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Jeruba's avatar

What's your nominee for most worn-out word or expression of 2020 news stories?

Asked by Jeruba (55941points) December 20th, 2020

For me it’s not “pandemic,” “fraud,” “overturn,” or even “in the wake of” (although the latter is a finalist). It’s upend, upending, upended, and all other variants.

Not because of its high frequency—even though I see it in one or more stories every day, including in headlines—but because it’s tiresome and unnecessary repetition. There are so many ways to say that. Why use the same one over and over and over and over? Is someone editing them in to fill a quota or win a bet? Or are tired journalists just lapsing into the readiest and trendiest phrasing?

Either way, it’s stale. Let’s retire it.

What’s your candidate?

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57 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Fake News.”

si3tech's avatar

Off the top of my head it is “racist!”

janbb's avatar

“Out of an abundance of caution”

_____'s avatar


kritiper's avatar


elbanditoroso's avatar

Anything with “Trump”.

Then there’s the word ‘novel’ when they talked about ‘Novel Coronavirus’ – it isn’t novel any more.

And I’ve ready to get rid of the phrase “social distancing”.

Demosthenes's avatar

@elbanditoroso I agree with “novel” and “social distancing”. I don’t think I’d ever heard “novel” meaning “new” outside of prose until the pandemic.

To these I would add: surge, distance learning, and “new normal”.

I will be happy if I never hear any of these ever again.

Jeruba's avatar

Sometime in 2017 I said that we were never going to be able to use the word “trump” un-self-consciously in ordinary discourse again. Double entendre is assumed when we say something trumps something else, even if none is intended. Card players: have you held onto it, or are you using some other term now?

@Demosthenes, can that be so? Surely you’ve heard someone say “That’s a novel idea” or “Director X takes a novel approach to filmmaking.” It’s right out of the Latin, as I’m sure you know, alongside “novelty” and “innovation” and “novice” and Nova Scotia.

JLeslie's avatar

BASELESS. So tired of that word.

Edit: Also, DULY ELECTED. Since when is the word elected not enough? It’s America. Since when are our elected officials not duly elected?

rockfan's avatar

“Fit to be president”

Demosthenes's avatar

@Jeruba I’ve seen it written, yes, but don’t recall hearing it much in the news or in the media until the pandemic. It wasn’t a word I would’ve heard just anyone say until the “novel coronavirus” came along.

Demosthenes's avatar

Now that you point it out, I have heard that one a lot in the news, and it is irritating and stale. It deserves the axe.

doyendroll's avatar

I mind the p’s and q’s.

Jeruba's avatar

@doyendroll, really? I haven’t seen that in any news stories. How is it being used?

“Giving oxygen” is also a finalist; e.g., “His assault on the integrity of the election has gotten a hefty assist from pro-Trump media outfits and an assortment of state lawmakers and lawyers who gave oxygen to the debunked allegations…” ( Washington Post, today )

cookieman's avatar

Breaks Silence as in So-and-So breaks silence on ::insert subject here::. It implies that they refused to talk about something but finally. It’s a bullshit, click-bait phrase that really just means that someone made a comment on a subject. Big fucking deal.

Also, Internet Reacts or Internet Has Thoughts, as if the millions of people who use the web are some homogenous hive-mind.

janbb's avatar

I hate such and such is “breaking the internet.”

ragingloli's avatar

“Trump claimed without evidence”.
Bitch, just say he lied.

jca2's avatar

I’m not sure where in recent history the word “given” or “gave” became “gifted.” I know “gifted used to be used as “you can gift someone up to twelve thousand dollars per year without it being taxed” but now everything that used to be “gave” is “gifted.” “I need to gift something to the superintendent of the building.” “He gifted me a scarf for Christmas.”

elbanditoroso's avatar

@jca2 you hit the nail on the head. I hate the word “gifted”. What was wrong with ‘gave’?

Darth_Algar's avatar

“Clear and present danger”
“Truth to power”
“Rest in power”

Nomore_lockout's avatar

I was going to say “fake news” but @Dutchess_III beat me to it. “Lock her up” is just so 2016.

misfit's avatar

The new normal.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

In other fake news in the new normal world, Trump claimed without evidence that he broke the internet after supporters tweeted that he had gifted Hillary with in undisclosed sum, to help her avoid being locked up. More fake news in a moment, for now this breaking story on the pandemic heros who upended the anti mask crowd. Back after this.

filmfann's avatar


JLeslie's avatar

Another one—KAREN.

@filmfann I am very unhappy about the use of the word snowflake, because where I live we use snowflake to mean someone who lives in Florida and also another state, and flits back and forth between to the two randomly. Snowflake being different than snowbirds who live half the year up north and half the year in Florida.

Jeruba's avatar

But are you seeing “snowflake” and “Karen” used by journalists in news stories? Or are they just quoting other people who are using them?

I also don’t happen to believe that no two snowflakes are alike.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

“Breaking News” CNN has cried “Wolf” too many times.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba Not in news stories. I forgot that was one of your parameters when I saw @filmfann’s post. My first answer still stands.

When I watch news on TV or listen to friends talk about politics it’s so obvious who is watching what “news“ source by word choice. Reminds me of being in high school and kids picking up on new slang, or fluther when two jellies use the exact same descriptive words about me and I know they are talking behind my back. Lol.

It’s really annoying in the news, because you would think journalists would have broader vocabularies and a mind of their own, but many TV “journalists“ are really just doing a performance. It all starts to sound ridiculous.

What’s amazing is a lot of people are completely sucked into their news source, oblivious to other sources, and repeat everything verbatim like reciting the Our Father. Robots. They learn a new vocabulary word from a news source and use it like they have known it since second grade. I bet 75% of America had never heard the term “duly elected” before the Trump era nor the word “baseless.” Whether the people working I n TV news had, maybe a higher percentage of them, but I bet it’s still lower than one would guess and even sounds fake to me coming out of their mouths. Print journalists like for New York Times or Washington Post are a different matter.

2davidc8's avatar


Love_my_doggie's avatar

@JLeslie You’re so right about “Karen.” The name is pretty, and I know so many lovely ladies who have it. Over the past year, however, it’s become cringeworthy.

cookieman's avatar

My favorite cousin, named Karen, is very upset about the “Karen” stereotype going around.

In fact, she’d like to complain to the manager about it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

If my name was Karen it wouldn’t bother me, just like blond jokes never bothered me. Some Karens need to quit acting like Karens.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

^^^ Maybe we should use Karen (with an upper-case K) for all those nice ladies who have it on their birth certificates, and karen (lower-case) for the witches who earn it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m down with that!
Last year wasn’t it “Nancy” for people acting like drama queens.

chyna's avatar

People used to say “Don’t be a negative Nancy.” Or “Don’t be such a Debbie Downer.”
They never use a mans name for negative behaviors.

JLeslie's avatar

@chyna Good point. I guess there is a Dastardly Dick or Dastardly Dan. That’s the only one I can think of.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Dick! “He is such a dick.”

Love_my_doggie's avatar

There’s one negative name that’s used only for white men – douchebag.

Think about it. Have you ever heard that word used to describe any woman or man of color?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Interesting @Love_my_doggie.
You don’t really hear women called “assholes” either.
My husband becomes livid when I accuse him of “bitching”! And he bitches a LOT!!! OMG!!

Darth_Algar's avatar


Chad, Kyle, Kevin and Brett would like to have a word with you.

Jeruba's avatar

“The pandemic upended the present. But it’s given us a chance to remake the future.” Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post.

JLeslie's avatar

I love Fareed.

LostInParadise's avatar

“unsubstantiated claims”
I guess reporters can’t get away with more colorful descriptions of Trump’s allegations, like complete falsehoods, malarkey, fabrications and BS.

SergeantQueen's avatar

“The new normal”

Jeruba's avatar

“But with the clock ticking, the threat of a presidential veto now threatens to upend the entire package and put Congress into the position of having to override his veto in time to pass the relief bill and fund the government, which is set to run out of funding on December 28.”—Business Insider, via MSN News

This is how expressions that were at first vivid and expressive lose their meaning: by being used thoughtlessly, irrelevantly, and much too frequently.

“In the wake of” (noted in the details) alludes to the wake of a boat or ship, the trail of displacement that it leaves behind in the water. We see it everywhere now, without any context that suggests the relevance of the metaphor, just being used to mean “after” or “following” and suggesting causality.

The result is often a mixed metaphor because other figures of speech used in the same sentence allude to other images or parallels. Here’s an example: “In the wake of the final scene, the audience burst into applause.” That’s just absurd. The final scene is implicitly compared to a ship, followed by its wake, really an unlikely comparison; and then the audience is likened to something that bursts or explodes. Things don’t burst or explode in the water trail of a ship; it’s an air or fire image, not a water one. Also the applause was presumably immediate, not following a lingering, drawn-out wake.

If writers do this, editors should fix it. Instead they’re just letting the language go tired and stale.

Jeruba's avatar

By now, I think the word I’m most sick of is “election.” How can we possibly be talking about nominees for the 2024 primaries?

janbb's avatar

@Jeruba Not sure if you want to include images in this thread but if I never see a spiky red circle again in my life it will be just fine.

Demosthenes's avatar

That’s the beauty of the American presidential election process: it never ends. I’m told it isn’t this way in other nations.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t remember its being this way here either, when I was a young voter. Things didn’t get full-scale media coverage until we got close to convention time, in the summer just a few months before Election Day (which was just one day).

Of course the party leaders and power brokers had to be at it well before that, but we the people didn’t have to hear about it all the time. It was more than 3 years of relative quiet—with respect to candidates, primaries, etc.—between inaugurations. News-wise-speaking, it was Eden, little though we knew it then.

janbb's avatar

I can’t bear to think about 2024 yet. (Perhaps I’ll be senile by then. :-))

Jeruba's avatar

My modest goal at the moment is to outlive the Trump presidency.

Darth_Algar's avatar

We have the past couple decades of cable news and the 24/7 news cycle to thank for that. They have turned the political process into entertainment.

janbb's avatar

^^ Can we change the channel, please?

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