This Year's List of 'Banished' Words and Phrases are All About Covid-19

You've undoubtedly seen and heard the phrases in commercials since the pandemic began. According to one university, that's gone on for long enough.

Posted: Jan 2, 2021 4:40 PM
Updated: Jan 2, 2021 4:48 PM

You've undoubtedly seen and heard the phrases in commercials since the pandemic began.

"We live in unprecedented times." "In these challenging, difficult times." "Out of an abundance of caution." "We're in this together."

According to one university, that's gone on for long enough.

In its annual review, Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, released the 2021 edition of the Top 10 words and phrases that are overused to the point of becoming insincere, useless or cliché. For 2020, it's all about Covid-19.

"It should surprise no one that this year's list was dominated by words and terms related to Covid-19," Peter Szatmary, executive director of marketing and communications at LSSU, said in its statement.

More than 1,450 phrases were nominated from around the world for consideration, LSSU said, and seven of the 10 phrases that the university selected for so-called "banishment" this year are about the coronavirus. They include "Covid-19," "social distancing," "we're all in this together," "pivot," "unprecedented," and any variation of "in an abundance of caution" and "in these uncertain times."

The university has compiled its annual "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness" since New Year's Day 1976. The list seeks to "uphold, protect, and support excellence in language" by encouraging the avoidance of words and terms that have been overused to the point of being "ineffective, baffling, or irritating."

"LSSU's Banished Words List has reflected signs of the times since debuting in the mid-1970s, and the zeitgeist this year is: We're all in this together by banishing expressions like 'We're all in this together.' To be sure, Covid-19 is unprecedented in wreaking havoc and destroying lives. But so is the overreliance on 'unprecedented' to frame things, so it has to go, too," Szatmary said.

People named Karen may be glad to hear that the term "Karen" made the list.

As the university states, "What began as an anti-racist critique of the behavior of white women in response to Black and Brown people has become a misogynist umbrella term for critiquing the perceived overemotional behavior of women."

LSSU also called for ending the use of "sus," the shortened form of suspicious that is ubiquitous in the hit video game Among Us. Nominators of the term felt it was too lazy to not spell out entirely and should be limited to online play only.

"In a small way, maybe this list will help 'flatten the curve,' which also was under consideration for banishment," said LSSU President Dr. Rodney S. Hanley. "We trust that your 'new normal' -- another contender among nominations -- for next year won't have to include that anymore."

"I know, right?" rounded out the list. Nominators felt the phrase was nonsensical in asking a question one already knows the answer to and comes off as insecure.

Honestly, we're not sure about that last one. Seems kind of sus.

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