Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Words that Make Me Cringe


English teachers can sometimes be fussy dictatorial mayors of Bumbledom when it comes to the language. Being somewhat out of my own culture, I am often perplexed when it comes to new phrases or words that suddenly appear in writing or speaking.   Every year the Lake Superior University publishes their 33rd annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. Here are some highlights from that list.

PERFECT STORM -- "Overused by the pundits on evening TV shows to mean just about any coincidence." --Lynn Allen, Warren, Michigan.

"I read that 'Ontario is a perfect storm,' in reference to a report on pollution levels in the Great Lakes. Ontario is the name of one of the lakes and a Canadian province. This guy would have me believe it's a hurricane. It's time for 'perfect storm' to get rained out." -- Bob Smith, DeWitt, Michigan.

"Hands off book titles as cheap descriptors!" -- David Hollis, Hamilton, New York.

As far I knew, the phrase, "perfect storm" meant a combination of unexpected factors which came together at the same time and created some kind of misfortune. I could be wrong, of course.

ORGANIC -- Overused and misused to describe not only food, but computer products or human behavior, and often used when describing something as "natural," says Crystal Giordano of Brooklyn, New York. Another advertising gimmick to make things sound better than they really are, according to Rick DeVan of Willoughby, Ohio, who said he has heard claims such as "My business is organic," and computers having "organic software."

"Things have gone too far when they begin marketing T-shirts as organic." -- Michelle Fitzpatrick, St. Petersburg, Florida.

"The possibility of a food item being inorganic, i.e., not being composed of carbon atoms, is nil." -- John Gomila, New Orleans, Louisiana.

"You see the word 'organic' written on everything from cereal to dog food." -- Michael, Sacramento, California.

This overused word has also arrived in Turkey. I saw in the market that most of the vegetables there were organic. According to the dictionary, it should mean fruits and vegetables grown by use of  a fertilizer that is derived from animal or vegetable matter.

SWEET -- "Too many sweets will make you sick. It became popular with the advent of the television show 'South Park' and by rights should have died of natural causes, but the term continues to cling to life. It is annoying when young children use it and have no idea why, but it really sounds stupid coming from the mouths of adults. Please kill this particular use of an otherwise fine word." -- Wayne Braver, Manistique, Michigan

"Youth lingo overuse, similar to 'awesome.' I became sick of this one immediately." -- Gordon Johnson, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Silly sounding and annoying. Sweet means, in this misusage. pleasant, beautiful, wonderful and all things glorious.  But , in my humble opinion, calling a new car "sweet" brings images of fender-licking.

To this list I would like to add a few more  words or phrases that drive me up the proverbial wall. (I just hope I haven't used any of them in my own posts!)

24/7 – What's wrong with the perfectly good  "always" or "constantly"  or "forever"? So many suitable options. I am now waiting for marriage vows that contain the phrase, as in, "Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, forsaking all others  24/7?"

JUST SAYING –  It is often used after some kind obnoxious or ignorant remark  to reducing it to merely  a personal observation.  Used by people who are unsure of themselves or who know that their ideas are based on indefensible bias or  vague unsupported feelings.  The addition of a smile emoticon is particularly loathsome. Example. Black people don't make good presidents. Just saying.  :)

LITERALLY A perfectly suitable word when used appropriately to mean 'without any exaggeration or exactly as the description implies.' Due to the flagrant misuse of this word, whenever you hear somebody say, "She was like literally screaming her head off," there is no reason to swoon

WHATEVER – A long despised  off-handed dismissal or non-statement. Example: Like, I’m SO like surprised that Britney didn’t like make it to my party. Like, whatEVER.

For my British fans, two niggling points.

Is there any cure for the "actually" disease? People often use it to sound more clever than they actually are (correct usage). However, actually the actual meaning of the word, "actually" is actually quite different in actuality. It has become like a stammer.

And when did passive voice become the  appropriate successor to present progressive? "I am stood here with a shopkeeper from Leeds" is not quite the same thing as "I am standing here with a shopkeeper from Leeds." If I missed some royal decree of this particular change, then please inform me stat. A dirty trick to play on students and English teachers.

So tell me your candidates for Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.

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  1. I'm literally guilty 24/7, whatever.

  2. I also dislike the over-use and mis-use of all of the above.

    Another one which I have started to notice recently, when someone does something wrong or makes a mistake they say "my bad"....what's that all about?

  3. @Ayak
    And it's inbred cousin, "It's all good." Supposed to sound hip but it means nothing more than "everything's great."


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