Can We Talk? A brief list of annoying expressions and verbal fumbles common today.

100213We all have certain phrases that annoy us. There are also oddities that creep into the language that can use comment or correction. To that end, I propose a short list of ten annoying words and expressions. Sometimes words are misused, sometimes expressions exist that come to irritate.

Please accept this list in the humorous vein it is intended. I am playing the role of an irritated curmudgeon, but its just the shtick. Have some fun with me as I complain and add to my list.

So, can we talk? He’s my list of annoyances.

1. “With all due respect….” What this phrase usually means, is that the recipient isn’t going to get any respect. When you open an e-mail and it begins, “With all due respect Mr Jones..…’ Don’t you just wince and know that this message is going to be really bad? In a way, the expression is a form of lip service, as if to say,  “I want to dispense with the silly tradition of having to accord some modicum of respect to you, given your title or position, and get on to what was really on my mind, namely, that you’re all wrong, and probably clueless as well. And of course, be assured  I say this with all due respect…” 🙂

2. Decimate – Most people use this word today as meaning, “to utterly destroy.”  So one might say, “Our culture has really been decimated by no-fault divorce.” But decimate does not mean “to utterly destroy.” Decimate means to reduce something by a tenth (Deci = ten). The word comes from the Roman practice wherein, after conquering a town that was guilty of some sort of uprising or rebellion, the Romans would line up all the men of that town in the public square, and kill every tenth man. In effect, the message was, “You mess with the Romans and this is what you get. It’ll be worse next time… Alas, trying to recover the original meaning of this word may be a lost cause at this point. The word may be destined to go the way of other Latin-based words such as “manufacture” which means literally in Latin “hand-made” (manu = hand, facere = to make). But now it means just the opposite. Other English based words have also reversed meanings, so that we drive in parkways and park on driveways. But, for the record, “decimate” does NOT mean totally destroy, it means to reduce something by a tenth.

3. Service –  There is a tendency, especially from government officials, to take the noun “service,” and turn it into a verb. And so it is common to hear someone say, “We service our clients.”  or,  “We serviced 50 people last month.” No! People are served, not serviced. Perhaps you may speak of  a car as being serviced, but people are served. It’s hard to know where this manner speaking came from, but I sadly suspect it crept in from the world of prostitution, where prostitutes often speak of “servicing” their “Johns” (i.e. clients). But for the record, we do not “service” people, we serve them, people are not “serviced” they are served.

4. Not unlike –  This strange expression, in a way, cancels itself out as a double negative. For example, someone may say, “This car is not unlike that car.”  Trying to figure out exactly what the sentence means may very well make your head explode. In fact, it strains the meaning of the word “sentence”  which refers to a string of words which makes sense.  Perhaps, in the sentence above, the person means to say this car is not like that car? Or maybe they mean just the opposite, since not + un means “is” doesn’t it?  (negative + negative = positive).  Then perhaps the sentence means this car is like that car? Like I say, it can make your head explode. To try to avoid making heads explode by not using the expression,  “not unlike.”

5. Proactive –  Another strange word that has crept into our vocabulary. How is “proactive” so different than active? One might argue that there’s a temporal dimension here. Hence one who is “proactive” is one who is actually ahead of his time. But usually we use the prefix “pre” in temporal references, as in “preemptive” or “prediction.” To be honest, in the sentence, “He is a proactive person” I’m not exactly sure what is really meant here. I think the speaker intends to indicate something positive, such that the person is sort of “ahead of the curve” or something. But honestly is just not all that clear what the word “proactive” means,  at least to me. But, maybe I’m just being reactive.

6. Utilize – Why not just say “use”? This oddity is  beginning to diminish, and none too soon. I live for the day when we no longer use “utilize.”

7. Intellectually dishonest  – how is being “intellectually dishonest,” different from being just plain dishonest? Is not honesty or dishonesty always rooted in the intellect and manifest in speech? If there are some other types of dishonesty,  such as say emotional dishonesty, or physical dishonesty, or verbal dishonesty,  I have never heard such qualifiers attached. So if someone says,  “You are being intellectually dishonest”, it seems to me that is just a highfalutin way of saying you’re being dishonest.

8. Dialog – Why not just say “discuss” or “discussion?” Thus when someone says, “I’m having a dialogue with someone”, why not just say,  I’m having a discussion with someone” ?? An even more egregious form of abusing this word is to turn dialogue into a verb; so someone might say, “We are dialoguing about this problem.” But why not just say, “We are discussing this problem?”  Turning nouns into verbs or verbal forms generally produces strange results. To quote a classic line from Calvin and Hobbes, “Your verbing is weirding  me out. So, let’s talk, let’s have a discussion,  but let’s limit the use of the word dialogue, and certainly avoid the strange construction dialoguing.

9. Using “so” as an interjection –  This tendency is especially manifest in academic settings. It tends to be placed at the beginning of the answer to a question. And thus a question may be asked at an academic seminar such as, “What does the data show in relation to this problem?”  And the scientist responds, “So… The data seems to say that things are going to get worse.” Interjections are sometimes used as delaying tactics as a person formulates an answer. But in this case, I’m suspicious that it tends to come more from the more from the relativistic climate of academic settings. And thus the interjection “So…” expressed gently and slowly, makes the person seem thoughtful and somehow not arrogantly certain of what they are about to say.   So… I don’t want to come off is too nasty, but would you please stop saying “so” all the time?

10. “Are you suggesting…? ” This is a common expression that prefaces a question usually by members of the main-stream media. Thus a member of the media may ask someone such as me, “Are you suggesting that people who don’t follow the teachings of the Church are in error?  There’s a part of me that wants to answer,  “I am not suggesting anything,  I’m saying it outright!” But here too the phrase seems to serve a relativist climate where people “suggest” rather than say, or claim. But let me be clear, as one NOT influenced by relativism to a large decree, when I am asked a question, I state an answer. I do not suggest an answer, and neither should you, at least when it comes to faith or morals.  Do not suggest the faith, Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.

OK, can we talk?? Here’s my short list of annoying lexicon. What do you want to add?

187 Replies to “Can We Talk? A brief list of annoying expressions and verbal fumbles common today.”

  1. So, Monsignor, with all due respect are you suggesting that we service one another by becoming pro-active and utilize your blog in order to dialogue with one another ?
    Ok, I’ll take part … It really annoys me during Advent when people ask : “So, have you got your Christmas shopping done ? or ” So, are you ready for Christmas ?”
    And also the current “YADA YADA YADA”

      1. Oh, “just sayin…” is the worst! It’s usually in defense of pointing out something unkind but obvious.

  2. “Just out of curiosity,” are you prepared for hundreds of replies?

    (Why else would you be asking, to sell the information to the Russians?)

  3. I agree with many of your ten points…but not sure how the video mocking ‘hedge of protection’ fits. That phrase has its roots in Job and reflects accurately the practice of planting hedges to protect farm animals from wild beasts.

    1. A sense of humor is a terrible thing to lose. I use the phrase from time to time and am aware of its biblical roots and of agrarian practices of the ancient near East but the phrase has become a bit hackneyed over the years, a bit too formulaic. Laugh a little more my friend. The capacity to laugh at ourselves is a sign of humility.

      1. Well, as I said, I don’t see how it fits with your ten points – that’s all. I agree with you that the phrase is hackneyed.

      2. I’ll ‘hedge’ my bet on that one that this idea of the ‘hedge’ is the idea behind another well-used word, but I can’t remember what it is. It’s just ‘there’ now, and I’ll be trying to remember for hours. It means when you are in protection from something, someone.

  4. I believe a lot of these came from government speak where a preference also can be found for “suggestions” in passive voice by facilitators! Ahhh! I’ve said “No” to some of those suggestions and gotten in a lot of trouble. Btw, it took me a long time to teach my husband, a career government employee to write a declarative sentence in active voice.

  5. I admit this is really nitpicky, but folks who preface everything with “just a quick question” or “just a quick point.” You’re actually making things less quick by adding that interjection – and half the time the question isn’t all that quick.

  6. I think people use “intellectually dishonest” rather than simply “dishonest” in some contexts because dishonest implies lying – willful falsification or withholding of truth. But by intellectually dishonest, I think they mean that more of a muddled kind of thinking where one is not willfully trying to distort but ends up doing so regardless because one is unwilling to admit the consequences of convictions. It is more of an internal battle first between one’s will and intellect – that is where the intellectual dishonesty originates, and it spreads confusion outward after that.

    1. Interesting. That is not obvious to me, but it makes sense. I wonder if it would be clearer to say, “You’re not being honest with yourself.” What you say makes sense, but I am not sure that many who use this expression have this understanding of the phrase and use it when it does not apply in the way you describe. Thanks

    2. I agree with this. I friend of mine was wrestling with joining the Church. She believed everything the Church teaches but was reluctant to leave the the protestant church she and her mom have attended for years. While speaking with an Orthodox friend about the situation, she was told that she needed to do something as staying where she was was intellectually dishonest. Unfortunately, several years later, she has still not done anything.

    3. “more of a muddled kind of thinking where one is not willfully trying to distort ” I strongly suspect that they do mean to distort in the muddled kind of thinking but, are hiding it in service to their chosen ruler who is the master of deceit.

  7. “To tell you the truth, …” has always bugged me. Are you lying to me otherwise???

  8. “That being said”,,,,”at the end of the day”….”they threw him under the bus.” : ))

  9. Sort of like catch phrases, I think many people say a lot of these phrases more out of learned habit than thinking about the meaning (so much) or how it relates… just saying!

  10. So…with all due respect, are you suggesting that decimation was utilized by the Romans against conquered peoples?

    I think it is intellectually dishonest of you to suggest that “decimation” was a practice that the Romans utilized against conquered peoples. The Romans utilized decimation as a proactive way of servicing their own troops with discipline. If, for example, a Roman legion fled during battle, the commander would utilize decimation rather than dialogue in servicing his troops with discipline. Marcus Crassus serviced his own troops with decimation during Spartacus’ slave rebellion in the first century B.C. Use of decimation was not unlike the use of other [albeit less severe] forms of discipline serviced on groups who are under-serviced with discipline.

    So, I would suggest that we enter into a proactive dialogue about the serviceable meaning of decimation.

  11. I’m happy that ‘at the end of the day’ is not used as often. ‘Calculus’ is the new buzz word. Similar to beginning with ‘so,’ it bugs me when spokespersons on tv say, “I am Joe Smith and …” I thought ‘and’ was supposed to connect two phrases. How can someone’s name be considered a phrase? Seems picky but it really bugs me. 🙂

  12. To balance out your double negative example, Msgr, here’s a double positive made famous by Sarah Palin –

    “And also.”

    It would make me cringe everytime I heard her say it.

  13. “Serve” vs. “service” strikes a chord with me. Back when retailers delivered things like milk door-to-door, my father — God rest his soul — drove a bread truck and “served” (his expression) over a hundred customers a day. He grew up on a farm, so if it had been suggested to him — which it wouldn’t in those days — that he “serviced” those customers, his response might have been fairly tart.

    Today I am a consultant who has resolved, as a result of reading this column, to stop saying that I “service” clients. Sorry, Dad.

  14. “Yes, but…” – Do you think I’m not smart enough to know that what you really mean is “no.” Or are you just shining me on? Either way, it irritates me!

  15. How about my favorite (and I suspect many others): “Can I ask you a question?” When did asking a question become a matter of etiquette? Certain questions naturally require care in their asking, but most don’t; and generally not the ones prefaced with this question. My (obnoxious) reply is usually “You already have”, and I await the day when someone asks me “Can I ask you two question?” so I can reply “Sure, what’s the second?”

  16. I was specifically looking for you to talk about the obscene overuse of the term “like”. I am so sick of people saying, “And I was like… and she was like… and we were like…” Seems we’ve forgotten that the mind should not be on autopilot when holding a conversation.

  17. Mary, I shudder whenever I hear “At the end of the day . . .”. Why not say ‘ultimately’ instead?

    And why not ‘nevertheless’ instead of ‘that said’, ‘that being said’, or (gasp) ‘that having been said’?

  18. This is commonly used by politicians; but more by the President:

    “let me be clear”

  19. The one phrase that is common today that annoys me is, “It is what it is.” Of course it is what it is, otherwise ‘it’ would be something different! I want to scream every time I hear someone use it.

    Thanks! I feel better now.


    PS: I enjoy “picking nits.”

  20. I’d agree with some of these, but certainly not all of them. For example, the phrase “not unlike” is one which it seems to me is fairly widely understood as a manner of speech. It is a way of suggesting that one thing is similar to another, but general in only some limited sense. The double negative is entirely intentional in this phrase. Essentially, people use it when they want to note similarities between two things but feel that positive phrases of comparison, such as “thing A is like thing B,” or “thing A is similar to thing B,” draw too strong a connection.”

    The other consideration here is that in the end, whether this phrase or any other makes perfect sense or not isn’t really particularly important. Expressions, manners of speech, and even everyday words develop over time to become established parts of a language. One could list far more egregious examples of technically nonsensical expressions which nobody would really have any problem with because they’re firmly established as a part of our language. Saying, “I could care less” when what you really mean is that you in fact do not care comes to mind. So does saying “its quarter of 12” to indicate that it is 11:45.

  21. The use of the word “feel” when the word “think” should be used. Examples: ” I feel that painting the dining room red is a bad idea” — or “I feel that the “publicrat” party speaks about taxes too often

    1. Right. No one “feels” propositions in indirect discourse; People feel anger, sadness, pain, pleasure.

  22. Once upon a time “interface” crept in, pushing out “meeting”. However, it very quickly petered out. I wish some of those others would follow suit.

  23. Phrases that bug me:
    In my opinion … better to say: I think
    I don’t mean to offend you … my kids say this and I know they will say something to offend me. Grrrr.

    I didn’t know the real definition of decimate until now. Really enjoy the history of words and it is fascinating how a word like manufacture can end up meaning the opposite of the original.

    Thanks for this list of pet peeves. I think I shall name my next cat Peeves. 🙂

  24. A phrase quickly moving up my personal list is, “First and foremost…” Well, which it? They both mean the same thing!

  25. What irritates me is sports casters who feel the necessity of putting the subject after the verb. An example would be , ” …amazing third baseman is Brett…” One such example a season is enough but game after game, all season really gets tiresome.


  26. “The reality is. . . “: Please just say either “is” or “isn’t”.

  27. I have two more to add to your list … using “and also” together in a sentence … and the word “like” used frequently in conversation. For example: “I was like so disappointed.” “Those children are like so bad.”

  28. “things of that nature” –you mean, “things like that”? how ’bout “and such” or “their ilk…”? I think they’re trying to sound more formal than intelligent.
    “long story short…” Cut it out already!
    “very unique” –you can’t intensify one-of-a-kind-ness; it’s either unique or it’s not.
    And the worst and most recent/current offense: “hashtag…” as if twitter were the measure of our validation. ACK!

  29. “In all honesty” or my girlfriend’s spin, “I don’t know what you think about it, but Lola I’ll be honest with you…”

    I am also tired of hearing “…and all that” which is a version of yadda yadda yadda. Also I wish people would retire the use of “There you go!”

    I’m guilty of using “That ship has sailed.” Maybe I’ll try to fix that.

  30. “In all honesty” or my girlfriend’s spin, “I don’t know what you think about it, but Lola I’ll be honest with you…”

    I am also tired of hearing “…and all that” which is a version of yadda yadda yadda. Also I wish people would retire the use of “There you go!”

    I’m guilty of using “That ship has sailed.”

    Oh well, “that ship has sailed.” 😉

  31. Don’t get me started! How about using the word ‘issue’ when the word ‘problem’ should be used instead. As in, there’s a problem with my computer. (An issue is a situation where there are differing views as to what action should be taken. If your computer has broken down there’s no issue. It’s broken down, full stop.) And using ‘challenging’ instead of ‘difficult’. ‘Upcoming’ instead of ‘forthcoming’. The vastly overused word ‘iconic’. And something being ‘new and innovative”. Horrible new words are ‘showcasing’ and ‘trending’. However, what is fascinating is how quickly these words (or new meanings of old words) are adopted so quickly by so many people. May I also proffer the suggestion that most, if not all, of these abominations originate from somewhere west of the Atlantic Ocean.

  32. The improperly phrased nebulous comparison. Things may be larger than, darker than, louder than, etc., but thay cannot be different than. You hear this said by generally well educated people. Things are different, one FROM the other.

  33. How about companies that no longer sell products but rather “provide solutions”?

  34. Oh, yeah. I forgot about companies that “right-size” their workforce instead of saying there will be layoffs. These are the same companies that “rationalize” their operations instead of selling unprofitable businesses. More will come – guess I’ve been retired too long.

  35. So it’s not just me who so hates how everyone has gotten into the habit of using the word so so much? So glad to hear it bothers you too! I can’t help but notice that every response to an interviewers question begins with the word ‘So’. It’s just so out of place at the beginning of a sentence. And Msgr., I’m so sorry for using the word so so often in my comment. I wish you would’ve added one more expression to your list: “That’s a good question.” I listen to a lot of Catholic radio and every time someone calls in with a question, the first think I hear is “That’s a good question?” Every time! No exceptions. They may well be good questions, but it’s getting kind of monotonous hearing that.

  36. And perhaps some maven may explain how teachers who profess to teach “critical” thinking differ from the old mission of teachers to teach students to think. Am I being too critical?

  37. I love this post. Here are a few of mine:
    Where the rubber meets the road.
    At this point in time.
    Very unique.
    Price point.
    Supplies are extremely limited.
    Amazing–A couple of years ago, everything was Amazing. Now everything “has changed my life” as in “These catheters changed my life……this shoe has changed my life…..that book changed my life.” These people must’ve really had lousy lives before.
    And I thought servicing meant letting a male horse in with the females for stud service.

  38. “Per se” has become “per say”, apparently meaning “as a manner of speaking”, a transformation that could only come from a culture that doesn’t read. Begging the question now means “leading to the question”, which would happen when one is not taught basic logic. I suppose “it is what it is”.

  39. “At the end of the day,” I find the phrase “the reason why” redundant.

  40. “Moving forward” drives me insane! Every idiot with a mic in their face, whether they have been caught doing something wrong or lost a game or won a game or developed a big business plan uses these two words as if otherwise they will return to yesterday!

  41. I think that “intellectually dishonest” is used when the speaker being described is NOT accused of stealing, or lying directly; rather is being accused of evading a truth.
    What do you think?

  42. Your dialog utilizes the proactive decimation of the intellectually dishonest agenda that is not unlike……..
    Teasing aside, this post seems to reveal the censorship of sensible talk with a lot of confusion.

  43. George Orwell: “One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.”

  44. I have always wondered what the phrase “I categorically deny that” means.

  45. I’m annoyed when community organizing language is used instead of the Church’s own terminology.
    Example: “Welcome to St. Vitus Catholic *Faith Community•!”
    “Will the •assembly• please stand as we greet our •presider• with peals of joyful song!”
    Church, Parish, Congregation and Celebrant are good words. I’d like to hear them more often.

    1. Fine, except that Catholics do not form congregations. That is a decidedly Protestant term with clear anti-Catholic overtones. “Assembly” is the proper terminology. Faith Community, now that’s another problem all together.

  46. These are two that make me laugh because they are so common:

    Irregardless of that. = Regardless of that.
    A whole nother thing. = Another whole thing.

    1. I don’t laugh about those two. “Irregardless” is what someone says when they mean “irrespective” or “regardless” but has forgotten them both and combines them, I think. I’ve been wondering what I’ve been missing all of these years, so now I can ask: What is a “nother”?

      1. hat is a “nother”? Is it a neither….nor? Or a person who becomes a mother through artificial insemination?

  47. Does the phrase “No problem.” in response to “Thank you” come from the Spanish “De nada”?

    1. The Spanish “De nada”, or in French “De rien”, means “It’s nothing”. Saying “De nada” is a reply to the ellaborate “Thank you for your effort”. When saying “No problem” I assume people just simply claim that the effort wasn’t any problem. You’re welcome 😉

  48. Mine is ‘same exact’ When I hear this utterance, I have to grind my teeth. It is used frequently, therefore, I am in danger of losing my teeth.

    1. And I also hate that expression “same exact.” In a world where people are trying to use less and less words to communicate, why exacerbate the problem by adding an unnecessary word…
      And I hate it when people overuse “never.” as in I called him this morning and he never called me back! Never is a long time, 30 minutes is not unless one is in pain!! Irby Vaughn

  49. Pingback:
  50. The newly made up word “conversate”–what was wrong with ‘converse’ or “talk”?

    “Axe”, as in “Can I axe you a question?”. Is ASK that hard to say?

  51. How about ‘I could care less,’ when people generally mean that they could NOT care less than they already do?

  52. I’m getting tired of people saying, “Just sayin'” after they have expressed a strong opinion about something. They aren’t “just sayin’.”

    1. I agree completely! It is as if their strong opinion cannot be challenged because they are “jus’ sayin'”.

  53. Fr., with all due respect… (joke)

    Can we talk vs. may we talk.

    Of course we can (if we are not dumb): can denotes ability

    May we talk/speak/discuss: more polite. Asks for the other’s permission.

      1. How about: “I was like so glad to see him.”???? What is that about?
        also, “basically”, and “seen” for saw! Yikes.

        1. Ever watch “Cops?” on TV? Notice they almost always ask things like where you at? Where we at, and where are they at? They are the biggest offenders of this idiocy…Irby Vaughn

    1. I’m not saying it’s right or it’s wrong; but I wonder if it has a basis in math. 7-6 is not the same as 10,987-10,986, but they have the same difference, 1.

  54. I get annoyed at the statement that someone “gets it” or “doesn’t get it”. It makes the speaker sound so superior and in the know, but nobody is ever challenged to specify what exactly “it” is, and of course if one were to do so, then it’s a sure sign one obviously doesn’t “get it”.

    I also mildly object to people who say “perfect” all the time, even for just everyday mundane things. I know it’s just hyperbole, but there are very few things that are truly “perfect”.

  55. Beginning an answer with “so” also bothers me, but not for the reason you give. It sounds to me like the one answering is not acknowledging the question or the one asking it, as if the question merely represented a pause in a monologue. But when “well” is used in the same place it sounds more like a conversation. Does anyone else notice this?
    And how about “sort of” as a phrase to soften an assertion? Is there any reason left to open our mouths when we don’t believe what we’re saying?

  56. Hi y’all
    I am absolutely with you all the way, Fr Charles, on every single one of your 10 ‘irritations’! But, especially with number 9 – ‘So . .’ – well here’s how it is . . . . Equally irritating is the use of ‘OK . .’ at the beginning of a reply to a question, as is ‘Alright . .’ and ‘Well now . .’ and even ‘Sure . .’ . . . !!
    But if I may, as a stuffy, truly Anglican Brit, go off on a slightly different tangent, one of the things that irritates me most is people – (and I promise I won’t give any of them nationality – but then, ‘you’ know who you are!) – who ask politely, “Can you tell me where the bathroom is?” When clearly they mean, “I urgently need a toilet!”
    I have often been highly amused at the some of the expressions on the faces of French people, in particular, when someone asks them this question. They attempt to be as serious as possible but very often will pretend not to understand a word of English in order to force their questioner to use that dreaded ‘T’ word!
    And imagine the reaction when a foreign tourist of a particular nationality, at a motorway service station, tries very hard to say it in French and just about manages to ask, “Ou est la salle de bain?”, and the Frenchman being asked then replies in perfect English, “I am very sorry, but we don’t have anywhere to bathe in these places!”
    Let’s ALL get real!
    Best wishes from England!!

    1. And as a sideline to that, Ray—most people do not go to the restroom to “rest.” If one was in there and someone knocked on the door, I am sure the response would not be “I am resting!”

  57. Vibrant – as on parish websites speaking of “a vibrant Christian community”. I would love to see the word become unfashionable except when used in its original sense of quivering or pulsating.

  58. The phrase “No problem” which I notice is used by mostly younger people in sales when you purchase something and say, “Thank you” to them and you get a “No problem” for an answer. It would be nicer to hear, “Thanks for shopping with us”. To me “No problem” means that waiting on you was a burden.

    1. Possibly the phrase “No problem!” comes from the Spanish “De nada!”, which is a reply to “Gracias!”

  59. The use of the word “on” drives me crazy when used in the following way”
    He beat up ON me.
    Don’t hate ON me?
    Started in the ghetto, this use of “on” has now gong mainstream.

  60. While you are “having fun” Msgr. Pope, please keep in mind some of us out here have not been educated very well. (I fully admit this)

    I was schooled in the 70s… when education was “dumbed down”. Shoot, we didn’t even have to take Algebra. We only had to take one year of English. (I come from and live in a very rural farming community)

    I hated school for many reasons (the stress of studying and tests, peer pressure, etc. etc). All I wanted to do was get out of there and get a job. So many I know pine for “those good ol’ days”. Not me.

    College? Are you kidding? I went to a two-year tech school for electronics. I hated that, too.

    So (interjection?), with all due respect Msgr. of your “humorous vein” – please understand many of us do not know how to properly use “expressions” and have many “verbal fumbles common today” simply because we don’t know any better.

    God love you (your blog is great!),
    Catechist Kev

    1. English or language doesn’t seem to be taught much anymore. When I asked my youngest son’s teacher why his spelling wasn’t corrected on an essay, she said she didn’t want to crush his creativity. Seriously, more like she didn’t want to bother.

  61. “Thank you so much..” is replacing a simple thank you. What does the “so much” refer to?

      1. Thank you so much means more than a simple thank you. For example if my husband opens the car door for me I would say “thank you” but if I was on the side of the road struggling to change my car tyre and someone came to my rescue and changed it for me, I would say “thank you so much”. It just means I am really, really thankful.

  62. “Gone missing” –what the heck does this mean? I went missing. It’s usually used by the media when someone is abducted. Why not just say the person is missing or has been abducted?

    1. This is also one that makes me wonder where it came from. If you’re missing, you’re gone.

  63. 11. “It begs the question.” We hear this one all the time these days. I take its use as a sign that the person who’s using it has no clear understanding of either language or logic. “Begging the Question” DOES NOT MEAN “asking the question,” or “raising the question.” It’s an informal error in Logic, petitio principii. It means “assuming to be true the very thing that we need to prove to be true.” Incorrect use of the expression: “Mr. Obama’s willingness to negotiate begs the question of how sincerely the Republicans will cooperate with him to end the government shutdown.” Correct use: “Mr. Obama’s willingness to negotiate begs the question of his sincerity, thus it assumes that the Republicans ought to cooperate with him to end the government shutdown.” See the difference?

  64. Mgsr.,,, with all due respect, I read your blog feel you have decimated the everyday modern Americans’ ( and Canadians’ ) use of the english language. Language is not static, but organic and continually growing, changing, servicing the people who use it daily. Your petty complaints are not unlike those oppressive school teachers of old , insisting on commas semi-colons and periods in our essays. I am being pro-active here, pointing our that perhaps you are being intellectually dishonest, have you never used these , …ever? So, I end my dialogue, wondering, are you suggesting we actually stop offending or if really deep down inside you feel a tad superior when you see these egegious errors and actually enjoy them? 😉

    1. While it is true that language is continually growing, shouldn’t a form of communication grow toward clarity so that it communicates, instead of creating the confusion which is so well indicated here?
      If all growth is automatically valid then, is the random growth of cancerous tissue also valid? The recent changes, and growth, in language lead me to feel an apt anology in cancerous tissue and that; those who adress the anologous state, as being flawed, are not feeling a tad superior.

  65. I am becoming very weary of “I’m sorry but…” before the speaker launches into a criticism or disagreement. This is along the lines of “with all due respect…”.

  66. The term that makes me want to choke the speaker is the improper use of the word “whenever”.

    Correct: The roof leaks whenever it rains.

    Incorrect: I started wearing rain boots whenever we moved to Oregon.

    The word would be “WHEN”, not whenever!! This seems to be endemic in the under-30 crowd!!

  67. Every time anyone says “utilize,” I always correct him and insist that he say “use” instead.

    And here’s a giant one: using plural pronouns to refer back to a nonspecific singular term. This is always done to be gender nonspecific. For example, in the first sentence here, I used “he” to refer back to “anyone” because “anyone” (any + ONE) is singular. Never use “they”: it is a number confusion and grammatically wrong. Also, “he or she” is cumbersome and slows down the reader. Just say “he” and have done with it. Also do not exclusively use “she,” which is typically a subtle tactic of feminist misandry.

  68. One phrase that has driven me CRAZY over the years started out as “Yeah, I know, right?”. It then morphed to “I know, right?”. It has now become simply “Right?”.

    Example: Bill says, “That was a great football game last night!”
    Sally answers, “right?”.


    1. Mike,

      I agree. “I know, right?” or “right?” is the most annoying expression of all time! It just keeps getting more and more common. I have no idea why something SO STUPID that makes NO SENSE could catch on like this!

      If I say something, and someone else agrees with me, why would that person say “RIGHT?” as a question???? That’s like the person is asking me if I agree with my statement from two seconds ago.

      1. Yeah, they say they already know and ask if it’s right>< it now abbreviated as IKR…Irby Vaughn

    2. Shoot! I wanted this one! one tells another someone something and they say I know, right. let’s break this down! “I know” means you are telling them you already know what they told and “right” asking them if it is right? right?
      And I must get this one in. I get nauseatic when I hear it——“like.” all ages offend me by saying this..ok, sometimes I make up words to fit a sentence..It is apparently a new form of a nonexistent comma, or pause/break word! I, like, will stop like boring you now and like go on to some like other people. And I think grammar checker should like begin deleting this word if used more than like 2 times in a sentence!

  69. Here’s something I hear a lot in Wisconsin: Would you like to have more (of something) “at all”? How do you answer something like that???

    1. It’s actually an initialism–an acronym is an initialism that can be pronounced as a word. An abbreviation is a shortening of a word: the abbreviation of ‘street’ is ‘st.”

  70. if I ask someone for help on something practical and they reply “I shall pray about it” I know I shall never get what was asked.

    Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

  71. I agree about “utilize” — hate it!
    But the all-time worst expression ever, which is unfortunately quite common, is “very unique.” Arrrgh!

    1. I often see “Very unique” used as a derogatory euphemism. For instance, “He is a very unique individual…” ; the speaker implying the opposite, of course.

  72. Someone needs to show this to Jimmy Akin and some of the other super stars of Catholic online blabbering. These guys start sentences with the word “So” like it’s going out of style. But wait, maybe they want to keep using it as much as they can because they know it’s going out of style? And then the question becomes: how does one know when it’s actually out of style? Sigh. This stuff is hard!

  73. “Five times more” instead of the correct “five times as much” or “five times as many”. The same people don’t say “twice more”. Even worse is “three times less” when they mean “a third as much”.

    And (I’m sorry to say this is an American affliction which has crossed the Atlantic) don’t people realize that lay/laid/laid is a transitive verb, the intransitive form being lie/lay/lain? A foreigner would be taught this distinction in his first year of learning English.

  74. “I appologise to those I offended.” Why not take real responsibilty myself for what I said or did

  75. Just so you know … without further ado … it is what it is … I’ve been giving this more thought … let me be clear … between you and I … the upshot is … make no mistake … I hear you … you follow me?

    1. I don’t really know where to put this, so I’ll put it here!
      Why is it that people do not know what the phrase “do you mind?” means? At least six times last night on Television , I heard someone ask someone else “do you mind if I—–?” And they answered “sure, go ahead!”: If you mind if they do it, why do you tell them it’s ok to do it? I’ll bet if you asked them “do you mind if I stick this fork in your eye, they would not be so fast with the sure, go ahead response…
      The Grammatically correct phrases would be “Do you mind if I come in?” and the response would be “No, come ahead!”

  76. That Irish poet of late happy memory, Seamus Heaney, began his epochal translation of “Beowulf” not with an archaism like “thus,” but thus:


    In his introduction to the 2001 translation, he explained the choice at length and in a delightful manner. A true master of language, his defense of this single word is erudite, scholarly, personal, subversive, earthy, and practical. He also puts to rest any grammar-school doctrines of how the word is properly used.

    So, the first word of the oldest extant document in the English language is defensibly rendered not as a “connecting word” marking the effect of a cause (as I used it at the beginning of this sentence). Rather, it is used in the manner Msgr. Pope decries, as an interjection.

    And why? Heaney is hardly coining a new usage. As he insightfully explains, in common conversation the word “so” has the effect of a turning of the page, a closing of the prior subject. Whether as an act of assumption, persuasion, or authority, the speaker abruptly changes the subject, turns our mind away from the prior discussion and toward something new, a topic of his own choice or invention. And so the Beowulf poet does with his first word, turning the reader’s mind (and the imagined listeners gathered round the fireplace) to the Christian tale of mystery, adventure, glory, and woe to follow.

    How fitting it is that the Beowulf author, as the earliest English author in English we know, turned the page for us on an age of literature, and brought forth an entirely new category. How fitting Beowulf symbolically if not literally turned an up-and-coming scholar of classics like Tolkien away from Latin and Greek towards something completely new in the world of academia, the study of “modern” languages like Anglo-Saxon.

    The point is not lost or forgotten that professors who use the word “so” as an interjection are certainly annoying. They might certainly be arrogant. But they are not incorrect. Msgr. Pope’s point is a moral one in the guise of a grammatical one: it is not the word they use, or how they use it, but why they use it. Indeed, it is the proper use of the word that reveals the modern professors’ arrogance, for with that drawling interjection, they linguistically dismiss the question and the questioner in favor of the answer and the answerer.

    May a Seamus Heaney, only last month laid to rest, redeem the word and refresh the beleaguered postmodern student. But if my poor justification is found wanting in this matter, I can only turn to an authority Heaney himself admired, a certain professor renowned to generations of Oxford students in his day for his humility and inspiration: Professor Tolkien. He is the professor who, once per semester, threw open the doors of the classroom, strode in, and boomed the lengthy opening sequence of “Beowulf” in the original Anglo-Saxon. He is the professor who silenced every student conversation, drowned out every question, and turned every head toward himself with the bold interjection: “Hwæt!”

    A word that modern authorities render: “So!”

  77. My pet peeve is “I’m excited to dance the tango” or “I’m excited for dancing the tango.”. Nope. I’m excited ABOUT dancing the tango.

  78. I grew up on a dairy farm, where “servicing” the cows was the function of the resident bull. Years later, living in San Francisco, I’d chuckle when a local car dealer’s radio ad finished with “[dealer name] takes great pride in servicing old and new customers alike.” One day an announcer, having read this tagline numerous times, appended this comment: “Not to mention their cars.” He was obviously so pleased with himself that he had difficulty maintaining his composure for several minutes. Apparently this was not heard by anyone connected with the dealer, as he kept his job and they continued to advertise.

  79. Whatever happened to the perfectly good word, “ingenius”?

    I am appalled by the encroachment of a bad replacement–genius–as in:

    “What a genius idea!”

    And as for apostrophes, I do not have the energy or hopeful nature to start on that chaotic mess.

    When I watch old movies from the ’30s to ’60s, characters speak grammatically unless they play the part of someone who would not speak as though they had been educated, but now, my tender ears are assailed daily by TV newsreaders, talking head attorneys and physicians who could be expected to have paid attention in school, but show little evidence of it.

  80. Two expressions bother me. One is “Often times” as in “Often times I go to the movies.” What is wrong with simply “Often”? The other expression is the something is based OFF of something rather than based ON something, as in “His anger was based off his misunderstanding.” I have seen this used by very well-educated people.

  81. Very funny. actually I hate ‘to be honest’: what? everything else you are saying is not honest?

    1. When I went to my optometrist last week, they had m sign a form to allow them to dialate my eyes. there is no such word in the dictionary!~ People use it because it sounds like it should be right, but it isn’t! People there at the clinic make more in a few days than I did in my career, but can’t pronounce or spell a simple word that is part of their business perpetuating the error even more. it should be pronounced die-late, opposite of die early.

  82. Proactive: Look for it on the reference site. The word has a poignant history. If more people were aware of its origins, perhaps they would use it correctly.

  83. With all due respect, I disagree with you on “proactive” and “not unlike.” When I hear that a person is active that puts me in mind of someone who stays busy, usually with physical activity unless something else is specified. Proactive describes someone who doesn’t wait for something to happen, but acts in advance, specifically contrasting with someone who is instead reactive, acting after the event.
    “Not unlike”differs subtly from simply “like.” It means essentially the same thing, but adds a different flavor to a sentence, not unlike two shades of the same color.

    1. As usual “With all due respect means no respect. 😉 Any rate why not just say like, Why not just active or forward looking or active. The Pro is really a misuse of “pre” It’s pre and post not pro and post or its active and inactive not proactive and inactive.

  84. Finally, a web site I can put to use…I am not an English major or anything I am a retired printer technician….and I hate the way people destroy (decimate?) the language these days!! I’s if they walked out of school and immediately forgot all they learned (if anything) about word usage! I used to constantly pick on people at work for their unwitting outbursts of nonsensical phrases. My biggest peeve is of course ” like.” People tend to use it as a verbal pause. All ages use this but mostly younger teens. OMG drives me nuts, too! They don’t realize they are taking the name of the Lord in vain by saying this. I’ve heard this from 8 yrs old and up!!

    And another is “you know what I’m sayin?” I have always wanted to answer back” No, I am really stupid and have no idea what you are talking about!”

    I have many more but I’ll leave you with this one……I know—don’t string out periods to indicate a pause. Most of the time if one ,say, is at the door of a house and is waiting for someone to open, when it is opened, the person outside says “do you mind if I come in? , the person says yes come ahead. (they have just said they do mind if you come in! The word “mind” makes the difference. But no one seems to pay attention..

    I will leave you alone now. I must get to facebook and do some “liking.” Irby Vaughn

  85. There is a difference between “because” and “since” that is often overlooked. “Since” indicates a passage of time and is used (not utilized!) where “because” is appropriate.

  86. ” My bad” This expression is new to my ears and has the effect similar or
    not unlike the sound of squealing chalk.Heretofore I did not realize that I must make an effort to tolerate new usage of language as it evolves or devolves.It seems to be an inevitable situation…I need a hug.My bad? I dunno ; )

  87. How the heck do northeastern children learn to spell when a teacher points to the board at the word car and says this word is Cah? and this word is pok as in the cah. thy put “r’s” where they don’t belong and remove them where needed? Irby Vaughn

    1. That’s the same as South Eastern people in the England (London et al), the large city in the North East is NOT NewCARstle at all and the locals pronounce it by emphasising the second syllable.

  88. I hate the so called word conversate. Also, the phrase “so fun.”
    Are we dumbing down??

  89. One I really am getting sick of these days is “preexisting” as in preexisting condition.

    What does that mean, that a.condition existed before it existed? I can’t see any reason why “existing condition” can’t suffice just as well but I guess some lawyer at some point decided that preexisting sounded more like good leaglese and so now we get to hear that term endlessly.

    1. Pre-existing is taken to mean something that existed before the subject under discussion began. Existing does not define any timescale. How else would you say that? ” a condition who’s existance pre-dates” perhaps.

  90. Those who use “so” at the beginning of their interview answers tend to do so for all their answers. The tactic of starting any and all interview answer with “so” seems more a way to express disdain for the questions. It ties all answers together in a way of perpetuating a diatribe rather than a string of small answers. The interviewee wants to step out of the interviewee role and take charge, to say “I am just telling my long saga, and you are interrupting it with all your petty questions,”

  91. As for “Do you mind if I come in?”, we tend to answer positively when permitting. It isnt consistent, though, as many people say “Not at all.”

    One tactic that drives me to drink is the negative question, such as “Is he not coming with us?” You have to make a definitive answer or it gets confusing: “Yes, he is not coming.”

    Nowadays, most people have dropped the “Yes” and “No” answer, especially women. They only answer in a verb-repeat pattern: “Did you see that movie?” “I did.” “Are you OK?” “I am.” “Does your brother like asparagus?” He doesn’t.” This is like Chinese language, where they generally offer two choices in the question: “Have / haven’t any money?” (Yao / Bu yao qian?) might be answered “Yao.” (Have) or “Can / can’t ride a horse?” (Ke yi/ bu ke yi qi yi pi ma?”) might be answered “Bu ke yi.” (Cannot).

  92. Almost all Americans begin any new topic, especially on first starting a conversation after meeting someone with “so”. “So, did you see that game last night?”

    I think a better term for these is not “annoying expressions, but “buzzwords”, and there are dozens of articles online about that recently. Here is my short list:

    actionable (meaning unclear; perhaps “having the ability to move”) “We provide actionable strategies….”

    apocryphal (original meaning is “highly destructive”, but now used to mean “important”)

    aspirational (means related to something one might aspire to; used most often redundantly as “aspirational goals”)

    at the end of the day (means in summary — used for the same effect as “bottom line”)

    at this juncture (used to mean “now”)

    arguably (not related to a hotly debated topic, but more often simply “possibly” or “believed by some to be”)

    balls in the air (means possible changes)

    bankable (should mean “can be deposited with a bank”, but usually used to mean “valuable”)

    basically (like essentially, just overused)

    basis, as in “on a daily basis” (superfluous; it just means daily)

    bifurcated (should mean “divided into exactly two parts”, but often used to mean “having more than one aspect–and as many as you wish”)

    boots on the ground (people who do the obvious work, such as a work force in a factory, or delivery staff)

    bottom line (should mean the difference between all costs and all revenue in a business, but often used figuratively to mean “in summary”)

    brand (should mean the trademark name of a physical item, but used to mean company name or popularity–“develop the brand”)

    cast a wide net (broad approach to anything– see “target” for converse)

    cognizant of (two dollar word for “know of”)

    compelling (incorrectly used to mean “interesting” — usually referring to a story)

    conditionality (means conditions–one of dozens of “-ality” new formations)

    continuum of accommodation : no idea what it means, but used often by common ‘taters– see

    conventional wisdom (should mean “status quo belief”; typically used to mean any belief, suspicion, or presumption that is widely held)

    counter-intuitive (means against what you might expect)

    culture (has many traditional meanings; new meaning is “corporate environment”)

    demographic (should be an adjective, but as a buzzword, it is a noun: any age group or income group — They are the demographic we need to reach.”)

    disconnect (buzzword when used as a noun to mean failure, incomplete understanding, lack of continuity — truly buzzy since it has so many meanings)

    DNA (used to mean many things, such as “inclination”, “preference”, or “commitment” — “Travel is in my DNA.”)

    down to a science (very old buzz-phrase. to have some process “down to a science” means to have some process “well-under control” or “well-learned”)

    downside (used to mean disadvantage or negative aspect)

    driving (original meaning is “cause to go” as in driving sheep or driving a car. New meaning is “producing an increase in” as “The company’s report is driving profits.”)

    dry powder (original meaning would be dry gun powder– odd, since wet gun powder is useless. New slang meaning is cash or assets easy to liquidate “We should keep some dry powder for acquisitions.”)

    dynamic (as a noun) should be an adjective meaning “active”. As a noun, it means “strategy” or “plan”.

    ecosystem (original meaning is an area in nature that has a particular group of plants and animals; used now to mean “system” or “work arrangement” or simply a company)

    engage (should mean make a reasonably permanent connection, but as a buzzword, to communicate with or to elicit a response from someone; most often used to describe advertising: “Our advertising engages our customers” or just to sound cool: “…we get an opportunity to raise that engagement level.” –actual quite from some guy on Bloomberg TV)

    engaging (meaning “interesting” — usually referring to a personality)

    epiphany: originally, the Catholic church’s festival to remember the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles (some sects consider that to be the birth of Jesus, others consider it to be the visit by the scholars from the East (the magi); now, any revelation, or any awareness of something important.

    essentially (should mean “vitally”, but often used to mean “mostly”)

    factoid (means fact)

    flagship (should mean “single leader at the very top”, but used to mean “important” or “noteworthy”, as in “one of our flagship stores”)

    foreseeable future (The future is never foreseeable.)

    from a _____ perspective…” (means “concerning _____”, as in “From a profit perspective”)

    game changer / game changing (several meanings, such as a change in direction of a business or technology; an advantage; a new concept; anything new)

    going forward (in the future. Example of unnecessary use: “Being overweight in some sectors may not be the best strategy going forward,” as if one can have a strategy for going backward. “What will Google do going forward?” as if one could do something going backward.)

    graphic (used to mean “shocking” and applied to an image or video; real meaning is “of or related to writing”)

    groundbreaking (should mean “activity related to initiating the construction of a new building”. Used to mean “significant”)

    grow (used as a transitive verb meaning “to cause to expand” and typically applied to a business: “He wants to grow his paper route.”)

    iconic (should mean “of or like a religious symbol”, or like a figure to be adored, but typically used to mean “popular” or “well-known”)

    imperative (should mean commanding, but used to mean important)

    in flux (should mean in motion, but used to mean in an uncertain condition)

    in retrospect (used for anything in the past — “In retrospect, he was a good college student.”)

    in terms of ____ (means “regarding _____”)

    infinitely (should mean continuing forever, but used to mean actually: “infinitely solvable”)

    iteration [used to mean versions (noun) — real meaning is repeat (verb) the execution of the same set of instructions a given number of times or until a specified result is obtained: “The solution is obtained by iteration”)

    juncture (used to mean “now”, “moment” or “stage of progress”– real meaning is junction or connection)

    known quantity (used to mean anyone or anything that is well-understood, well-known, or important: “He is a known quantity” — real meaning is literal: any amount of something that is known)

    level playing field (as oddly as “level playing field for getting a loan”)

    long story short (A lazy way to say “a long story made short”. It means, here is my summary.)

    mano a mano (Spanish for “hand to hand” and is thus a pretentious way of saying “hand to hand” — five syllables instead of three–often used incorrectly to mean “face to face”)

    mantra (used to mean simply motto)

    marginalize (overused; should mean leave to the sise, but used to mean disciminate against)

    metrics (for statistics–nothing at all about the metric system)

    monetize = Who knows? Maybe capitalize, maybe liquidate.

    nuances (should mean small details, but used to mean any important things)

    on any level (from any point of view; no matter how it is considered)

    opus (means “work”, but is often misused in place of “magnum opus” meaning “great work”)

    orders of magnitude = a lot, as in “That’s two or three orders of magnitude more than before.”

    organic / organically (used to mean natural / naturally “We can grow our business organically.”)

    ostracize (means banish, but often used to mean “ignore”. Either way, it is overused.)

    out perform (should be a transitive verb, but often used intransitively to mean “perform outstandingly” as “That stock will out perform.”)

    over the course of (overused; should be just “for” as in “over the course of the last few years”)

    over-arching (used to mean “very important”)

    personify (should mean made to be like a person, but used to mean “represent” as in “a flagship store that personifies the brand”)

    perspective (as in “from a profit perspective…”) means “concerning”

    pop (used to mean appear exciting or eye-cathing, as in “His presentation really popped.”

    premised on (based on)

    prescient (means “know before”, but is sometimes attributed to a letter or statement rather than a person, and thus may mean “revealing”)

    qualitative (as a noun)

    quantitative (as a noun)

    raise the bar (increase quality, but often miss-used, such as “I wanted to raise the bar on the options available” said by Jessica Heron of She means “increase the number”, not raise the bar, and thus a blatant grasp for a buzzword.)

    ramp (verb– start or increase “We will ramp a new factory” or “Production is ramping”)

    ramping up (began as slang for “introducing as a new area of business”, but now may also be used to mean “increasing”, as in “profits are ramping up”)

    range (used to mean “narrow range” as “Markets are trading in a range.”)

    red flag (any cause for caution — should be yellow flag used in auto racing to mean “be cautious”. Red flag means “stop everything now”.)

    repurpose (not yet–and I hope never will be–in any reputable dictionary) used to mean used in some new fashion

    resonate with (attract or elicit appreciation “Let’s see what resonates with our customers.”)

    retrospect (used for anything in the past — “In retrospect, he was a good college student.”)

    sea change (should mean a monumental change, but used for any significant change, thus gross hyperbole)

    self-fulfilling prophesy (used to mean “something bad will happen”)

    seminal (means seed-like or having possibilities; typically used incorrectly to mean “significant”)

    sibling (means either brother or sister or both; used when either could be correct, but we don’t know whether brother or sister alone is correct.) This becomes a buzzword when the gender is known. EXAMPLE: “Perry’s agent, Adam Plotkin, told the Chicago Tribune that Perry’s brother, Michael Dean, had received a lot of calls about his sibling’s “death.” “ (from Since the storyrefers tohis brother, it can’t be about his sister.)

    sort of (should mean “somewhat”; typically used as a filler: “Dell is sort of offering a new product” — Cory Johnson, Bloomberg TV)

    street smart (originally meant “learned from living on the streets”; now used for anything learned outside school)

    surreal (original meaning is exaggerated realism; typically used incorrectly to mean “surprising” or “interesting”)

    take (something) to the next level = any improvement or increase

    take-away (used to mean “important point that should be noticed in a longer discourse”; original meaning is food order packaged to take out of a restaurant)

    target (focus on a narrow view or narrow range– see “cast a wide net” for converse)

    terms, as “in terms of ____” (means “regarding _____”)

    through the roof (should mean “raised beyond expectations”, but typically hyperbole for “considerable” or “noteworthy”, as in “brand recognition was through the roof”)

    tipping point (seems to mean “threshold” or “beginning of a period of rapid change”)

    über (German meaning is “over” or “above”; used by Americans to mean ultra, superlative, or just “cool”; from Bloomberg TV: “…the über movie chain” about iMax)

    up the ante (should mean requires more money to enter a game, but used for anything that is more)

    upshot (seems to mean “result”, but is used only in the phrase “the upshot of” something)

    watershed (original meaning: 1 an area of high land that divides rain run-off into two or more directions of flow. 2 an event that marks a change of course for a person or entity; nowadays used as a buzzword for “important”)

    wheelhouse (used to mean “sphere of expertise”)

    win-win (just overused for any situation that isn’t harmful to the main parties involved)

    venue (means a location for an event)

    1. Aspirational targets are not “targets” but targets that intend to stretch and challenge, for example students. I set a target as something I expect them to achieve, whereas an aspirational target is something they might achieve if they stretch themselves, work harder or strive to improve.

      Aspirational target = challenge

      p.s. I agree with Kevin!

      1. Not sure where your definition of apocryphal came from, as I’ve always known it to mean “lies” and couldn’t find any reference to destructive. Maybe you meant deceitful?

        a·poc·ry·phal (-pkr-fl)
        1. Of questionable authorship or authenticity.
        2. Erroneous; fictitious: “Wildly apocryphal rumors about starvation in Petrograd . . . raced through Russia’s trenches” (W. Bruce Lincoln).

        Apocrypha are statements or claims that are of dubious authenticity. The word’s origin is the medieval Latin adjective apocryphus, “secret, or non-canonical”, from the Greek adjective ἀπόκρυφος (apocryphos), “obscure”, from verb ἀποκρύπτειν (apocryptein), “to hide away”.

        1. Language development proceeds to an extent on metaphor, so we can’t be too restrictive. A metaphor is:
          …a rhetorical trope where a comparison is made between two seemingly unrelated subjects. Typically, a first object is described as being a second object. In this way, the first object can be economically described because implicit and explicit attributes from the second object can be used to fill in the description of the first. [Wikipedia].
          The value of a metaphor lies somewhere in its explanatory or illuminatory power.

  93. I notice whenever someone peppers their speech with “you know what I’m saying?” it usually means there’s a good chance I won’t. I generally take that phrase as a tacit admission by its user that they’re often misunderstood for poor communication skills.

  94. “With all due respect,” Father, mush language evolves from common usage. For instance, destruction of an (unspecified) large proportion of something has been an accepted sense of the word “decimate,” since the 19th century, “not unlike” it being a common expression for a husband to “service” a wife. “Proactive” is used to describe taking control by preemptive action as opposed to taking action in response to a stimulus. “Use” can mean consume, while “utilize” means put to use – makes me think of “MacGyver.” “Dialogue” is a smaller word than discussion. So… why not utilize it? “Are you suggesting” that every answer that someone gives requires no further explanation to clarify his precise meaning? Many words in the English have several meanings and many have similar meanings, but slightly nuanced for clarity and specificity. Our language is beatiful both in it’s simplicity and its complexity, to the extent that one or thousand words can create a picture. Words – Did you ever see George Carlin do his “we park in a driveway and drive on a parkway” routine? “Intellectual dishonesty is a failure to apply standards of rational evaluation that one is aware of, usually in a self-serving fashion (a perfect description of FOX News). I Googled it. The over and ill-used words and phrases that bug ME are “at the end of the day,” “like,” “so fun,” “uh” and “ah,” “you know?” God bless!

  95. Oops! That is supposed to be “much,” not “mush,” although it accidentally might be closer to the truth. “You know what I’m sayin’?” “I’m just sayin’.”

  96. This is a bit “after the fact” but, it took a while to evolve (not a four letter word) a way of expressing without using my (often) large and multiple paragraphs.
    One commenter expressed a dislike for the way the word “perfect” is being used so much lately. First noticed how the internet has seemed to present this use as appearing suddenly all over North America, as if it was well and consciously co-ordinated.
    I get the impression that the, recent and often application of this word is an attempt to drive a wedge between us and the First Commandment. This may seem, at first, to be an over reaction but – in both the traditional and metaphorical wedges the thin edge tends to appear tiny and insignificant however, when the thicker part of the wedge has made itself (and its descructive nature) apparent it is often too late.

  97. Re the word “decimate”,Decimation was never used by the Romans against opposing forces, it was used by the Romans against their own forces to discipline them for things like either a really poor performance in battle or else desertion or treason. That is, to send their own troops the message that they needed to up their game. As far as the enemy was concerned, if the Romans weren’t in a position to take prisoners, then they would have been more likely to completely exterminate them rather than simply decimate them.

  98. I used to cringe at the trend to nounify verbs or verbify nouns (e.g., ‘diarise’). These seem to have originated in the corporate world and became buzz words for a while. It has the appearance of efficiency and mastery of language when one word can replace a phrase, such as ‘prioritise X’ replacing ‘make X a priority.’

    Some new expressions and language use come from kids and the internet and mobile phones. ‘My bad’ always sounded to me like an expression used by a non native English speaker who might have uttered it during an online game to mean the equivalent of ‘mea culpa’. The amused recipient(s) of this syntactic clanger would then have spread it around. Another phrase that used to come up from time to time is ‘all your base are belong to us,’ another English as a second language monstrosity, but it must have been highly amusing to the native English speakers playing the same online game. I must admit to finding this and kid talk such as Valleyspeak kind of amusing. Just so long as people are aware of the formal/informal differences.

    One curious example of language use is to end an invitation to do something with ‘at all.’ E.g., ‘Would you like to leave a message at all?’ This seems totally superfluous and wishy washy but does appear to have slight social function.

  99. Apparently the word “missing” is now missing from the language arts. Now it’s “went missing.” Does that make any sense?

    “I’m going to have to.” An accepted redundancy.

  100. My particular bugbear is ‘burglarized’. Once only found in the USA, this term seems to be spreading across the English-speaking world in much the same way as we gave cholera to the native Americans.
    The core word is the verb ‘burgle’. One who indulges in this activity is therefore a ‘burglar’. The relationship is reciprocal – a burglar spends his time burgling, not burglarising!
    It is my greatest wish that those responsible for rapistrising the language in this fashion are soon murdererized.

  101. One verbal abomination I loath is the Watergatism, “timeframe”. Time is never framed (unless you are taking a picture of a watch or clock), it is a function of periodicity. I think some some accidentally made an amalgam out of’ period of time and frame of reference.

    So, am I right or what? (Cringe).


    Here are a couple of issues that I have with people’s misuse of English.

    1. Irregardless – really? The word is REGARDLESS…. putting the ir in front of regardless is meaningless. How people who use this non-word and don’t have to be chained to the porch and wear a helmet, is a mystery.

    2. Believe. I know this is a symantics issue, but one may not AGREE or APPROVE of divorce or hunting, but stating that you don’t believe in either of those two examples is truly worrisome. We are not talking about the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. Divorce and hunting are real; many people divorce as do many people hunt.

    Now I would like to ask for others opinions on the use of commas. My English teachers stated that when listing three or more items in a sentence that one was to put a comma in between each word until the last. Before the last word, the word “and” was to replace the comma. For example: I like to read, garden, swim and cook. My grammar books from college all show that to be the correct use of commas. However, I am working for a CEO who is older than I (thus I would assume he learned the correct rules of grammar) and he continues to mark up any correspondence by adding an extra comma before the word and.
    Has this grammar rule changed? Is that now considered grammatically correct?

    Any thoughts or comments regarding the use of commas?

    1. Stephanie, what you’ve just described is one of the most hotly debated topics in English grammar – the Oxford comma, being the comma coming after oranges in the phrase “apples, oranges, and bananas.” Some grammarians swear by it, others loathe it. It really comes down to a matter of personal preference. Technically, either option (using the comma or leaving it out) is acceptable.

      1. No comma is needed therefore no comma should be used. Redundancy. Punctuation is for clarity, not whim. Sometimes a comma in similar contexts may be required to avoid ambiguity, but not in the case of the simple listing of objects given here.

        While I’m here, I wish to admonish those who use the expression ‘I could care less’ when they mean (and should say) ‘I couldn’t care less.’ That was it. The admonishment I mean.

      2. Actually, Faithish, there is somewhat more to it than a matter of personal preference; there is the issue of additional clarification. I wish I could sent the cartoon that illustrates this so beautifully, but I’ll try to explain. There are two panels in the cartoon. The first shows two famous statesmen and two scantily-clad women. The accompanying descriptor is this. “With the Oxford comma: We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.” The meaning is that they invited four people. who were the two statesmen and two strippers.
        The second panel shows those same two statesmen in the same outfits the scantily-clad women wore, with the descriptor: “Without the Oxford comma: We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.” Here the meaning is that they invited two strippers, who were JFK and Stalin.

        1. Yes, that’s the type of ambiguity I was referring to (to which I was referring) above (dang, another preposition!). The comma is clearly advisable here.

  103. People who live in glass houses …….

    My own pet peeve is using the word “data” as a singular, as the author of this little article did in #9. The word “data” is a plural, not a singular. It’s like saying “mice” or “geese.” Few people would say “The geese is flying” or “There is ten mice in the house”, but using the collective, plural noun “data” as a singular is equivalent.

    Instead of “What does the data show…” and “The data seems to say…”, the author instead should have said “What do the data show…” and “The data seem to say…”.

      1. It tends to be used by those who know the difference. I can’t remember seeing a serious scientific writer get it wrong.

        ‘Who’ is commonly used instead of ‘whom,’ so does that make it correct? I guess it seems to. Our grammar officials seem, in the end, to say ‘whatever, man.’

        And what about ‘he and I’ vs ‘him and me’ vs ‘me and him’ vs ‘him and I’? There is a correct form that is determined by the logic of grammar. Where does one stop? Are we ever going to have everyone using formal grammar?

        But it does feel faintly OK to lament. Anyway, most people tend to have blind spots in their language use and forums like this help to expose these.

  104. My pet peeve is the odd use of the word “had” in describing something that occured. For example, “She had her purse stolen”. Very, very few people arrange to have their belongings misplaced or destroyed. What’s wrong with stating, “Her purse was stolen”? Journalists, take note: let’s be accurate about this, please. Then when someone DOES “have their building burned down” for some reason, we can all be sure we understand what is being stated.

    1. Here is a sentence about a girl who did well on her grammar exam: Mary had had “had had;” “had had” had been correct.

  105. This was a fascinating and enjoyable article! Thanks so much for posting it.

    My biggest pet peeve involves “Corp-Speak” or the pseudo-language used in corporations. It seems to be a trend to what I call “cute up” phrases in order to appear intelligent and in-the-know, when all it really does is make people just look sad. Just use the language properly, for heaven’s sake, don’t try so hard to be part of the ‘in-crowd’!

    Now, I honestly don’t know why this particular one bothers me so much, but here it is:
    I think the worst Corp-Speak offender is the word “notate”. This is a very specific word, which has not one thing to do with making a note of something. It means to mark or set down something in a system of notation, and originally referred more specifically to musical notation. It now also refers to mathematical or scientific notation, all of which use specialized symbols rather than or in addition to words. If you want to remember something by writing it down in words, you are making a note, you are not notating it. Please!

    Other things that really irritate me are the confusions between words, and the phrases we commonly misuse that come as a result of hearing rather than seeing the written words.

    These words have entirely different meanings and are not interchangeable:
    Artisan vs. Artesian
    Defuse vs. Diffuse
    Discreet vs. Discrete
    Peak vs. Pique

    These are entirely a wrong usage: (hint: the correct form is the first one listed)
    Home In vs. Hone In
    Poring Over vs. Pouring Over

  106. An interesting article.

    My pet hate (or at least, one of them) is “quantum”. That is, when “quantum leap” is used to describe a major change or event. An actual quantum leap, as I understand it, is a change in the state of an electron within an atom, therefore it describes something tiny and, in practical terms, invisible. i suppose it began its rise to popularity after the TV series of the same name.

  107. My favorite example these days is so misused and overused by the media that I simply cringe everytime I hear it . Does ‘lets take a listen’ sound familiar? How about ‘lets listen or simply ‘listen’ depending on the circumstances.

  108. Let’s hear it for grammar geeks! It seems to me that many of the offenses noted above are committed by those who tend to speak and say nothing. A consultant friend and I have an informal competition going to eliminate adverbs from our vocabulary. It’s more difficult than one would think, and once you start you realize they are almost always unnecessary.

  109. I have two pet peeve sayings, actually, I have three pet peeve sayings:

    First, after someone has given me the most redneck opinion about something, they spout, “Am I right or wrong?”, usually repeating several times to the point of being obnoxious. I have had several friends who say this. I usually telly them they are both.

    One expression my wife has said over the years that has grated my nerves, and this usually comes after a burp or expelling some gas, “Better out than in, as I always say!” Yeeeeesh!! This, at one time, I considered grounds for divorce; but I took no action.

    And finally, a saying that has died out for the most part, but was very prevalent back in the late 70s and into the 80s (forgive me Christians for bringing this one up; I too am a Christian, so this one should bother you as well), and so unpleasant to hear, even before I became a Christian, is a reaction to something exciting, something someone strongly believes, or to verify approval of something which is “F****** A!” I generally separated myself from people who used this term.

    FYI, in response to Irby Vaughn’s comment about kids coming out of school and immediately forgetting what they learned in English class, I am currently taking College English Composition 111, and my instructor also teaches at the local High School; we were told last night, by him, that kids are no longer taught the breakdown of a sentence. This means they are no longer learning how to construct sentences properly, and this in public schools. They don’t know a verb from a preposition from a conjunction or a noun. Is there a problem here? I think there is. This is one of the major problems with our society today; students are no longer learning how to communicate properly. Just think what would have happened had E-bonics been ruled a legitimate language. I shudder to think.

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