack of value in terms of effective communication. Many have pointed out that the term is subjective and cannot be applied to everyone or everything, from athletes to chicken wings. Some have also noted that the term is often used indiscriminately, and that its meaning has changed over time. Originally, “goat” referred to something unsuccessful, but now the acronym “GOAT” is used to brag about someone or something being really good.
“Inflection point” is a mathematical term that has entered mainstream usage and has lost its original meaning. It has been criticized for its overuse and misuse, and has been compared to the term “pivot,” which was included on the Banished Words List in 2021. Many have noted that the term is often used as a pretentious or overly formal way to say “turning point,” and that it has become a common form of unnecessary or excessive language used by historians, journalists, scientists, or politicians.
Trendy but incorrect. Not an employee who resigns quietly. Instead, an employee who meets the bare minimum of job standards. Some explanations given by nominators include: “normal job performance,” “fancy way of saying ‘work to rule,'” “nothing more than companies complaining about workers refusing to be exploited,” and “it is not a new phenomenon; it is burnout, ennui, boredom, and disengagement.” On the verge of being added to next year’s Banished Words List, as well as continuing misuse and overuse.
Many people have nominated the term “gaslighting” for the Banished Words List due to its overuse and misuse. The term, which refers to a form of psychological manipulation that causes victims to doubt their own thoughts, feelings, memories, or perception of reality, has been criticized for being disconnected from its original meaning due to overuse. Others have pointed out that the term is often used incorrectly to refer to any kind of conflict or disagreement, and that it is an obscure reference to begin with, alluding to a 1938 play and 1940/44 movies.
The phrase “move forward” has been nominated for the Banished Words List due to its misuse, overuse, and lack of value in terms of effective communication. Many have pointed out that the phrase is often used in a meaningless or unnecessarily formal way, and that it is sometimes used to give the appearance of legitimacy to self-interest, evasion, or insincerity. The phrase’s close relative, “going forward,” which was included on the Banished Words List in 2001, also received votes.
“Not everything is amazing; and when you think about it, very little is,” a dissenter explained. “This glorious word should be reserved for that which is dazzling, moving, or awe-inspiring,” to paraphrase another, “like the divine face of a newborn.” Initially banished for misuse, overuse, and uselessness in 2012. Its cyclical return mandates further nixing of the “generic,” “banal and hollow” modifier—a “worn-out adjective from people short on vocabulary.”
Does that make sense?
The phrase is often used as a way to seek clarification or affirmation, but has been described as filler, a sign of insecurity, or a form of passive aggression. Some have pointed out that the phrase often doesn’t make sense, and that it can force the person being asked to become a “co-conspirator” in the asker’s need for reassurance or false modesty. The phrase has been described as needy, scheming, and/or cynical, and has been criticized for its misuse and overuse. It is suggested that people always strive to make sense in their communication and avoid thinking aloud or playing games.
The phrase “absolutely” was included on the Banished Words List in 1996, but has been nominated again due to its overuse. Many have criticized the phrase for replacing the simple word “yes” and for being used excessively on TV in one-on-one interviews. Some have described it as being frequently used in an annoying or arrogant way by people who think they are superior, and have cautioned that it can give the impression of a guarantee that may not be warranted.
It is what it is
Many have described it as a pointless, meaningless, or lazy cop-out, and have pointed out that it is often used as a tautology or verbal crutch, or as an excuse to avoid dealing with reality or accepting responsibility. Some have also noted that the phrase can be dismissive or even rude, and adds no value to the conversation.
“Our linguists, editors, and philosophers, comics, gatekeepers, and pundits didn’t succumb to quiet quitting when laboring over rife miscommunication. Rather, they turned in discerning opinions about rampant verbal and written blunders with equal parts amusement, despair, and outrage. But our nominators insisted, and our Arts and Letters faculty judges concurred, that to decree the Banished Words List 2023 as the GOAT is tantamount to gaslighting. Does that make sense?” said LSSU President Dr. Rodney S. Hanley. “Irregardless, moving forward, it is what it is: an absolutely amazing inflection point of purposeless and ineptitude that overtakes so many mouths and fingers.”
Stanford published a list of harmful words. It states that there are alternatives to the terms “racist, violent, and biased” that are utilized. The program will eliminate the offensive language from its webpages and IT systems.
Visit lssu.edu/banishedwords to learn more about the Banished Words List and to suggest a word or phrase for exile in 2024.