Lake Superior State University has done the nation a favor again and issued its annual list of banished phrases. Is it possible to use them in one paragraph? Let's try.

"Wait, what? Asking for a friend. No worries, though. At the end of the day, let's take a deep dive into the new normal and circle back on the supply chain. That being said, though, you're on mute."

I'd be happy if I never heard any of those again, but banishment seems a bit much. It is possible that you may, indeed, be muted on a Zoom call; what should the person on the other end do? Open his mouth and point to his face? It would be like flashing your headlights at someone who hasn't turned their lights on, I suppose, but you'd look like a gassy frog.

Bah to "New Normal," though. As a dedicated fan of Old Normal — or Classic Normal, as it's known to some — I never hear the phrase without learning of some loss or diminution. I guess no one will ever shake hands again; it's the New Normal! Looks like we'll never visit a restaurant without shoving corks up our nose; New Normal! Hoo boy, looks like czarist tyranny has been replaced by unaccountable Bolshevism; New Normal!

To be fair, I hear that last one less and less these days. But we're expected to be happy about a New Normal. Let that sink in.

By the way, the banned phrases list does not include "let that sink in." Let that sink in.

You hear that one a lot on social media, when someone relates some anecdote or fact that supposedly reveals additional perfidy as you contemplate it, as if a politician's ill-considered remark is the equivalent of someone's firm buttocks settling into a cushion of medium density. There is only one acceptable usage for "let that sink in," and that's when you're telling a housemate to admit the deliveryman with the bathroom vanity.

To be perfectly honest (banned in 1992), I don't mind "at the end of the day." There's quite a difference between someone saying "you will be beaten with an iron rod," and "at the end of the day, you will be beaten with an iron rod," because the latter gives me time to run away. Or hide the rod.

Most people use it to mean "all things considered." "At the end of the day, flan is just custard." Or, "At the end of the day, 'All Things Considered' is one of many news radio shows." It's possible the NPR show could change its name to "At the End of the Day," except it comes on at 5, and many people would promptly go to bed when it's done.

Which also raises the question of when the day ends. Sunset? Midnight? "At the end of the day, despite our best efforts, solar energy presents problems in supplying the necessary electricity." Yes, because it's dark.

The list has no authority or enforcement power, and it has an abysmal record of actually banning anything. In 1983, it supposedly banned "awesome," and 39 years later baristas say the word when you ask for a cup of coffee. No, it is not awesome; you are not trembling with amazement and trepidation, beholding the terribly strange beauty of my caffeine request. The list banished "virtual reality" and "absolutely" in 1996, and I absolutely got a VR headset for Christmas.

It's awesome. You feel like you're really there, in the ocean. I jumped off a cliff in VR and took a deep dive into the edge of my desk.

I mean, literally. (Banned in 2020.)

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks