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OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: Be gone with you!

by Brenda Looper | January 5, 2022 at 3:31 a.m.
Brenda Looper

A little cold/sinusitis made my New Year's weekend a bit more subdued than usual (so practically asleep). For one thing, you can't add much pepper to the Hoppin' John because it doesn't take much to start a round of sneezing, but you need that extra boost of flavor/sinus clearing. Sigh. Thanks, weather.

But at least one thing turned out as usual, as Lake Superior State University in Michigan released its 2022 list of words to be banished because of misuse, overuse or downright uselessness.

Last year's list was heavy with terms related to the pandemic. Peter Szatmary, executive director of marketing and communications at the university, said, "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.

"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."

Isn't everything nowadays? More than 1,000 of the more than 1,250 nominations submitted for this year's list were colloquial, with the No. 1 offender being "Wait, what?" Nominators and contest judges deemed that "the two-part halting interrogative is disingenuous, divergent, deflective, and other damning words that begin with the letter d."

Full disclosure: I have used this phrase, usually in photo captions on my blog, but only when I felt the photo merited it. Will I stop? Meh, I don't know. Maybe.

The second offender was "No worries." "Nominated by writers nationwide for misuse and overuse, this phrase incorrectly substitutes for 'You're welcome' when someone says 'Thank you,'" the university noted. "A further bungling relates to insensitivity. 'If I'm not worried, I don't want anyone telling me not to worry,' a contributor explicated."

So I guess singing "Hakuna Matata" is out as well ("It means no worries," say the lyrics). I admit I use this one as well, but usually not in response to "Thank you"; my tendency is to use it when someone apologizes for something that really wasn't that big of a deal.

Fillers and jargon featured quite a bit on this year's list, with "at the end of the day" being banished for a second time (its 1999 banishment apparently didn't take), and "that being said" and "asking for a friend" being taken to the woodshed. "Circle back" and "deep dive" also made the list, quite deservedly. On "circle back," the university wrote, "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."

And now I really want to name a band "Smarty-Pants Puffery." Please, someone ...

Three pandemic-related phrases sent to the corner rounded out the list: "new normal," "you're on mute," and "supply chain." Since Zoom isn't really part of my workday (Slack, yes; Zoom, no), "you're on mute" wasn't really on my radar. As one nominator noted, "We're two years into remote working and visiting. It's time for everyone to figure out where the mute button is."

But "new normal" and "supply chain" certainly have filled entirely too many news reports, social media posts and other parts of the Internet the past year, especially "supply chain." Both have been attached to a lot of political sniping as well, which makes me dislike them all the more.

Like "at the end of the day," "new normal" has been banished before, in 2012. What I find interesting is that it appears the people who use the phrase the most are the ones who can't accept that the world has changed so much due to the pandemic that it will most likely never return to "the good old days" they prefer. However, their resistance to following even the tiniest public health measures is what's delaying the return to anything resembling the normalcy they want.

What I wouldn't give to go back to a pre-covid time, but that's not going to happen, and the longer some scoff and act like petulant teenagers every time they're asked to do anything to arrest the spread of covid-19 and its variants, the longer it will take for us to get back to life as usual.

But that would leave them one less thing to complain about.

Today would have been my brother Corey's 57th birthday. I can't help but think of what he might have said about this list. Being a restaurateur, he had more than enough supply-chain issues to deal with on a daily basis.

He would likely have had a lot to say about "new normal," as he was not fond of many of the public health measures related to the pandemic, and advocated natural immunity over covid vaccination.

However, he's not here anymore, so here's what I ask: Mask up in public and isolate as necessary, and if you're able, get vaccinated. Don't leave your family to mourn you unnecessarily.

The world is missing too many Coreys.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at Read her blog at

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