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Hack, rizz, slay and other cringe-worthy words to avoid in 2024

Hack is one of the 10 words on Lake Superior State University's 2024 Banned Words List. "Using it everywhere, even beyond its tech roots, could make it lose its magic," LSSU faculty explained.
David Becker
Hack is one of the 10 words on Lake Superior State University's 2024 Banned Words List. "Using it everywhere, even beyond its tech roots, could make it lose its magic," LSSU faculty explained.

Just a few weeks ago, the term "rizz" was being celebrated for its pop culture prominence, achieving iconic status as the Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year. But at the end of the day, its impact on modern language is actually cringe-worthy, say the folks at Michigan's Lake Superior State University.

The word — which Gen Zers have shortened from charisma and adopted to mean style, charm or the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner — is one of 10 that appears on LSSU's 2024 Banished Words List, documenting what faculty says should be omitted from our collective vocabularies heading into the new year.

"This tradition highlights certain words that are often misused, overused, or have lost their meaning over the past year," Sheridan Worth, director of marketing at Lake Superior State University, said in a statement.

"It encourages us to laugh at ourselves as we reconsider and reflect on the importance of our vocabulary," Worth added.

Here's the full list of words and phrases, along with explanations for why they deserve to be eliminated from everyday conversation, according to LSSU:

  • Hack — "Its widespread adoption in multiple contexts, extending beyond its initial technological context, has the potential to lessen its inherent significance."

  • Impact — "Especially as a verb, why use this word when we have a perfectly good word that makes more sense: 'affect?'"

  • At the end of the day — "The phrase is often employed as a rhetorical device that attempts to encapsulate the complexities of a situation summarily, lacking nuance and depth."

  • Rizz — "With language doing the cha-cha of change, we're wondering if this word still rocks the charisma scene or if it's time for a language remix."

  • Slay — "Its transition from a specialized term denoting exceptional accomplishment to a commonplace expression for any achievement prompts scrutiny into its misapplication, particularly in the characterization of routine or mundane actions."

  • Iconic — "Despite its initial recognition as a word worthy of distinction, its repeated application in contexts that don't merit such acclaim challenges its genuine iconic status. It's like that one-hit wonder playing on loop."

  • Cringe-worthy — "The irony is served hot, as the very term 'cringe-worthy' finds itself under the spotlight. It's like a word caught in its own cringe-worthy moment."

  • Obsessed — "The use of this word for things that are not truly being obsessed over makes it a good candidate for rethinking how we use the word."

  • Side hustle — "The term 'side hustle' has gained widespread use, prompting considerations about its impact on how we perceive economic challenges. It may be worth reflecting on whether its prevalence inadvertently downplays the genuine reality of the situation."

  • Wait for it — "If we're watching the video, then we're already waiting for it, right?"

The university received more than 2,000 nominations of verboten words from around the world, and while the majority came from the United States, submissions flooded in from as far away as Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Germany, Guam, Ireland, Lebanon, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

This year marks the second appearance of the word "iconic" on the annual list, which made its first appearance in 2009 — back when some might have used to describe President Barack Obama's inauguration, Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" or the moment Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift's during her VMA video acceptance speech.

Far from thinking of the list as a tool to curb expression, the experts said it is intended to celebrate language as a dynamic and ever-evolving entity; it "recognizes the rapid changes in expression, encouraging a reassessment of the impact and relevance of our vocabulary."

In a tongue-in-cheek explanation, Worth offered: "The tradition provides a lighthearted opportunity to pause and reflect on the past year — our experiences, communication styles, and the phrases we commonly use. At the end of the day, it serves as a platform for considering how we can progress into the new year with a more mindful approach to language."

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.