Words and Phrases to Leave Behind in 2022

Let's all expand our vocabularies a little in 2023

Woman: Shutterstock. Word cloud: Free Word Cloud Generator. Photo-collage: Gawker.

Language shifts and adapts the way we do (remember “binch”?), but sometimes we need to force that process along with a little expedience and semi-public shaming. It has been over a year since we at Gawker spoke out against “deranged” and “unhinged” (to deaf ears unfortunately), and now we have been moved by the holiday spirit to say even more. Here are some words we should all say goodbye to at the end of this year.


I’ll be honest: for the frequency with which I see this word, I have no idea what it means, which means all the other people using it also don’t really have a clue what it means. Off the top of the dome, I would have told you that “risible” means “audacious.” That’s not really close to it all. It provokes laughter. Okay, so say “laughable”? When I see you guys using this word, I know you are googling “funny synonyms.” Enough!


A lot of you cannot actually explain what this word means, and what’s worse, I don’t think you could pronounce it correctly either. (I can only do one of these right.)

Aesthetic, vibe, and mood

Though I think “mood” is well on its way out, these three words have been oversaturated to the point of nonsense. Sometimes I think overuse of some words leads to exhaustion; in this case, I suspect that “aesthetic” is being overused to the point of misunderstanding. Once this year, I heard someone call something “very aesthetic” to which I think they meant “manicured” or “styled,” but really it’s a nonsense phrase. It was better — and funnier — whenever someone called something “a whole thing,” which is what all these words have come to connote.


Here I have to confess I am guilty of this, being of the screener-receiving and screening-attending population myself, and I am eager to hold myself accountable going forward. For the layperson, a “screening,” as in “press screening,” is how a critic views a piece of media before it’s released. A “screener” is usually a physical or digital copy that the critic can watch in their home. We are currently in “screener season” the same way it is about to be “Capricorn season,” in that everyone in the culture criticism industry is constantly talking about what screeners and screenings they have access to. The general populace does not care about either of these words, and all they ever suggest is that someone is “powerful” enough to receive a “PR email.” One of the biggest issues of the past few years is that “film people” — not critics, just people, en masse — have grown too powerful. I’m not saying “topple Letterboxd,” but I am saying it’s time to just say you saw a movie and not specify it was part of the film’s marketing campaign.


Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans is his most “personal” film yet. Adam Scott’s relationship to his character on Severance is “personal.” Everything is personal!!!!! That doesn’t mean anything to me.


Just call it “good” and move on!

Served Up

Instagram “served up” this ad — no. They targeted you based on your searches and now you’re peppered with sponsored posts for the best bra for small boobs (just me?). For whatever reason, this phrase has become a catch-all verb for when you see something you did not intend to see, but make it sound like it was presented to you like a cocktail at a restaurant. It’s far too quaint for what it’s often describing.


As the phrase “be serious”’s stock grows ever-nearer to its summit, “unserious” is crashing down. “This is deeply unserious,” someone will note about a bad Tweet or a stupid op-ed. The word has become a shorthand for when you think it’s funny that someone else thinks or feels something in a serious way or for when you think a marketing campaign or a television show is not particularly well thought-out. It’s a clunky, ugly word that feels great to type but stupid to say aloud. If I were to use “unserious” in front of my parents, they’d be like “huh?” and I’d have to go “not serious,” and they’d be like, “oh, gotcha.”


This clunky-ass word replaced Facebook's “it’s complicated” relationship status, and we are far worse for it. For one, it can mean literally anything: I’ve heard it used to describe a relationship between two people who have had sex once and two people who have been dating for four years. I recently eavesdropped on a group of friends at a restaurant who spoke about one specific, messy “situationship” for over an hour — that’s way too long to use that many syllables over and over again. Enough.


Did everyone hit their SEO goals this year? Phew.