Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Most irritating words, phrases, and expressions of the decade

They Might Be Giants and their list of meaningless phrases.

Word up.

Yeah, that one can go too.

Now that we're entering a new decade, I'd like to lead the charge in eliminating the following list of irritating words, phrases, and expressions from the vocabulary.

Please let me know if I've missed any, and yeah, feel feel free to mock me by including "iPhone," "Kindle," "blog," "new media," "New York Times," and "tweet" in your nominations.

That said...oh yeah, that one's banned too.

1. "Unique"

The lazy copywriter loves "unique," because it eliminates the need to say what, specifically, is unique or special about something.

Ask an ad copywriter who's used the word "unique" the question, "What is actually unique about this product?" and the answer is almost always, "Nothing, so I used the word unique."

As John Candy says in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles:

2. "That said/that being said"

Larry David blew the lid off of this one in the most-recent season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Here's how it works: You say something, like "Larsen sure is a genius!" And follow it with, "That being said, he's a real jerk."

The phrase has no function in the English language other than to take back what you've just said. Why not just cut to the chase and just call me a jerk in the first place? That being said, don't.

3. "Think outside the box"

Although this one has been widely ridiculed since Michael Douglas said it in the movie Traffic, it's a stubborn one that's having trouble going away; I probably heard it uttered 20 or more times this year alone, and not ironically.

To truly show that you think outside the box, please prove it by coming up with another way to say "think outside the box." Any suggestions?

4. "24/7"

I remember the first time I heard this little number; I was having lunch with one of my friends, and out the blue, she blurted out, "I heard you've been working 24/7."

I instantly got what it meant and hated it with a passion. Over the course of the lunch, she said it another 30 or 40 times, and it was then that I knew I'd be hearing it a lot in the months ahead from lots of other people, 24/7.

5. "LOL"

The old joke is that "LOL should be replaced with LYHMSF: "leave your house and make some friends." I agree; yet a quick Twitter search of "LOL" shows that it's been used a zillion times in the last day alone, most recently 10 seconds ago.

Please, everyone, stop laughing out loud when you're in front of your computer and, if you are, just keep it between you and your God.

6. "Make no mistake"

Make no mistake: we're going to catch those scumbag terrorists!

Introduced by George W. Bush, and also used liberally by Barack Obama, it means, "I really believe what I'm saying!" If we always believe what we're saying and don't lie, we never need to say, "Make no mistake."

"Make a mistake: we're going to catch bin Laden" is much more accurate anyway.

7. "Random"

Actual quote from an ex-girlfriend: "We were walking down this random beach and met these random guys, and it was really random because they worked at this random restaurant where we used to randomly hang out with random friends, and..."

Use of this word makes it especially hard to teach "random sampling" when we discuss research in public relations class, so I hereby offer up the alternatives: arbitrary, miscellaneous, chance, or - my favorite - slapdash!

8. "It is what it is"

Perhaps what bugs me the most about this terrible phrase, other than that it adds absolutely nothing to any conversation, is that it's really just a thin translation of the old Popeye catchphrase, "I yam what I yam," and implies that the person who says it is completely helpless to do anything about the situation in question:

Mom: "You got an F on your report card!"

Child: "It is what it is."

Uh, no, actually, in this case, it is what it isn't.

9. "My bad"

The most flippant apology out there, insidious for allowing someone to apologize without actually apologizing.

By implying that there's a range of suspects, the person who says, "My bad," inevitably acts like he or she doing the honorable thing by "clearing up the confusion."

"George Washington, did you cut down this cherry tree?"

"My bad."

Doesn't quite have the conviction of "I cannot tell a lie - it was I!"


This word has been out there for a long, long time.

A variation of scumbag, it's only been in the past year that I've noticed people falling over with laughter at its very utterance, even when it's not being used in a funny story or context. What gives?

There are very few words that are funny in and of themselves, except for maybe "jaws of life" and "panties."

So, don't laugh just because someone says douchebag - make them earn your laughter by using it as punctuation to a story that's already hilarious. Plus, everyone knows that "mofo" is much funnier.

11. "Two thousand and..."

Welcome to twenty-ten, baby!


  1. I HATE "LOL" WITH A PASSION!!! (I hate it enough to write it in all caps; and I hate writing in all caps...)

    I think "LOL" is lame, and it's the thing people type when they have nothing left to say. (Who told me that!??! -- I can't remember, but I thought they were brilliant!)

    I also can't stand most text/twitter acronyms. (I like "BFF" for some reason though; I think it's hilarious in a sarcastic/patronizing kinda way...)

    I also hate any and all bathroom talk. -- I don't want to know any of it ever from anyone...


  2. All so true Kenton!

    Please also add OMG to the list, not the "oh my god" acronym (although that is annoying too) but the use of 'OH EM GEE' ..I truly do not understand the point in making the shortform long ?!?!

    If you watch the Bring it On sequels on Muchmusic (like I got stuck doing for the entire holiday break because of a neverending flu) you'll find even more to add to this list

  3. Make no mistake that the 24/7 usage of LOL & OMG by randomly unique people qualifies them as certifiable douchebags, who are unable to think outside the box- grammatically speaking. That being said, it is what it is in the two thousands and I apologize for even bringing it up. My bad!

    On a more serious note, I need to stop using "Oh, Snap!" and BFF, though my usage of these pop culturisms is purely for satirical and sarcastic purposes.

    A phrase I've grown soooo weary of in the last six months is "fashion forward". I work with a guy who only has six adjectives in his vocabulary to describe clothing concepts. I've heard him use "traditional" as both a negative and a positive in the same sale. It's awesome! But I digress...

  4. I use a few of those without a second thought. When it comes to "word up", I regularly utilize it in the form of "word 'em up", just to let folks know that whatever I said previously or whatever's about to go down is genuine article.

    The first time I heard "24/7" on Headline News, I died a little, but it'll never be passé for me. However, I do switch it up every once in a while and quote a Naughty by Nature album track instead ("Everyday All Day"). Style, baby.

    "My bad" depends on the severity of the offense, in my opinion. Of course, I'd never use it if I accidentally severed someone's arm. I've found that "my bad" snuffs out the tiniest of faux pas; it's confessional shorthand.

    "It is what is" can end a conversation you didn't want to have in the first place, because you obviously don't care. You can't tell me that isn't useful!

    To sum it up, I figure it all comes down to how you use 'em. Remove any irony before they leave your mouth.

    The rest of those phrases, however, can go to hell.

  5. "Cut to the chase", who are you, Joe Hollywood? - Jerry Seinfeld, (The Pez Dispenser, 1992)

    I always laugh when I hear this turn of phrase. I try to work it in wherever I can - I'm glad you found a way. What I don't love is "turn of phrase".

  6. Don't think outside the box...break through the socially acceptable barriers that have previously governed actions and ideas.

    It just rolls right off the tongue!


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