Word Up: Annoying Expressions

On this National Thesaurus Day Jan. 18, it is perhaps altogether fitting and proper – as Lincoln would have it – to sound off on irritating phrases and expressions in circulation. Of course, “irritating” is a subjective term, but “It is what it is.” And, yes, that expression is annoying.

“That said,” (another bothersome bit of verbiage)… Recent news that Chris Christie (R) and Vivek Ramaswamy (R) “suspended their campaigns” for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, subjected the public to the ridiculous political neologism “suspend,” meant to imply that a candidate hopelessly behind in the polls stands ready to fire up their campaign should a wave of public support sweep them back into the field. Give it up, people. What Christie and Ramaswamy actually did was “end their campaigns.” Let’s be clear. 

Even the vaunted National Public Radio (NPR) is wont to annoy listeners with their constant plea to “ask your smart speaker.” First, I’ll decide what to ask my smart speaker, not you. Second, if my smart speaker is so smart, I shouldn’t have to ask it for anything. And, third, I don’t own a smart speaker. 

While we’re in the public realm: With all its political sensitivities as a public television station, you’d think PBS would stop telling us to “binge watch” so much. They of all stations must realize many people have trouble with “binge” gambling, food addictions, serial monogamy and other compulsive behaviors. When PBS runs their TV ads enticing viewers to “binge all 12 seasons of The Vicar of Dibbly Dabbly,” I just ask – how can they?

Online discourse is, of course, no better. The phrase “Me when…” launches most lame memes these days. Me when I see such a meme: “Please stop recycling this and come up with something fresh so I can ‘binge’ on this lame platform.” Not to mention that the recycled meme now “lives rent free in my head” – another irritating expression, not that it’s unclever, just overused. 

I also wish people would stop wishing folks online “a belated happy birthday.” A simple “happy birthday” with some choice emojis should suffice. 

And online, everyone’s working on fulfilling their “Bucket Lists” — e.g., going to Machu Picchu, reading Dostoevsky, becoming a horse whisperer  – before they die. However, “Here’s a list of 31 things to do before you die” always sounds like a threat. Such lists are also quite depressing since no one can ever complete them if they’re properly imaginative. 

Speaking of depression, pharmaceutical advertisers constantly implore us to “ask your doctor about” when hawking new pills – with their frightening side effects taking up half the commercial. “Are you experiencing anxiety? Ask your doctor about Braxotimilubeymabap … side effects include eye spasms that may be permanent, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts.” If it’s alright with you, I’ll let my doctor who’s trained in medicine ask me how I’m doing. 

And, please stop asking if I suffer from some “moderate-to-severe” illness. A person either “suffers” or doesn’t. There is no point in ruling out light cases from which people don’t suffer. It’s simple logic. 

Journalism also suffers irritating phrases. One of the worst recent neologistic dodges is the phrase “in modern times.” It’s often used in American history as a hedge against some distant colonial era incident that might serve as a counter-example, as in: “Elon Musk has more power over satellite communications than any private citizen in modern times.” Just bite the bullet and say “ever” when you know it’s a sure bet. 

“Here Are 5 Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day!” we’re often told in morning headlines. Well, how do you know what I “need to know” to start my day? Especially, when your list of “5 Things” doesn’t mention coffee, eggs or Braxotimilubeymabap? 

And, when introducing a story, please don’t say it’s part of a “national conversation.” There has never been such a conversation (at least in “modern times”) and I would venture to say there will never be such a conversation. Also, please stop saying “faith-based communities” when the phrase “religious communities” is perfectly apt. 

I also bristle at the phrase “I’m going to get my PhD.” It’s not actually “yours” until you earn it (in 8 years or so), and many never finish. Saying this is equivalent to saying “I’m going to buy my Ferrari.” It’s not yet your Ferrari, I’m afraid. You’ll have to pay for it. Then it’s “yours.”

And, men, please stop shouting “Boom!” after you’ve made your point (I’ve actually never heard a woman do this and would venture to say none has done so “in modern times.”) It’s too loud. Also, if you’re fishing for an idea, please never again ask: “Why don’t you spitball that for me?” Anyone who’s ever fired or shot a spitball in class, knows the imagery is all wrong for what you’re requesting. 

Finally, in restaurants, please stop telling me that everything “pairs with” everything else. I know it sounds sophisticated, culinarily adept, and trendy, but it should really be used only when talking about wines “pairing” with meals, rather than fries “pairing” with pickles. And, table bussers, please don’t ask if I’m “still working on that?” when I’m eating. I’m trying to enjoy the food that so deliciously “pairs” with everything, not engaging in work drudgery by cleaning my plate laboriously before you pull it off the table – notwithstanding your deserving of higher pay. 



If you’d like to spitball us some of your “most annoying expressions,” please put them in the comments below then notch that one off your Bucket List. 


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