The most annoying language: a list to enjoy and avoid

The most annoying language: a list to enjoy and avoid

Author's note: My fellow blogger D.B. commented here and suggested a list of the most annoying language. My "watch this space" comes true today, with thanks to him.

Challenges -- Too often used to mean handicaps or disabilities, not puzzles.

Civil disobedience -- Disobeying unjust laws can be done peacefully, without looting. I doubt that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his role model, Mohandas K. Gandhi, would agree to use this peaceful term for the riots and looting of today. If you see a riot. call it one.

Expeditiously -- a very slow way to say "quickly."

Expedite -- speed up. It's a syllable shorter.

Hopefully -- I may be backing a lost cause here, but I still say it's a stage direction. I hope that readers will remember that. Written as diaologue in a play, that could be MARGARET (hopefully): Please, defend this word!

Literal -- getting overused. How about "exact" or "precise" at times?

Metaphorically -- fine if it IS a metaphor, but if it could be a simile, "figuratively" will do.

That's an elementary list of my favorite culprits among the annoying words. Feel free to add to it in the comments section.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.


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  • The pandemic and protest have brought on a whole bunch of them.

    "In these unprecedented times." There were the Spanish Flu, Black Death, Plague, and the conquistadors spreading small pox, but I guess those weren't associated with selling windows or automobiles (cf. your reference to "challenges" now in the context of "challenging times").

    "Civil disorder" or "civil unrest." Seems to be the new term for "rioting," especially on WTTW's Chicago Tonight (cf. your "civil disobedience").

    "We're all in this together." Maybe they were in a Florida bar, but I wasn't while sitting at home for 3 months, and while I did venture out to the fitness center yesterday, its preregistration form was vastly undersubscribed.

    "Social distancing." I mentioned it before. It does seem like people back off, but they don' obey the one way signs in store aisles.

    The word for July 1 sports filler is "Change" as in WGN's "Voices of Change" and Stadium Network's "Change the Game."

    Since you are a musician, all the [probably synthesized] minor key piano music, especially in the "unprecedented times" advertisements. And to correct one of my prior comments, the sotto voce women in the personal injury law firm advertising group commercials, while the contraltos are in the "she's going to take away your health insurance" ones. (Maybe these have become more annoying, because I was in this together watching too much TV, especially subchannels, at home)

  • In reply to jack:

    Wow, Jack! That's quite an addition to the list. Thank you! You're right about "all in this together" -- then why are there so many people I miss getting to see? (For an introvert like me this is a big realization.) I think you're OK about sotto voce -- literally "soft voice" -- and contralto. To my mind, anyway, they overlap a great deal.
    By the way, your "in this together" reminds me of my new favorite annoyance among slogans and contradictions -- alone together. As the movie said, I don't think it means what they think it means.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Last one certainly.
    What I was correcting was a prior post where I said the "how do you get the compensation you deserve" woman was contralto.

    A couple more I forgot:
    "New normal."

    "In an abundance of caution" ...we won't pack reusable grocery bags, we won't take returns, we won't pick up the garbage unless it is in a cart with the lid closed, we won't take electronics for recycling (the last has been eased).

  • In reply to jack:

    OK if it's the last one or not -- the post was meant to start conversation.
    "New normal" makes my apartment sound like "Cheers" -- I usually let loose a loud "NORM!" at the radio or TV. (Usually because I'm told I need a root canal and I don't want to get the tooth mad.)
    IN an abundance of caution gets me, too -- it should be OUT OF an abundance.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    I wasn't making a distinction based on in or out of (and I'm not going back to Mariano's to see which one is on the sign) but you might find it of interest that googling "out of an abundance of caution," the first entry is "'Out of an abundance of caution' – An overused phrase ..."

  • In reply to jack:

    Of interest -- and amusement! Thank you!

  • Regarding literal or literally, have you noticed how often people are using the term "literally" when they clearly mean "figuratively?" Several times recently on radio I have heard expressions like, "He literally blew his top." Oh?

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Yes, I have noticed. I was remiss in not adding "literally" to my list. Thank you. Misuse of it on the radio often has me literally screaming. That's why I avoid the radio in pubic!

  • In reply to jnorto:

    MS previously discussed literally, but other than a cartoon character, I would like to see someone blow his top. Closest thing to that I saw yesterday was in the Carl Reiner retrospective where Laura Petrie walked into Alan Brady's office and he was talking to his 5 wig stands.

  • In reply to jack:

    Ah, "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth." One of the great episodes.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    They also ran October Eve, but didn't show the mad painter's masterpiece. I guess things were different 56 years ago and it took me a while to figure out that the artiste was played by Reiner.

  • In reply to jack:

    I always thought it was brilliant that they didn't show the painting. As Rod Serling probably confirmed, the imagination can sometimes do better than film.

  • In reply to jack:

    Good one, Jack.

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