Why ‘GOAT’, ‘Gaslighting’ And Other Words Are Being Banished In 2023

With an intent to enhance vocabulary and protect the sanctity of the English language from “misuse, overuse and uselessness,” Lake Superior State University (LSSU) has released yet another “tongue-in-cheek” list of banished words for 2023.

The basic idea behind this light-hearted list was to cease the use of the most trending overused phrases and get some publicity for the university. The list gets over 1,500 entries and nominations every year. LSSU reviews them all, and the final list is released on 31 December to ring in the new year in good spirits or better vocab.

Take a look at this year’s banished words and learn more about this list

History of the list

Before delving into this year’s words, let us first learn about the long history of such a list.

It dates back to 1976 when LSSU — created as a branch of Michigan College of Mining and Technology for WWII returning veterans, then public relations director W.T. (Bill) Rabe — first introduced the list with simple satirical humour in mind and some publicity for the not-so-well-known university. However, the unexpected and overwhelming media attention and global response soon turned it into a tradition that, Rabe thought, “would go on forever.”

Coming back to the list, you would be rather shocked to see the nature of the words that people send from all over the US to be included in this annual compilation. Some of these words and phrases are “detente,” “surely,” “classic” and “bromance,” plus “wrap my head around,” “user friendly,” “at this point in time” and “viable alternative.”

Rabe was essentially a PR personality, who had made quite a name for himself in Detroit. Hence, when he arrived at LSSU, he established an in-house PR mechanism called the Unicorn Hunters. Together, they would come up with such fun yet effective PR mechanisms to promote and gain headline space for the then newly turned autonomous college.

2023 banished words list

List of banished words- Lake Superior State University
Image credit: Lake Superior State University

The university copyrighted the idea behind the list of banished words soon after Rabe retired, and the legacy is carried forward to date.

This year, LSSU released a list of 10 banished words, which include the following:

GOAT: Yes, you read that right. After the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it is impossible not to use it to describe Lionel Messi, but this list puts an end to it. The acronym for ‘Greatest Of All Time’ is seen as quite a deplorable literary term that doesn’t make any sense to word Nazis and grammar nerds.

The LSSU website states, “‘Applied to everyone and everything from athletes to chicken wings,’ an objector declared. ‘How can anyone or anything be the GOAT, anyway?’ Records fall; time continues. Some sprinkle GOAT like table salt on ‘anyone who’s really good.’ Another wordsmith: ironically, ‘goat’ once suggested something unsuccessful; now, GOAT is an indiscriminate flaunt.”

Inflection Point: It is a mathematical term that lost its original meaning and seeped into everyday conversations, without making much contribution or sense. The university says, “‘Chronic throat-clearing from historians, journalists, scientists, or politicians. Its ubiquity has driven me to an inflection point of throwing soft objects about whenever I hear it,’ a quipster recounted. ‘Inflection point has reached its saturation point and point of departure,’ proclaimed another. ‘Pretentious way to say turning point.’ Overuse and misuse.”

Quiet quitting: If you thought it meant to silently exit a position, you will have to rethink, because it is quite the opposite. It actually means an employee fulfils the basic requirements of a particular position at a job. Hence, this trendy phrase is inaccurate and aims to oppose work burnout and employees not willing to be exploited.

Gaslighting: They say, when you overuse a word or place it out of context repeatedly, it loses its meaning. And, that’s what happened with this term. ‘Gaslighting’ essentially means to psychologically manipulate someone in such a way that the victim begins to question their own thoughts and feelings. Nowadays, it is also being used to address petty conflicts and disagreements when one party tries to convince the other.

Moving forward: Citing it as an example of misuse, overuse and uselessness, LSSU says “‘Where else would we go?’ wondered a sage—since we can’t, in fact, travel backward in time. ‘May also refer to ‘get my way,’ as in, ‘How can we move forward?’ Well, guess what? Sometimes you can’t,’ another wit stated. Politicians and bosses often wield it for ‘semantic legitimacy’ of self-interest, evasion, or disingenuousness. Its next of kin, ‘going forward,’ banished in 2001, also received votes.”

Amazing: How difficult a word must be to make a re-entry into this notorious list for a second time! Banished in 2012 for misuse, overuse and uselessness, ‘amazing’ is banished again for being too generic and a sort of a filler word when people with poor vocabulary run out of words.

Does that make sense: If you have to ask this question it probably didn’t, and LSSU says, “Submitters rejected the desire, perhaps demand, for clarification or affirmation as filler, insecurity, and passive aggression. ‘Why say it, if you must ask? It just doesn’t make sense!’ tsk-tsked one. In this call for reassurance or act of false modesty, enquirers warp respondents into ‘co-conspirators,’ deduced another. Needy, scheming, and/or cynical. Let me be clear, judges opined: Always make sense; don’t think aloud or play games! Misuse, overuse, and uselessness.”

Irregardless: It’s not quite a word in the first place, not a real one at least, and that is a reason enough to banish it. And if one has to convey the same emotions, ‘regardless’ does the job quite well.

Absolutely: Another re-entry. Once banished in 1996, this word had to be shown the red signal again for its constant overuse. Often replacing the ‘yes’ when used in cases of strong agreement, ‘absolutely’ does get on the nerves after a certain point.

It is what it is: A third re-entry! That’s quite a strong way to shout out a big no. Banished in 2008 for overuse, misuse and misuse, the word has given rise to other expressions such as ‘No Kidding’ and ‘Well duh.’

(Main and feature image credit: Glen Carrie/ @glencarrie/ Unsplash)