12 More Words I Hate (And You Should Never Use)
Last year, I published a post containing some of my least favorite words and phrases. Dozens of readers commented on that post and added their own entries to the list—so in today’s post, I’m compiling the words and phrases you detest the most—and adding a few new ones of my own.
1. Happy Memorial Day: In the United States, Memorial Day is the day we set aside to honor the men and women who died while serving in the military. For many people, it’s a somber day of remembrance and appreciation, but for others, it’s little more than a reason to enjoy a long holiday weekend. “Happy Memorial Day” is not only a contradictory phrase (it’s like saying “Happy Funeral!”), but it’s disrespectful to anyone mourning a loss.
2. Utilize: This is one of those rarely necessary, pompous-sounding words. As reader John Barnett wrote, “I really hate ‘utilize’…for some reason government and academic writers love [that word] in order to make something sound very official and important…So I ask: what’s wrong with ‘use?’”
3. “With all due respect”: Reader scottinapac described this set-up phrase perfectly: “A business professional’s way of teeing up before taking a whack.” When I worked for Ted Koppel at Nightline, I remember all of us in the control room bracing ourselves whenever he started a question to a guest that way—we knew whatever he said next was going to be devastating.
4. Nazi: The word Nazi should be used to describe the fascist ideology that led to the slaughter of 11 million innocent European Jews, communists, gays, and others—including one million children. After Jerry Seinfeld labeled a grumpy chef “The Soup Nazi,” it seemed like the word started being used to describe almost anything (as an example, I see the term “grammar Nazi” regularly). My concern is that using the term broadly diminishes the true meaning of the word. And I can’t imagine how my family members who lost loved ones during or survived the Holocaust greet such a usage of the word.
5. “You know”: This piece of verbal filler annoys Brian Chandler, the president of Commonwealth Public Relations: “The phrase ‘You know’ is being used all over the place in interviews and by talk show hosts. It’s worse than saying ‘um.’” Suzanne Thornton agrees, writing, “I am appalled when a speaker begins or ends every sentence or comment with, “you know.” Caroline Kennedy once used the phrase 138 times during one interview—and it made her a target of mockery for the New York tabloids.
6. “At the end of the day”: Reader Barbara Quayle nominated this phrase, as did Terri, who said the term is vomit-inducing for her. Urban Dictionary is even more blunt, describing it as a “Rubbish phrase used by many annoying people.” At the end of the day, this phrase is unnecessary. Most sentences can stand alone just fine without it.
7. “Finally, and most importantly”: Every time I hear this phrase, I wonder why the speaker chose to bury the lead. There may be times when it makes sense to do so, but I typically find that the speakers who say this just sequenced their presentations badly.
8. Think outside the box: Wikipedia says that this phrase, thought to have derived “from management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s,” usually “refers to novel or creative thinking.” See the problem there? The phrase is so overused as to no longer be novel or creative—so if a management consultant is still using it, it’s a sign that their thinking may be stale.
9. (S)he gave 110 percent: This phrase is often heard in the sports world, intended to convey a sense than the athlete gave more than they were capable of. That, of course, is impossible. If the athlete gave it their all, it suffices to simply say that.
11. Going forward: Reader Wendy Vreeken writes, “I believe the phrase ‘going forward’ deserves special recognition. Gag worthy.” Kelly agrees, noting that “Going forward…drives me crazy because we all know we can’t return to the past.” Instead of telling an audience what you’ll do “going forward,” just tell them what you plan to do.
12. Hate: Given the title of this post, this may seem like a surprising entry. I don’t love the word hate, but the biggest problem with the word is that it’s a bit vague. There are many more descriptive shades of the same sentiment that add meaning and color, such as “loathe,” “despise,” and “abhor.”
What words and phrases do you detest? Please leave them in the comments section below, and you may be included in a future edition of this series.