Afternoon Inquisition

Afternoon Inquisition, 3.6

I’m writing today’s AI from the past because as you read this, I am getting ready to get on a boat to embark upon an Amaz!ng Adventure.  I do miss you guys, really. I’m totally thinking about all of you.  But anyway, you’ll forgive me if today’s AI may not be appropriately topical:

Last year, Oxford compiled a list of  the top 10 most irritating phrases in the English language. It included gems like “At this moment in time,” “Fairly unique” and “At the end of the day” (which, I have to admit, I use a LOT).  Read the article for the full list.

So the obvious question:

What phrases annoy you?  And, conversely, what turn of phrase do you particularly enjoy using?


Maria D'Souza grew up in different countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Kenya and it shows. She currently lives in the Bay Area and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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  1. “No offense, but…” and “Well that’s just your opinion…” Grrrr!

    I quite like “This one time, at band camp…”

  2. No worries, which apparently came over in the great Austrialian invasion of the late 80’s with Paul Hogan and Yahoo Serious and unlike them never freakin left.

  3. “I’m a christian…” – just kidding
    “Fixin to” – I live in Texas.
    “But it’s organic”

    This is not exactly the same thing but it drives me crazy when people mispronounce Tokyo. It has two syllables in English(and technically for in Japanese) but it sounds like two. Toe + Kyo not Toe Key Oh. Ugh. NPR is a big offender.

    Favorite: “Since you are all going to die anyway, I will tell you my master plan”

  4. I hate most, if not all, business jargon. From “out of pocket” to “face time,” and back around to the abuse and misuse of words like piece, space, and energy, every single thing said in an office causes me to turn towards the camera with fangs and yellow eyes like Michael Jackson mid-transformation in Thriller.

    That said, I use @teambanzai‘s hated phrase “no worries” all of the time. I became habituated to it as a young Anglophile, and after my year in England I never did let it go. Sorry teambanzai, but it’s not gonna stop now :-P

  5. “Free gifts” and “Sioux Indian” are two redundancies that always bothered me.

  6. One of my favorite/most hated non-words is “irregardless”. I get excited and then repulsed when I hear anyone say it. It’s an interesting feeling of “YAY!… Ugh”

  7. I hate the phrase “No offense to you…”

    Regardelss of whether they are actually going to say anything offesive or not, the phrase puts me on guard.

    Additionally, adding that phrase to the beginning of a sentence can turn an innocuous statment into an offensive one.

    For example, which of these statements would bother you more…

    “I don’t like smelly feet.”


    “No offense to you, but I don’t like smelly feet.”

  8. Hate:
    “We’ll just have to agree to disagree”
    “We have to do something”
    “I think we owe it to ourselves to…”

    Favorite thing I like to hear:
    “Wow! If that was your tongue…”

  9. Just out of curiosity, there isn’t some evil Skepchick plan to use all of these hateful words and phrases in a single post is there?

  10. @bug_girl: There should be some way to embed ominous music in a comment.

    Will you call the post: Worst Post Ever? or maybe you can call it “Special Time with Kenneth Starr”?

  11. “That’s only a theory” and “well, we just have different opinions” annoy me greatly. As does most business speak- to echo a previous commentor.

    I am a big fan of “so it goes.”

  12. “Oh My God!” (aka OMG) is the most annoying phrase ever. I hear it all the time on any sort of reality show and man on the street interviews.

    I rebut it by saying either: “Oh Your God” (aka OYG) or “Which god is that?”

  13. @LadyMitris:

    I’m with you about “No offense, but ” and I’d toss “not to be rude, but” and “I don’t want to sound like a/an (random word for jerk/bad group of people), but ”

    These prefaces are completely unneccessary because EVERYONE knows that they are untrue. Just because you prefaced a statement with a disclaimer doesn’t mean that the disclaimer is accurate. It’s like the equivalent of saying “I don’t mean to stab you in the balls, but..” and proceding to violently stab the person in the balls.

  14. @9bar:

    Oh man! That’s one of the worst. Misuse of the word ‘literally’. John Hodgman has some fun with that one in his new book:

    “The mole-men literally piss gold * ”

    *Not literally

  15. “I’m not a racist, but…” and “I’m not a homophobe, but…” etc.

    And I hope this isn’t a repeat as I’ve not read the previous comments (bad, I know, but I’m in a hurry!), but “I’ll pray for you!” really chaps me.

  16. “Irregardless” makes me cringe and makes me angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry.

    Misusing “literally?” That cracks me right up, I actually had a gf-at-the-time that was relating a story and said “…I literally died.” I was impressed at her recovery.

    @marilove: Try being in the military, you hear “I’m not a homophobe, but…” all the time. It’s kind of a mantra, really.

    A personal favorite that I like to use is “I’m just saying.” You can say whatever you want as long as you end it with “I’m just saying.”

  17. The use of sporting metaphors when not in the sport they refer to, eg:

    “Step up to the plate” (which ironically seems to be a favourite of some cricket commentators)
    “On the back foot”
    “On the ropes”
    “Two horse race”
    “Touching base”

    I could go on…

  18. Wait! I forgot one:

    I don’t hate it as an expletive, but I hate conversations in which it is the only adjective and “fucking” is the only adverb. Example:

    “Fuck. Did you fucking see that fucking bird? That fucking thing was like…fuck. Fuck it if I’m going to fuck with that fucking thing.”

    [Thanks to OneHandClapping who reminded me of things I hated about being in the Army.]

  19. What language annoys me? Pretty much anything that the federal government puts out. Fine…you want specifics: “paradigm shift”, “thinking out of the box”, “monetize”.

  20. I hate:

    “done and done”
    “it is what it is”
    “I’m going to sit here and say”
    “that may or may not be the case”

    I love:
    “nonlinear partial differential equations”

    I hate the subject, but the phrase rolls off the tongue very well.

  21. And marketing-speak:
    “new news”
    “a shift in [something that won’t actually be shifted]”
    “brand management”
    “customer dissatisfaction”

    Thanks Masala Skeptic for starting my weekend off with blinding rage.

  22. “In my humble opinion…” – almost always a lie
    “If you ask me…” – almost always uttered when everyone is pointedly not asking
    “…in a better place” – almost always said about someone who’s no longer around and therefore can’t verify the claim
    “I have nothing against…” – almost always a lie

  23. “We have to talk…” — which is never a two way conversation, as it implies

    “You’ll feel some gentle pressure here…” which is a urologist or a strange date

    “That did not reflect the views of the company…” where that was some disrespectful employee who did reflect the company line, and was bold enough to say it.

    “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy..” when the person wishes it on many individuals, enemies, sisters, brothers, etc.

    “It is what it is…” far better said by Popeye “I yam what I yam…” —

    “A market correction …” — its a friggin depression

    “have a blessed day…” — aarrrrrrrrgggggggg – I don’t want a blessed or bless eeeeed day – i want a secular day, where no damn deity will bless me or not bless me, but the universe will behave according to laws and …. (opps, there is this big fish here going to eat me — gotta run)

  24. I invariably roll my eyes when I hear:
    “All I know is…(I saw a ghost, homeopathy cured my genital warts, 911 was an inside job)”;

    Or “I’m just asking questions.”

    On the “like” side, “Christ on a cracker!”

  25. “X smacks of Y”

    There’s not even a rationale involved, to be honest. I just think it sounds stupider every time I hear it.

  26. Ordinarily, I’d say “functionality” is my least fav.

    But yesterday…(key harp music here)

    I was having a horrible day and went to the cafe, because of said horrible day I got there late and after it had closed, and picked out a Mango Sobe (because that’ s the color my imaginary girl friend will be wearing for the next eight years…hey dreamin’ is free…) and the girl behind the counter decided to let me buy it even though they were closed. (Damn nice, I thought).

    They (cafe personnel) were totally in “weekend mode” (it was “Friday” for them) and she had a headband on.

    I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be a straight or anything, but that’s unusual were I work. I couldn’t stop looking at it. It was damn cute.

    She asked if I was looking at her headband and I said that I was and that I liked it.

    Then she said…

    “Doesn’t it look groovy?” (Sound of rod hurling…)

    I said “Yes, and I haven’t heard THAT since I was your age”. (I did NOT mention that I hated it even then…but there you are…)

    So, “groovy” it is….worse than “functionality”

    Thanks for reminding me, cafe girl…


  27. “Can’t”

    Since requests to violate laws of physics are few, “Can’t” is pretty much always a big fat lie.

    What it really means is, “I don’t want (you) to…”

  28. “Don’t judge me” – To judge means to form an opinion. Telling people not to have an opinion of you is beyond moronic.

    “too much information” – If you say this to me there’s a good chance i won’t be talking to you again. If you’re really that delicate then it’s probably best we just part ways.

    “just sayin'” – this is used in a similar was as “i’m not racist but…” except it’s usually said after whatever the statement was instead of before. It’s similar in that it’s a cowardly way for someone to say something ignorant while not taking any responsibility for it.

    “that’s a slippery slope” – unless they mean it literally, the next words out of their mouth is almost always something stupid.

  29. Since misuse of “literally” has already been mentioned, I offer my runner-up:

    “I could care less.”

    If you could care less, then you care. If you don’t care, you COULDN’T care less.


  30. TerrySimpson: “You’ll feel some gentle pressure here…” which is a urologist or a strange date

    I’m really glad I finished my coffee before I read that. Saved myself damage to both my nose and keyboard.

  31. “On the cheap”
    “just a theory”
    anything with “ain’t”

    Jeez, there are so many more that I can’t think of right now.

  32. How much time do you have? How much space will Skepchick give me? :-D

    This is a huge issue for me, as I currently work under contract to the USG. I detest the following terms and there are many more where these came from:

    “Impacted” If something is ‘impacted,’ I’d better see broken glass and twisted metal. A program cannot be “impacted” by a change, unless you’re pounding on the software with a hammer.

    “It is what it is.” No fucking kidding, you moron. That should have been left behind in Philosophy 101.

    “Grow” as in “grow your business.” It’s not a verb like “help,” for example. You can help your business to grow. You do NOT “grow” your business.

    “Empowerment.” Bullshit. That’s a weasel word for getting naive employees to think more highly of their jobs without giving them real responsibility, a raise or better benefits. This one makes me want to ’empower’ the person using it by linking 100 volts to his balls.

    “Paradigm shift.” Most people that use this don’t even know how to spell it, much less what it means.

    “Incentivize” and all the other made up “-ize” words from the HR and management world.

    “Outside the box.” You’d better be talking about where your cat made a boo-boo last night.

    “Going forward.” WTF? Does any business want to go any other direction? Diagonally? Vertically? Horizontally?

    “Paperless office.” About as likely and useful as the paperless bathroom.

    I’m a technical writer by trade and I fight these constantly. Unfortunately, it is a futile effort. The best place I worked as a tech writer was at the now sadly-defunct Independence Air, where clear, concise language was mandated from the CEO on down. Everything was written in plain language, from our manuals to our customer material. Everyone loved it because for once, we all knew what each other was talking about.

    These phrases (and all the rest like them) are used to deliberately manipulate the hearer through vagueness and lack of clarity. When you hear them, turn your BS detector to “High.”

    I’ll get off my soapbox now…

  33. @KristinMH: My personal favorite came from none other than Robert Heinlein:
    “Jesus Christ and his Twelve Tap Dancing Apostles!”
    I laugh every time I think of it… :-D

  34. I am surrounded by linguistic horrors. Here is a common office exchange that makes me die inside:

    “Them files need put away.”
    “Which ones?”
    “These ones.”

    Additionally, I will promptly throat-punch with great enthusiasm the next wanker who uses the words “methinks” and “m’lady” in conversation with me. It is 2009 and this is not a ren faire, Lord Douche von Bag.

    My favorite phrases are “ohmazing!” and “No lie.” You might hate them, but these work much better for me than “oh my god” and “seriously”.

  35. IDK. Especially when immediately followed by “my BFF Jill.” Seriously, guys. It’s old. Stop basing colloquial expressions on TV ads.

    Oh, and if I hear another “that’s what she said” joke, I think I might have an aneurysm.

  36. “Clearly…” or “Let’s be clear about this…” It’ usually some politico being interviewed. Of course, “transparency” is beginning to make my trigger finger itch.

    Phrase I like to use, “Bloody hell” and “Bollocks”

  37. “There are no stupid questions” – Yes there are
    “I want your honest opinion” – No you don’t
    “I’m not pointing fingers…” – Yes you are
    “Some of my best friends are…” – No they aren’t
    “I have nothing but respect for…” – Except for that one time when you didn’t know your mic was still on, right?

  38. “With all due respect” – preceding a statement that would get you slapped otherwise.
    “A-whole-nother” – the word “another” with “whole” stick in the middle. I don’t know why. Midwest thing?

  39. “The idea of Good is relative”
    “All opinions are equal”
    “All views are respectable”
    “There is no absolute truth”
    “Republicans control public spending”
    “I have a friend who…” [seemingly disproves any amount of objective data]

  40. “That’s what she said.”

    Once in an entire conversation might be okay, but repeated use is annoying. It’s a problem when you hang out with people who are trying to be funny. Something gets a laugh once and then they drive it into the ground and beat it to death. That’s a pop culture phrase that got old fast.

    And It basically drives me basically nuts (actually it’s basically a short walk) when people basically say basically too much in an interview.

    Favorite? I love to hear people say “you’re right!”

  41. I hate “I’m just saying…”. It’s like Joe Rogan’s “I’m just the guy asking questions…”.

  42. “anyhoo”

    anything quoted from a movie released before 2000, but especially “I lihk iht aloht”. God I want to punch people when I hear that. It was NEVER funny. NEVER NEVER NEVER.

    “know what i mean, vern?”

    I actually really like the term “on the cheap”.
    And love any ironic/snarky use of internet slang or what the rap kids are saying these days.

  43. Oh oh. My trip home reminded me, I could go the rest of my life without hearing “License and registration, ma’am.”

    However, I will never ever tire of “I’m going to need to see some ID.”

  44. “Moving forward”

    When employed by management it means “What lead up to this is irrelevant and we aren’t going to discuss your take on the situation anymore. You are simply going to do things the way we want you to so STFU.”

  45. “Off-the-hook” is the one phrase that drives me nuts–what is this hook of which you speak and why is everything that is awesome/crazy/wild/etc. off of said hook? What would things be like if they were “On-the-hook”?

    One of my personal favorite phrases, which I admittedly use too much, is: “This is why we can’t have nice things!” (To be used when someone drops, spills, or breaks something or generally fails at life)

  46. @Guslado: I think “off the hook” is a sports phrase; the hook being a type of shot in basketball. So if you’re off the hook, you’re way off course.

    I like it in the sense of music though — the hook being a refrain and when you’re off it it’s like you’ve trailed off in your own jam session.

  47. Annoys me: To “pencil something in”. Try as I might, I just can’t accept “pencil” as a verb!

    Phrase I love: “Cut of one’s jib”. Everybody makes fun of me when I use it, (apparently it’s old-timey), but it rocks ass!

  48. I also hate grow used as a verb. I think that one got started by the penis size spam and stuck in enough minds to move in to general use.

  49. It irritates me when people use economics jargon when they don’t understand it. The principal offender here is “economies of scale”. Just a hint everyone, it doesn’t mean that bigger is always better, there is such a thing as diseconomies of scale too.

    On a related note:
    “monetise” is jargon, it means to pay for something by printing money as in “monetising a defecit”. Used like that I have no problem, but if people start using it for other things I get a bit tetchy.

    I don’t have a particular favourite expression, but I do enjoy giving the distant corners of my vocabulary a workout every so often. i recently referred to a minor decision as infelicitous in a meeting, and my manager had to ask me what it meant :)

  50. As a doctor,I would say the use of overweight as a noun drives me nuts. On the other hand, what’s wrong with ” No Worries”? I rarely have a day without countless “g’day’s”, “no worries” and “you’ll be right mate”. Struth.

  51. “Between you and I” is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

    Love “Holy sheep shit.”

  52. “Science can’t explain everything”

    Whenever you hear it, you just know that the next line is going to be some utterly vacuous bullshit.

  53. @durnett: But, dude! Fuck is the best fucking word in the entire fucking world. It can go fucking anywhere. Fuck is a fucking great word. I fucking love the word fuck! The more casual the fucking conversation, the fucking better.

    FUCK, fuck is fucking amazing.

  54. I too like “No worries”. I also like “Jesus motherfucking Christ”, but there’s seldom an occasion to use it.
    And whenever someone does something stupid or just breaks something by accident, or spill their wine, I like to say “Don’t do that.” :->

  55. “and how are we today?”

    (as said by checkout operators, doctors, anyone…)

    I always want to say “Well, I’M fine, but it seems as though *you* have a problem with your pronouns…”

    I also hate medical receptionists who say “Doctor will see you.”

    There’s a “the” missing. It should be *the* doctor will see you…

  56. I hate to hear “so help me god” at the end of oaths (especially when the phrase isn’t written there) and “god bless America” at the end of seemingly every political speech here in the US.

  57. @Steve: As a former instructor, I have to disagree with you a bit on “There are no stupid questions.” I would rather someone ask what might be considered a stupid question (and actually might NOT be a stupid question) and learn, rather than to stay in ignorance. This was especially important in my previous career, where doing something wrong could potentially be terminal.

    @Qceanesque: Oh, I hate that “We” crap, too. I usually say something like, “Got a personality disorder, Doc?”

    @Wendy: It depends – If you are in a nautical environment, “The cut of one’s jib” might be quite approrpriate as it refers to sails! Are you hanging with sailors? :-D

    @marilove: My answer: “Science can explain everything, given sufficient time, funds and appropriate staff.” :-D

  58. I feel all jargon, in particular business and military jargon, is the evil work of some prepositional devil and should be removed from the known universe. Jargon is generally irritating, ponderous, pompous, and misdirective.

    Also, on a slightly snarky note, I really don’t think that # 8, “Shouldn’t of” should have been on the list.

    Shouldn’t of, which of course should be shouldn’t have is simply wrong in the same way that your wrong is wrong when what I meant to say is you’re wrong .

    Shouldn’t of is simply an illiteracy, an error in English. It’s just wrong. And as such, shouldn’t all errors of literacy be automatically assumed to be irritating and removable and therefore not on the list?

  59. @SicPreFix:
    The purpose of jargon is to make it easier for specialists in afield to communicate an idea. It would take me a sentence or more to talk about elasticity (an economics jargon term) without using a word like elasticity.

    However, a lot of business jargon is actually psuedojargon, it isn’t there to ease communication but rather to obscure it. In that sense its more like euphemism than jargon.

  60. “Made with all-natural ingredients”

    “Everything happens for a reason.”


    “You can do anything if you try hard enough.”

  61. @Skept-artist: I was attending a briefing for an upcoming operation and the Intelligence Officer used the word “Disirregardless” in a powerpoint presentation. Of course, now I use that all the time but I always relate the story first.

    “it is what it is”. Just say “d’uhhhh” instead.
    When a Chief Petty Officer, the supposed keepers of our naval tradition, calls it the “floor” instead of the “deck”.

    “I’m just saying”, especially on SGU.
    Anything by R. Lee Ermey from “Full Metal Jacket”.
    Anything from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.
    “It’s a little known fact that, uhh…”
    “Joe Shit the Ragman”

  62. The word ‘like’ used unnecessarily.. as in:

    “It was like, the best day, like, ever”

    gives me the shits no end. Also:

    “Your call may be monitored for coaching etc..”
    “Your call is important to us..”

    The word ‘coalface’ when used by a boss pretending to care what you think.. as in “Well, you’re the one at the coalface” shits me as well.

  63. @ 9bar #13

    “According to The History Channel, during the Victorian age . . .

    Houses had thatched roofs–thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained, it became slippery and sometimes the animals would fall off the roof. Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs. There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. ”

    Literally. I’d put a “smilely” here, but I know it would literally piss you off.

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