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Kruiser's (Almost) Daily Distraction: Word Censorship Done Right

YES, Let’s Do This

(Kruiser’s Permanote Description: This column is intended to be a lighthearted, short-form way to frequently connect with our cherished VIP readers. Sometimes it will be serious. Sometimes it will be fun. Sometimes it will be a cornucopia of intellectual curiosities and fascinations. OK, maybe not so much the last one. Anyway, as this is a departure for me, I’m including this explanation at the top of each post for a while. Also, non-subscribers can see the first couple of paragraphs so I am in desperate need of filler until we get to the private stuff (subscribe here). Please remember that there is a standing invitation to ask me anything in the comments. Once a week, I’ll answer.)

OK, you know that I wouldn’t actually advocate for censorship. I like saying all the words.

I happened upon something this past weekend that I found amusing and wanted to share with you, dear VIP subscribers. Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan publishes an annual list of overused words and phrases that should be “banished.”

Here’s an explanation from the school’s website:

Enough already with COVID-19!

People across the U.S. and around the world let Lake Superior State University know that they’re tired not only of the coronavirus pandemic but also of hearing, reading, and talking about it—especially when the communication is bad or excessive.

COVID-19 terminology monopolized submissions for LSSU’s annual Banished Words List this year. Out of 1,450-plus nominations, upwards of 250 of the words and terms suggested for banishment for overuse, misuse, or uselessness relate to the coronavirus. In fact, seven of the 10 words and terms that LSSU is banishing for 2021 are about it.

Ranked No. 1 to get rid of is what started of all this: “COVID-19” itself.

“It should surprise no one that this year’s list was dominated by words and terms related to COVID-19,” said Peter Szatmary, executive director of marketing and communications. “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.”

LSSU has compiled an annual Banished Words List since 1976 to uphold, protect, and support excellence in language by encouraging avoidance of words and terms that are overworked, redundant, oxymoronic, clichéd, illogical, nonsensical—and otherwise ineffective, baffling, or irritating. Over the decades, LSSU has received tens of thousands of nominations for the list, which now totals more than 1,000 entries. This year, nominations came from most major U.S. cities and many U.S. states, as well as from Australia, the Czech Republic, England, and Canada. Here are the list of the banished words and terms for 2021 and the reasons for their banishment:

I pretty much agree with the entire list but what I found so entertaining about it was that there were some COVID hell-related phrases that some friends of mine and I have been complaining about since at least last summer. Here are three of them:

3. We’re all in this together

This phrase was likely intended as a way to keep everyone feeling safe and calm at the start of the pandemic. However, as the virus made its way across the globe and nation, it became clear that we are all dealing with COVID-19 in different ways and that we confront some vastly different challenges in coping with it. As with many words that show up on the list, its usefulness has faded.

I never want to be lumped in with a bunch randos who mistakenly think we’re simpatico. I didn’t like people much before, and the Chinese Bat Flu plague hasn’t helped in that department.

5. In these uncertain times (various phrasings)

The committee agrees that COVID-19 has upended everyday life and wishes this weren’t so. But putting things into imprecise context doesn’t help matters. The blur dilutes reality and, to some, sounds like the beginning of a movie trailer. Keep as wide a berth of trite parlance as those who don’t wear masks in public. What exactly does it mean for times to be uncertain? Look at a clock!

There seemed to have been about a four month period when every corporate or political account on Twitter began with this phrase. I know that can’t be accurate but it sure did seem real. A realist’s view of the world would make us understand that all times are uncertain because we don’t know what’s going to happen next. Ever.

8. Karen

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. As one nominator said about reasons for its banishment, “I would tell you why, but I’d sound like a Karen.” Another critic observed, “Offensive to all normal people named Karen.”

This one annoyed me because I only have one sibling and her name is Karen and she’s not a prying a-hole.

Again, this list is good, but here are a few of my own that I would add to it and fervently hope will be banished:

1: “Amid the pandemic…”

Far and away the most overused and annoying pandemic-related phrase. Online thesauri are free. People need to start using them.

2: Kamala Harris

3: Joe Biden

Let’s have a great week.

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PJ Media Senior Columnist and Associate Editor Stephen Kruiser is the author ofDon’t Let the Hippies ShowerandStraight Outta Feelings: Political Zen in the Age of Outrage,” both of which address serious subjects in a humorous way. Monday through Friday he edits PJ Media’s “Morning Briefing.” His columns appear twice a week.