'No worries' made a banned-words list, but I refuse to stop using it

Commentary: I'm not letting some list of banned phrases push me around.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
3 min read

Lake Superior State University in Michigan releases a banished-words list every year, pulling together terms it thinks are overused. The college asks for nominations from the public, then a panel of judges vote on what should make the list.

This year's list came out on Dec. 31, and includes such phrases as "Wait, what?" which is cited for misuse and overuse. It includes "at the end of the day," "asking for a friend," "circle back," "deep dive," and "that being said." There's also a coronavirus-specific part of the banished-terms list. That includes "new normal," "you're on mute" and "supply chain."

But the Lake Superior list-makers can just take a long walk off a short pier into the big lake they call Gitchee Gumee. Because the second phrase on their should-be-banned list is "no worries," and no worries, my friends, I'm going to keep saying that until I actually have no literal worries, which --ha ha ha -- is not happening in 2022 or any foreseeable year. Thanks, coronavirus! 

I say "no worries" when someone accidentally rams my foot with their grocery cart. I say "no worries" when the plumber says they're going to be late. I say "no worries" when my boss thanks me for taking on a thorny assignment. There's a meme I like that proclaims, "I sure say 'no worries' a lot for someone who has so many worries." That's me, but I don't care. 

For just a minute when I say it, I'm the magnanimous duchess waving away someone's thanks, or accepting their apology. No worries! That bruise on my ankle from your shopping cart will surely heal! The basement flooding will probably slow down before the plumber gets here! 

I think I adopted "no worries" from a former co-worker, but it's possible I was influenced by those Outback Steakhouse commercials circa 2013 or 2014.  The American chain has an Australian theme and adopted "no worries Wednesdays" as a slogan back in the day. ("No worries" seems like it should be said with an Australian accent.)

The banned-phrase list says the phrase "incorrectly substitutes for 'You're welcome' when someone says 'Thank you.'" Another complaint about "no worries?" One contributor said, "If I'm not worried, I don't want anyone telling me not to worry," and went on to refer to the "meaninglessness" of the phrase.

Oh, like "you're welcome" isn't meaningless? If I thank someone and they say "you're welcome" to me, it feels like a generic, bland response -- the "gesundheit" of gratitude. But "no worries," ah, that feels like they're actually talking to me, they've carefully assessed the situation and deemed it not something I should worry about! I have enough worries. I'm worried about almost everything! If someone says "no worries" to me, it's a gift, a lift, a short free pass.

There are dozens of memes playing off the irony of saying "no worries" in this time of so much anxiety and worry. I like them all.

And list or no list, worries or no worries, I'm going to keep that one particular phrase in my lexicon. "Circle back" and "deep dive," however? Yeah, I've got no defense for you. You can stay in 2021, no worries.