Words and phrases I abhor

March 10, 2019 • 1:15 pm

It’s once again time to list words and phrases I’ve heard that grate on my ears. As always, readers are welcome to vent as well. Remember, this is a lighthearted rant, so let’s not have any tut-tutters here.

Many of these come from HuffPo, which seems to think that if it uses the “with-it” argot of the young, it will get readers. I really have to stop reading that rag, but I read on both the Right and Left, and HuffPo is the Wokest of the Left. Note: I may have posted about some of these before.

1.) Tone-deaf.  This is a HuffPo favorite phrase, used to chastise those who are ideologically impure. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but its frequent use irritates me. Here’s one (click on screenshot):

2.) Mood. Where the hell did this annoying word come from? All of a sudden it’s all over Facebook, appearing as a single word. What does it mean? Here’s the Urban Dictionary definition:

As far as I can see, the word is completely meaningless, and could be replaced by other words that make sense. But it’s “cool”:

3.) Gets real.  This word is used when somebody says something strong or honest, even if they are always sincere. When used by outlets like PuffHo, it means “Person X says something that we approve of.” viz. :

In fact, I find this rather insulting, as it implies that the person at hand doesn’t “get real” most of the time.  It bothers me in the same way that the phrase “To be perfectly honest. . .” does when someone’s speaking to me. When I hear it, I immediately think, “What? You mean you haven’t been perfectly honest before?”

4.) Sesh for “session”. I first heard this when I read about the text-message exchanges between Columbia University’s Mattress Girl (Emma Sulkowitz) and her boyfriend Paul Nungesser (she wrote him, “I feel like we need to have some real time where we can talk about life and thingz, because we still haven’t really had a paul-emma chill sesh since summmmerrrr”), but now it’s ubiquitous. It’s grating and sounds like a swamp or a bog. Example (note also the odious HuffPostian favorite “clapback” in here, too):


5.) Badass. This is defined as follows by the Urban Dictionary:

I see it more often as one word, “badass”. It’s not so grating except it seems to be applied only to women, and rarely (as in the above) to men. Why can’t men be badass too? Also, the word “ass” disturbs me a bit. Note in the following example the odious phrase “rocked” for “wore”, something I’ve condemned before:

6.) Fam, short for “family”. This resembles “sesh” in being a contraction that makes you seem cool. Every time I read it, the soles of my shoes curl up:


128 thoughts on “Words and phrases I abhor

  1. I have some youngsters in my family who live in the east, and they have two that annoy me …

    1) “Word.” Just used by itself to respond to something I said, or someone said. I thought it was an erroneous response at first, but they use it, as in me saying “Looks like you’ll be getting a foot of snow in NYC today, but life is still good.” and getting an email back with just “Word” as the response.

    2) “Wicked.” This seems to be a Boston or New England affectation. “Oh my, this is a wicked righteous snow storm.” They often use it to modify a modifier. “This chile con carne is wicked hot.”

      1. The important thing with the UD is that it is basically user contributed. So if someone wants to “create a new meaning”, it is a great way to do so, at least in principle.

  2. As a brit I get annoyed by my countrymen using ‘ass’ for the posterior. It’s ARSE!

    An ass is a donkey or an idiot.

    1. Glad you explained that to us in the US. Always thought it was odd to hear Brits say arse. Annoying to hear someone from US say it.

      1. My ladylike ninety year aunt often uses arse because she is much too polite to say ass. I think she learned it from watching British dramas and mysteries.

    2. The Good Book states that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass. I assume that it was a good or nice ass. Were it a badass, he would have necessarily walked, short of a miracle.

      Sitting in a Southern Baptist sanctuary as a youngster, I always thought it remarkable that the word “ass” could be uttered from the pulpit with no one blinking an eye, but just let a youngster say it out loud at school.

      1. Do the British note that when “…Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass…” he was sitting on his “arse” on the “ass”?

        By the way, spellcheck on my US computer thinks “arse” is misspelled.

  3. “I mean…” I challenge you to find an interview where someone doesn’t say this even possibly more than “uh…..”

    1. To make fun of this I sometimes answer people with: “It’s like, I mean, you know” and then I search their face for understanding.

      1. They import them from Sweden, where the Black Rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the Men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale … and those tales they tell!

    1. A few years ago I found on Youtube video of Jim Reeves, The Anita Kerr Singers and other country music “Nashville Sound” artists in Norway in 1964. Reeves tells the audience that of the selections the troupe will offer some are slow, some are fast, and some are half-fast.

    1. Argh, ruined my punchline!

      *Nev* use mul-syl words, flex, sophs, no prob.

      I’m not quitting my day job.

  4. The one I am getting real sick of and it all seems to come from this one idiot – NO COLLUSION

  5. I’ve got a little list…they’ll none of them be missed.
    Optics; metrics; wellness; gravitas; spiritual; framing; situated; etc, etc.

    1. I agree with the others (which all lack precision), Lorna, but what’s wrong with “gravitas” — I mean, other than its overuse by the chattering class?

      1. If the Ancient Romans weren’t dead, they’d want to know what’s wrong with gravitas as well.

        1. The Ancient Romans can keep that word. I don’t like the word gravitas unless it’s used sarcastically, as in so-and-so was “gravid with gravitas.” For me it conjures up some ponderous person filled with self-importance, someone the rest of us are supposed to regard as a repository of Wisdom with a capital “W” whom we must respect with a capital “R”.

          I can’t abide “cray, cray” for crazy, either. It might have come up in a previous post re abhorrent words and phrases.

          1. Maybe we can replace “repository of Wisdom”
            with “suppository of Wisdom”. That’s what I think is needed to “ungravid” the modern balooning buffoons who think they have dignitas.

          2. It suggests simply, to me, someone who takes their work seriously and behaves appropriately. If it is evoking other emotions, it’s most likely because you feel those it has been applied to don’t fit it or have other character flaws that pollute it. Gravitas fits in with the other Roman virtues (where do you think we get this stuff?) of pietas – doing your duty and auctoritas – adhering your social standing and its responsibilities.

            1. Unfortunately, the word has been spoiled for me because I’ve heard it applied to too many people I consider to be pompous a-holes, so my definition of the word hews closely to the third (and sarcastic) definition in the urban dictionary https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gravitas&defid=1988229

              “…difficult to define, but you know it when you’re seeing it. Defining characteristics: deep, orotund Midwestern broadcast voice; suggestive pauses and stresses on certain words and phrases, such as “terror”, “patriotism”, “homeland”, and “national security”; a piercing gaze from a somewhat lowered head facing camera; a sidelong gaze that says, ‘America, you can trust me, you should trust me, and if you don’t you’re probably a liberal sympathizer to terrorists’…”

              1. I don’t much care for “pietas,” either, given that it has been co-opted by religion.

              2. Well it was never really coopted because it did have a religious component to it.

          3. Someone with (actual) gravitas commands respect.

            Metrics is also a respectable word, with specific meaning in some situations.

            But, yeah, the rest of them.

              1. Re “pietas”: You are correct. I’m speaking of the present day, particularly Christianity.

  6. Basic and Bougie (no idea how they spell it, but I am not sure spelling is high on the list within the population that would use the word). If a word or phrase is used by the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed (or related millennial “news” sites), social media, pop/rap/hip hop music, teens in an urban or suburban setting, then there is a very good chance that it will be irritating to me:

    1. Ugh. Was visiting my daughter at school this weekend, and this morning at breakfast she used “bougie.” Had never heard it before, hope to not hear it again.

      1. There’s also “ratchet-ass ho”, which apparently goes along with the other two terms but I have thankfully been spared hearing this used, excepting by the spectacularly unfunny but ubiquitous Canadian/British panel show “comedian” Katherine Ryan.

        My sincere apologies for even bringing these idiocies to the conversation. I feel dirty now.

    2. I guess when different sized bougies are used to dilate the cervix it is basically ok (unless you’re one of these self styled ‘pro-lifers’, of course).

  7. “I know, right?!”
    Heard that one just an hour ago. And at least a couple times a week.

    Another annoyance (although more a practice than a word and ubiquitous on PuffHo) are the headlines like: “Trevor Noah demolishes Donald Trump”, or “Samantha Bee eviscerates Mitch McConnell with one tweet” or “Jimmy Kimmel utterly destroys Mike Pence”. No, they are not and they have zero impact on political discourse.

          1. Ok, I found it on the web. This, like TL;DR, are not words and are confected, life much internet BS simply to set oneself apart from others and be able to consider them as inferior. It’s self-aggrandizement.

    1. Reminds me of the time a young teen boy asked his father and myself about the word for celebrating monthly “anniversaries”. We told him annus is latin for year, mensis is latin for month. He couldn’t understand why we were laughing so hard about the notion of celebrating a mensiversary.

      1. I dunno, Christopher; I’ve never been crazy about “myself” except when used reflexively or for emphasis. The great sportswriter Red Smith called it a refuge for those who were taught to avoid “me” as vulgar and “I”, as egotistical.

        1. Fair enough. I’m not crazy about myself either. We hate each other, if I can be perfectly honest with myself. Me, myself, and I will go away now.

          1. ‘La brea’ means ‘the tar’ in Spanish, hence ‘the tar tar pits’. AC current or pizza pie are other ones.

    1. I always think it means the person is squatting to undertake a bowel movement into a hole, which usually fits the context just as well.

  8. One that I keep hearing on podcasts is “march” for merchandise. The use guarantees that I’m not even going to look, let alone buy anything.

    1. add “swag”, as in getting things for free (freebies, also irritating, but less so), for me. It’s just free shit. It doesn’t need a stupid special name, a stupid special bag, and overpaid, filthy stinking rich Hollywood actors at awards shows don’t need it, they can afford to buy it themselves, so stop talking about it.

  9. I guess I am just not…woke. Damn, the now current usage of the word woke itself grates on my nerves.

    1. I’m ambivalent about it. From the viewpoint of the English language, ‘woke’ is atrocious in every way.

      However, it’s become a convenient identifier for a whole range of exaggerated attitudes espoused by precious snowflakes.


  10. I feel like we need to have some real time where we can talk about life and thingz, because we still haven’t really had a paul-emma chill sesh since summmmerrrr

    The word “sesh” is at best the third most irritating thing in that sentence after “thingz” and “summmmerrrr”

    Also, the screen shot from Urban dictionary about badass has some unfortunate formatting. It looks like Justin Timberlake made a bad ass-move.

  11. One day HuffPo will find out session is sometimes used as a synonym for masturbation. And we will never look at Jeff Sessions name the same again.

  12. Two cliches that I wish I would never see again: “winter wonderland” and “gentle giant”.

    1. (Miniature schnauzers can have a human “mum” so if they’re talking about d*gs, then that’s okay)

  13. So much I agree with above!

    I will add ‘sleeps’, as in ‘it’s only six sleeps to next Saturday’. Heinous!

        1. Roly poly, wee wee, sleeps, oopsy woopsy, etc.etc.
          When an adult man (or woman for that matter) uses these expressions, you just know he (she) has young children, somewhat silly indeed.

  14. ‘tude (ugh!)

    And I agree about ‘gets real’. Patronising, prejudicial in it’s implication that someone wasn’t being ‘real’ previously.

    And also about ‘tone deaf’. Even more patronising and prejudicial in that it assumes the user of the phrase is the arbiter of what is ‘in tune’. It is NOT a crime to be tone deaf (except possibly on X Factor and the like. THIS is tone deaf:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_Ybl0Qvves )

    As for ‘badass’. The Terminator is badass. Darth Vader is badass. Ripley is badass. Any dude who rides the big wave at Nazare is badass. Wearing a pantsuit to an awards ceremony? – not so much.


    1. “Turn a deaf rear to…” – awful, & unhelpful when searching for articles on deafness as I have to…

        1. Yes, search term pollution is a nuisance.

          When I was looking for a Youtube clip of tone deaf people to link to, I kept coming across clips of genuinely deaf people who could sing in tune.


    1. Me, too. As a German native speaker who reads way more English websites, books, and comics than german ones, I didn’t notice any concentration of this term in regard to women rather than men (or robots, for that matter).

      In fact, if you would’ve asked me before, I would have instintively said that it was used much more often to describe men or “manly” things like big guns or being fearless.

      It may depend on the kind of media and topics you consume. For example, I would say that “badass” is a commonly used term among people with interest in computer and video gamers, roleplaying games, and similar “nerdy” topics.

  15. Chuckle.

    This seems quite appropriate for this website:

    Languages evolve, continuously, like other living beings.

    The problem is that you and I, at this age, have a hard time keeping up with our progeny, who are doing the same thing you and I did, finding and inventing words that express the meanings they—we—intend. Our words today are simply not accurate enough for them. They are making our language work for them. We’ve been left behind.

    I remember one of my high school English teachers asking our class about the meaning of some, to us, very obvious words. She took notes.

    Shakespeare would have just as much trouble understand us today as we have understanding him. The same goes for Cervantes and Camões, from two of my other languages.

    According to my astronomer friends, evolution even reaches into the stars.

    1. “We’ve been left behind.”

      Well, I guess that makes us/me not “relevant.” Which is one of not a few words I have a problem with, especially as used in, among others sources, the New York Times Arts and Style sections. Seems to me that “relevant” demands an indirect object. To whom or what is something not “relevant”? The great feather-in-the-wind mass pop Amuricun culture? As regards my own personal music enthusiasms, I do not care one whit whether the Times or anyone else on the planet finds them “relevant.”

      And the word “use,” as in, “Do you use?” Such trendy talk, especially by WHYY’s Terry Gross in interviews. Apparently one is supposed to be sufficiently “with-it,” sufficiently familiar with the argot of drug usage, to know that the unstated object of the sentence is drugs. I would be tempted to reply, “Use what – dental floss? Preparation H?”

      1. I do so agree with ‘relevant’. Its negative (‘not relevant’) is also often used as a term of abuse, implying that the dissenter has somehow committed an offence and should shut up and go away.

        I suspect it started out as a euphemism (which I also detest) which then got out of control.


      1. Well when you see community libraries offering courses on “How to Adult”, you start getting worried.

          1. No, it means behaving like a mature Adult rather than say screaming at the top of your lungs “I’m offended, make the nasty go away.” which is what a lot of SJWs do.

            When you call them on it the response is “I’m unable to Adult today…”

  16. Any word that switches a Z for an S, or just randomly adds a Z to the end of the word. It’s suppoze to makez it cool, but it’z lamez. Or it sounds like whatz Goillumz doez.

    1. I think it iz supposed to be cat language, you are on thin ice here, I guess, the feelz are not good.

  17. It may console you to reflect that, at BadassOfTheWeek.com, significantly more than half of the honorees ARE men.

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