We all have them…words and phrases that get on our last nerve…that cause us to react like fingernails on a chalkboard or like we just got a blast up our nostrils of goat shit from a barnyard on a hot day. This is a list of the 10 words and phrases that I most love to hate. Some are unique to my job in the travel industry, some go back to my days in the federal government, and some are ubiquitous. Enjoy this cringe-worthy list of mine, and feel free to share yours with me. I bet we have some in common!
“Literally” – this word tops everybody’s list because it is literally the most annoyingly misused and overused word in the American English language today.
“Bespoke” – I have a special category of hatred for this word. It is at the same time pretentious and meaningless. As a one-time linguist, albeit many years ago, I understand the etymology of bespoke. I daresay cultural influencers who are now using the word to describe their collection of jewelry, cosmetics, clothing…whatever it is they are trying to use their celebrity influence to sell, don’t have a clue that their very endorsement of a product as bespoke makes it not bespoke. I am quite sure travel agents who describe themselves as providing bespoke travel services don’t realize what they are saying when they use the word either.
“Curated” – I don’t hate the word; I just dislike it. It is another participle adjective like bespoke and with similar etymology that has become misused in general, and in particular by the travel industry.
“So.” or “So,” or “So…” — It has become common practice to use this word with a flat affect as a grace note to start a sentence. When used in that way it becomes a throw away word that doesn’t add to comprehension. It’s just a waste of breath.
“Really?” – Spoken as a question but intended to convey incredulity or disbelief, the degree of which is conveyed by changes in accent point, the duration of the long “e” sound, and variations in the speaker’s pitch. Actor Jim Carrey provides an extreme caricature of this in his role as Ace Ventura, and it has become a popular meme.
“Just shoot me” – A phrase, not intended to be taken literally, that conveys an overly dramatic sense of frustration. Also conveyed as “Shoot me now.” Nobody means it and the shock value is lost after the fourth or fifth crisis that prompts such a response…because anybody who uses it does so often…with each crisis as often as not being inconsequential in the grand scheme of human suffering.
“Welcome to my world” Some people substitute “my world” with “my life,” or “my hell.” I dislike its use because it is expressly dismissive. It shuts down any possibility of empathy or validation, which is often all the speaker is seeking.
“Been there, done that” This one gets to me because it is trite and ambiguous. Some people use it interchangeably with “welcome to my world” as unsympathetic and dismissive. Others use it to extend empathy, conveying to the other person that they understand because they’ve been in a similar situation or circumstance, and for that reason they are someone you can confide in without risk of being belittled. But usually it is meant to be dismissive.
“Right?” – When I worked for the government, I noticed senior executives using the word “right” when addressing a group of subordinates in a talk or speech. It started as a way for the speaker to check-in with the audience and draw them into the topic, though actual audience participation was never welcome. It was also used as a way to break up the flow of meaningful words and make it seem like something really profound was being uttered when it was all just drivel. Right? Now I hear it more often in a person-to-person exchange where the person doing the listening uses it as an interjection to convey empathetic agreement with what the speaker is saying, often when both know the speaker is engaging in hyperbole. In this latter usage the phrase “I know, right?” can be substituted.
“Here’s the thing” A way of expressing that what has been said up to that point was background, context, or introductory material and the main point is finally about to be made. I would prefer the phrase be skipped along with everything that precedes it and that the speaker get right to “the thing.” You can fill me in on the background and context after you’ve gotten to the point. Of all the words and phrases on my list of most despised, this is one that I use most often, usually in my writing. But here’s the thing…I just can’t help myself.
And a bonus…
“Gamechanger” — Janet shared a link to our Tidewater Facebook page earlier today. It came from a supplier and it used the word “gamechanger” to describe a cruise ship. First of all, it is two words… “game” and “changer.” And B, though even Webster’s has allowed the modern misuse of the phrase to creep into their definition, that doesn’t make it right. Justin Tucker’s field goal in overtime that allowed the Ravens’ to beat the Vikings’ in Sunday’s football game was a game changer. A cruise ship? I don’t even know what that game is.