There should be no more ‘circling back’ to a prior topic in the new year, according to Lake Superior State University’s influential annual list of banned words.
The work term, a modern alternative to ‘I’ll get back to you on that’, has been used frequently by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki over the past year, as she repeatedly dodged questions from reporters.
Her overuse of the term has led to several conservative memes and even a rap song compiling all the times she has uttered the phrase.
But the term ‘treats colloquy like an ice skating rink as if we must circle back to a prior subject,’ researchers at the Michigan university advised in their most recent list.
And one grammarian says it is ‘the most overused phrase in business, government or other organizations since ‘synergy,” which the university also banned in 2002.
Many of the other words on this year’s list were also banned for being overused, including ‘Wait, what’ and ‘No worries.’
‘Say what you mean and mean what you say,’ LSSU President Rodney S. Hanley said in a statement. ‘Can’t get any easier, or harder, than that.
‘Every year, submitters play hard at suggesting what words and terms to banish by paying close attention to what humanity utters and writes,’ he added.
The Michigan-based college has released its list of banned words and phrases every year since 1976, receiving thousands of entries each time. It releases its new list each year on New Years Eve to ‘start the New Year on the right foot, er, tongue.’
Over the past year, people have submitted more than 1,250 suggestions for consideration, with nominations coming in from not just the United States, but also from Norway, Belgium, England, Scotland, Australia and Canada.
‘Most people speak through informal discourse,’ said Peter Szatmary, executive director of marketing and communications at LSSU. ‘That’s the distinction nominators far and wide made, and our judges agreed with them.’
Though terms that related to the COVID pandemic dominated last year’s list, LSSU officials say this year’s lineup is more conversational, with only three words on this year’s list applying to the coronavirus.
‘One possible takeaway from all this about the act and art of disclosing something is the more things change, the more things stay the same,’ Szatmary suggested. ‘At the very least, it’s complicated.’
Topping this year’s Banished Words list was the phrase ‘Wait, what,’ often used on social media, which those who nominated the term say is a failed ‘response to statement to express astonishment, misunderstanding or disbelief.’
Critics say it is overwrought.
The term ‘No worries,’ came in second place, as it has been used as an incorrect and often passive-aggressive substitute for ‘You’re Welcome.’ Contributors to the list also said the term could be insensitive. ‘If I’m not worried, I don’t want anyone telling me not to worry,’ they wrote. ‘If I am upset, I want to discuss being upset.’
Other words on this year’s list related to current events, including the overused phrase ‘the new normal,’ when describing living through a pandemic, and ‘You’re on mute,’ with one contributor writing: ‘We’re two years into remote working and visiting. It’s time for everyone to figure out where the mute button is.’
Also on this year’s list was ‘supply chain,’ which dominated the news cycle at the end of the year as COVID-related staff shortages led to a backlog in supplies and goods.
But as one nominator wrote: ‘Supply chain issues have become the scapegoat of everything that doesn’t happen or arrive on time and of every shortage.’