The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees the right to freedom of speech, so no words – no matter how vile, dirty or dangerous – can actually be banished.
But some words or phrases are so overused, and so misused, that a lot of people wish they could.
On January 1st 1976, a couple of employees at Lake Superior State University published their first list of banished words. The idea came to them the night before, at a New Year’s Eve party.
According to LSSU, the list was initially spearheaded by W.T. Rabe, who was the university’s public relations director at the time:
“Though he and his friends created it from their own pet peeves about language, Rabe said he knew from the volume of mail he received in the following weeks that the group would have no shortage of words and phrases from which to choose for 1977,” the university says. “Since then, the list has consisted entirely of nominations submitted from around the world.”
Submissions these days mostly come in online at lssu.edu/banished.
University staff choose the final list based on the online submissions.
This year, the most nominated phrase was Quid pro quo.
The full list of banished words for 2020 is:
Quid pro quo
Living my best life
Vibe / vibe check