OPINION

OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: We banish thee


It's happened. One of 2023's words of the year is among those voters picked to be banished in Lake Superior State University's 2024 Banished Words List, released on New Year's Eve.

"Rizz" apparently has no rizz with these people.

Sheridan Worth, director of marketing at the university, said of this year's list, "The Banished Words List remains one of the most iconic, humorous, and quirky traditions in the region. 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."

Not that it will really make much of a difference. This year, two make a return visit because one banishment wasn't enough.

"At the end of the day" was banished in 1999 and again two years ago. A lot of editors hate it as an introductory clause because it adds nothing to a sentence but extra words. According to the press release, "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."

"Iconic" also showed up again, having first been banished in 2009. "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," noted the press release.

"Rizz," the university noted, "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."

Please and thank you. I am completely unsurprised rizz made the list.

"Hack," which we once heard more in the sense of breaking into a computer system, now seems to be heard far more often as "life hack," which, if I'm honest, doesn't really do much for me. Sometimes the tips add time and unnecessary steps to tasks, though making fun of them helped make Khaby Lame a TikTok star. "Its widespread adoption in multiple contexts, extending beyond its initial technological context," noted the university, "has the potential to lessen its inherent significance."

And trolls, calling every writer with whom you disagree a hack lessens the effect of the pejorative nature of the term.

Another word a lot of editors hate also made this year's list: "impact." "Especially as a verb," said the university's press release, "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."

Plus, the whole impacted teeth imagery doesn't help.

"Slay" is perfectly acceptable is some contexts, the university wrote, but it "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."

Another Gen Z/millennial/people-younger-than-me word misusage that made it on the list is "obsessed," and why not, considering, according to the press release, that "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?"

No. I'm quite literally obsessed with words. I am not obsessed with Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange chicken, as delicious as it is.

"Side hustle" also made the list, the university said, "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.

And if you're an introvert like me, the hustle to get that extra job is sometimes too much. But needs must, so ...

Speaking of that ellipsis ... the phrase "wait for it" made the list as well for "trying to be the hype master" when most of the time it's just stating the obvious.

And finally, a phrase that aptly describes much of the list is being banished as well this year: "Cringe-worthy." The university wrote, "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."

Personally, I'd just as soon get rid of "cringe" as it's been used so often lately. It's just so cringe.

The university received over 2,000 nominations for its 48th annual list. You can read more about it and make nominations for next year's list at www.lssu.edu/traditions/banishedwords.


Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at blooper@adgnewsroom.com. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.