“OK, Boomer,” Here’s Lake Superior State University’s Annual Banished Words List

The 45th annual “curated” collection of overused and misused words “literally” “vibes”.

The U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump based on testimony that he wanted Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in exchange for U.S. aid. The president insists there was no “quid pro quo.”

That Latin phrase tops Lake Superior State University‘s 2020 list of overused and misused words and phrases.

Lake Superior State University
Lake Superior State University

Associate Professor Mary McMyne leads the committee that creates the list. She says “quid pro quo” received the most nominations from people who want it “banished” from the Queen’s English.

“The popularity of this phrase has the committee wondering what it should offer in exchange for next year’s nominations,” McMyne says.

The first list was compiled in 1975 by the late W. T. Rabe, LSSU’s former public relations director. 

“It started at a New Year’s Eve party,” McMyne says. “Since then, people from all over have nominated words for banishment for misuse, overuse, and general uselessness.”

Many words and phrases, such as “quid pro quo,” come from politics. More recent entries come from the internet and social media, such as “influencer.”

“Influencer is a word Instagram users use to describe themselves to feel famous and important when no one really knows who they are or cares.” — Mary McMyne.

Here, now, is the rest of the 2020 list:

The Most Nominated Word or Phrase for 2020

Quid pro quo: This phrase received the most nominations this year, with a noticeable spike in November (gee, we wonder why…). The popularity of this phrase has the committee wondering what it should offer in exchange for next year’s nominations.

Words that Attempt to Make Something More than It Is

Artisanal: One nominator described this word as an “obfuscation,” describing an “actual person doing something personal for another unknown person.”  The committee agrees this word should be banned for well water… but not for sandwiches.

Curated: Like “artisanal,” this seems to be another attempt at making something more than it is, especially when used in reference to social media (or Banished Words Lists). As Barb from Ann Arbor says, “Save it for the museum.”

Influencer: According to Urban Dictionary, “A word Instagram users use to describe themselves to make them feel famous and more important when no one really knows who they are or care.”

Words Banished for Pretentiousness or Imprecision

Literally: Surprisingly, this word hasn’t already been banished, but here it is, one of the few words in English that has begun to serve as its own antonym. Many of the nominators cite this word’s use for figurative expressions or emphasis, which is literally annoying.

I mean: It’s easy to see why this phrase was nominated, right? I mean…

Living my best life: The committee very much enjoys exercising its authority in banishing words annually–literally the capstone of our year–but as Eric says, apart from reincarnation, are there really “options for multiple lives”?

Mouthfeel: A word used by foodies to describe the texture of food or drink in the mouth, which the committee feels should be banished entirely from food reality TV shows. As our nominator asks, “Where else, exactly, would you like to touch your food or beverage?” This one just doesn’t feel right in the mouth.

Those Darn Millennials!

Chirp:  This one is a new insult for the non-millennials on the committee. Before we get chirped for being out of touch, as our nominator suggests, why don’t we leave it to the birds?

Jelly: An abbreviation of “jealous,” the committee agrees with the nominator of this word who suggested that it’s better left on toast.

Totes: Another abbreviation, this time of “totally.” Totes overused.

Vibe / vibe check: A new use of the 60s term, “good vibes.” This one just doesn’t vibe with us anymore, unless the speaker is actually vibrating.

OK, Boomer: This phrase caught on late this year on the Internet as a response from millennials to the older generation. Boomers may remember, however, that generational tension is always present. In fact, it was the Boomers who gave us the declaration: “Don’t trust anyone over 30!”

Click here to nominate a word for the 2021 list.

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  • Pat Batcheller
    Pat Batcheller is a host and Senior News Editor for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news, traffic and weather updates during Morning Edition. He is an amateur musician.