LSSU's List of Banished Words a Little Thin This Year

At the dawn of a new year, there are oh-so-many things we want to get rid of from 2020. Some of you would just like to get rid of 2020 altogether.

For a word nerd like me, December 31st is special for a different reason.

On the last day of each year, Lake Superior State University (LSSU) releases their List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use, and General Uselessness. This is the 46th consecutive year they published their list, and I've written about it for 16 straight years.

(Hey, I haven't reprinted an old column all year, so you can cut me a little slack!)

But, I have to say, 2021's list is a little thin and predictable. Still, it's a miracle that most of us are still here, so it is what it is.

Except LSSU banished that phrase back in 2008, which means I'm starting the year off on the wrong foot.

There were only ten words they wanted to banish, and seven of them were related to the pandemic.

(Bleah! 2019's list had 18 words, so I feel ripped off.)

Number one on the list was "COVID-19" and any variations thereof.

Well, of course, that's going to be on the list. Sweet Jebus, this entire year was about COVID-19, and we're just going to pick the lowest-hanging fruit?

(Surprisingly, "low-hanging fruit" has never been banished.)

As LSSU said, "A large number of nominators are clearly resentful of the virus and how it has overtaken our vocabulary."

That's why banishing the word will be rather difficult. It will be ever-present for another year or so. However, they did mention that this list is arriving at the same time the vaccine does, so — fingers crossed! — we may have a shot at banishing both.

Even if we can't banish the term completely, I think we should stop using it to explain why things didn't happen. Not that we should ignore it, just stop saying it.

For example, my wife and I were going to film a video project in May, but we couldn't "because of the pandemic."

Now, did I need to say that last part? Was that necessary? Or would you have figured it out because you've been conscious this year and don't have the memory of a goldfish?

All I have to say is "we were going to start filming in May, but we couldn't," AND YOU ALREADY KNOW WHY.

I don't have to say "because of the pandemic."

It's like saying, "I fell down because of gravity," or "I had to catch my breath because I need oxygen," or "the lights stopped working because they need electricity."

We don't say those last parts because we know this. And COVID is as commonplace as gravity, oxygen, and electricity, so we can just stop mentioning it for obvious statements.

If there's some other reason why something got canceled, didn't work, got interrupted, or failed, then we can mention it. Otherwise, I'll just assume the pandemic is to blame for everything.

But I'm totally on board with banning the phrase "the Rona." We should never, ever, ever say that word again.


It's a term used by people who can tell the Kardashians apart.

If we could all just cooperate on this one thing, we could put a stop to it. Remember, we're all in this together.

Except we're not, because that was #3 on the list.

Also, because we're just not.

"We're all in this together" has been a nice rallying cry to tell our friends, loved ones, and strangers that we'll watch each other's back and care for each other.

Except some people won't because they've politicized mask-wearing, ignored science, politicized personal safety, ignored medical advice, and literally lied about why they won't cover their faces to keep other people safe.

So don't tell me we're in this together when we can't get people to understand why they shouldn't infect others.

I would hope that in these uncertain times, we could just get past all that, but we can't. Because we have to stop saying "in these uncertain times."

I hate this phrase more than I hate "the Rona." I can't tell you the number of articles, reports, blog posts, and newsletters that start with this linguistic turd.

It's just lazy writing, and I'm about to poke somebody in the eye if I hear it again. You can be certain of that. But I won't tell you which eye or how often, so there's your uncertain times.

You might also want to say, "In these unprecedented times," but you can't say that either.

In fact, LSSU is banning "unprecedented" altogether, and I'm with them 110%. (I'm gobsmacked that 110% was never banned either.)

If nothing else, saying that 2020 is unprecedented shows a distinct lack of a basic grasp of history. Everything we're going through is precedented. It has all happened before.

There was a pandemic in 1918. There was a recession just 12 years ago. Half the people have hated the president ever since we had a president. Two other presidents were impeached before this one. And politicians have lied, turned their back on their constituents, and served their own interests ever since the Roman senate turned Julius Caesar into a colander.

So stop saying we've never experienced this before. We have. You just don't read.

The entire list wasn't COVID-related, though. Let me "pivot" to the three words that weren't, except I can't say pivot anymore. I should say adapt, evolve, adjust, or recalibrate.

As LSSU said, "basketball players pivot; let's keep it that way."

"I know, right?"


Photo credit: Bronyfireman (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 0)

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