Words and phrases I hate

July 23, 2019 • 3:15 pm

The list of words that I find myself hating is growing by leaps and bounds as I move closer to extinction. I’ll just put four here, but I now have three times that many. Click on any headline below (all from PuffHo), to go to the article.

“tone-deaf”  This is invariably directed by members of the authoritarian Left to those who haven’t evinced the proper attitudes. I suppose what bothers me about it is that it’s a phrase too easily reached for. As Orwell said, try to avoid using trite phrases since “trite” means that they don’t conjure up fresh images. I suspect that many who use this phrase—meant to denigrate someone oblivious to the Real Truth, don’t even know where it comes from.

HuffPost loves this phrase, e.g.:


“The Squad”. This is the “with-it” phrase used to denote the group of four Justice Democrats: Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib. I don’t like any of them much, but especially dislike a phrase designed to valorize them. Plus “The Squad” was originally used by Taylor Swift and her rat pack to refer to their own in-group.

merch“, short for “merchandise”. This is part of the younger generation’s Newspeak, involving shortening words like “family” to “fam” (another contraction I despise). Spoken, “merch” sounds like fingernails on a blackboard.

influencers“. These, of course, are the Instagram mavens who try to get free stuff by showing that they have lots of followers. That someone can actually be influenced by some of these mushbrains frightens me and worries me about the next generation. “What do you do for a living?” “Oh, I’m an influencer.”

As always, you are welcome to vent your spleen in the comments.

114 thoughts on “Words and phrases I hate

  1. You may have caught the wrong spin on “The Squad.”

    It might have started out as a valorizing phrase by the SJW crowd, but now I see it being used with glee by MAGA types to mock and belittle.

    A unified target making it easier to collectively attack.

        1. Isn’t being “woke” a cultural appropriation for most of the huffies? It’s a “political term of African American origin” per wikipedia.

        2. Isn’t being “woke” a cultural appropriation for most of the huffies? It’s a “political term of African American origin” per wikipedia.

  2. ‘Tone-deaf’ is ironically a rather tone-deaf phrase.

    I doubt many people who consider themselves woke would use it.

      1. “Persons of Sufficient Woken-ness”, if you please.

        “Woke Folk” is out dated. No one will glom your merch if you continue to use such terms in a tone-deaf manner.

            1. You’ve lived a privileged and charmed life. You haven’t yet experienced how enjoyable it is to be thinking through a problem out loud and to have your thoughts interrupted by someone who thinks they are stating something profound by cautioning you to “not boil the ocean”. Okay Tim, I’ll keep that in mind, is their any other insightful advice you’d like to impart like “don’t jump off a bridge just because everyone else is” or “don’t try to solve world hunger”?

            2. With an abiding interest in both astrophysics and it’s intersection with geology, it’s one that has been rattling around in my tool box in a literal sense for decades.
              The so-called “Faint Young Sun paradox” is a real question in astrophysics. As a star progresses in it’s evolution on the main sequence, burning hydrogen into helium via intermediaries, the amount of helium in the core increases, and so the temperature necessary to maintain an equilibrium between internal pressure and gravitational pressure increases. That results in a net increase in solar flux of about 5% per gigayear.
              One consequence of that is that the sun was significantly fainter 1.1 gigayears ago, 2.2 gigayears ago, 3.5 gigayears ago compared to today. I choose those dates because I’ve personally examined rocks of those ages with physical structures (first two) and chemical properties (earlies one) indicative of being laid down in liquid water. Deduction : in the early Earth’s atmosphere there was a significant greenhouse gas effect, more so than today. Corollary : as the Sun continues to brighten, the temperature of the Earth will continue to increase. The date at which the oceans literally boil is unclear, but it’s probably between one and two gigayears in the future. The oceans will, literally, boil.
              The same thing probably happened to Venus, several gigayears ago.
              At the other end of the duration of life on Earth, the question of when life originated has also been long-standing. Given the approximate history of the Earth, all serious models envisage an early “magma ocean” phase, and of necessity there is a point between then and now when the oceans were boiling as the planet shed heat (of accumulation energy, and short-lived radioactive isotopes) and it’s temperature dropped low to allow the formation of the water oceans. An interesting twist is that a hydrothermal origin of life would have allowed for a longer early phase of evolution during this ocean-boiling phase, while major impacts remained an important tectonic characteristic of Earth. If you boil 90% of the ocean (from an impactor’s kinetic energy) you’ll still leave several percent of the land surface under water and at elevated pressure (preventing boiling). That actually has quite a lot of effect on the duration of a period of pre-biotic chemistry, or proto-biotic evolution.
              At least, that was the model most people were converging to, until the Jack Hills zircon dates threw a spanner into the gears by showing that there was liquid water on the Earth about 4.1 gigayears ago. That’s still being worked on, to decide if the gears or the spanner are chocolate or steel. The jury is still out on the boiling of that particular ocean.
              Oddly, people don’t use the phrase “boil the ocean” around me, twice. It’s a route into a fascinating range of questions about Earth’s history.

  3. The phrase I hate the most is ‘hey put that back, you haven’t paid for it’. Shopfloor security guards are very unimaginative in that respect.

    Another one I hate is ‘come back you haven’t paid the bill’, which is kind of along the same lines, although I tend to hear it from dates rather than security guards.

    And then there’s, ‘somebody stop him, he jumped a subway turnstile’. I hear that all the time too and it really gets on my nerves.

    1. When Miley Cyrus gets naked and licks a hammer it’s “art” and “music.” When I do it, I’m “wasted” and “have to leave Home Depot.”

      1. I’m wondering about the activities these dudes engage in when they aren’t commenting on WEIT — shoplifting? Getting stoned and hanging out in Home Depot? Mon dieu!

      2. Is it a real pattern, or is it your pareidolia imposing your mindset on SS-T’s freewheeling performance art of a life?

  4. I refuse to buy anything described as “merch”. It’s one word that really grates for some reason.

    1. I was listening to a 1969 interview with John & Yoko. They ended every sentence with “man:” “Listen, man, your generation doesn’t dig it man, you gotta get with it, man.” Last week, I was in a store and the kid at checkout said “Have a good day, man.” It’s making a comeback, man.

          1. To me, quotation marks are equivalent to parentheses in a mathematical expression, and I treat them accordingly.
            I remember the topic has come up repeatedly on Slashdot (“News for Nerds”), to a communal “Meh”. Which is, apparently, a verbal cognate of a disinterested shrug of the shoulders.

      1. I’ve lately heard a lot of young males address each other as “man”, I’m guessing that was how the checkout kid meant it. In that context, it’s an informal term for “sir”.

    2. Squad comes from the word square, sharing a root quad, meaning four. So at least they got the number right!

  5. Not to mention that “tone-deaf” is demeaning to people who genuinely suffer amusia. I know someone like that, and they really find the negative connotation of “tone-deaf” in the political sense harmful.

    1. If I were them I wouldn’t take a blind bit of notice.

      I’m sure I remember a previous post here about a woke individual criticising the phrase colour blind as being tone deaf.

    2. Amusia is a different thing to tone-deafness. I’m perfectly capable of remembering, sometimes even of naming, a piece of music. I’m just completely disinterested in it. But I’m not tone-deaf. I have severe difficulty accurately reproducing a tone, but I can hear them, and even order them to a degree. Sufficient for normal conversation unless background noise (in particular, “music”) is too intrusive.
      It took me over a year to realise that there may have been a hint when Dad gave me Oliver Sack’s “Musicophilia”. I mean, the neurology is interesting of course, and it led me into getting several other books by Sacks, but I didn’t get the message in the book itself – if there was one – for over a year.

    1. From nuns to Nazis is a nice term. I will use it next time I mention Nazis.

      The interesting thing about Nazis is that if the standard rule for abbreviating German had been used, they would have been called Nasos. This would have made them sound much less threatening. Think of nachos but with a soft, voiced S.

      I guess I’m a grammar Naso.

      1. From Nuns to Nazis sounds like a good anthology. It would need to be preceded with something: “Hating Jews from Nuns to Nazis”. Who wouldn’t want to buy it? It sounds so naughty! Or how about “Everyone’s WWII Cookie Recipes – from Nuns to Nazis”. Who wouldn’t want to crack open that book?

        1. You can have your cookies and eat them, too; rather, your Nazis and nuns. Paul Fussell in “Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War” p. 40,Google Books, recounts that in England during WWII, when German bombers circled for hours over English cities, there was an urban legend that they were parachuting in spies dressed in nuns’ habits. (Sounds a lot better than “It’s Raining Tacos”). In truth, it was one Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty who “smuggled Jewish people [out of Rome] disguised as nuns and monks, passed partisans off as Swiss guards and hid the thousands of prisoners of war who flocked to him on the steps of St Peter’s” right under the nose of the Nazis. That’s a fascinating story in itself https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/msgr-hugh-o-flaherty-the-most-remarkable-irish-cleric-you-ve-never-heard-of-1.3604096. He was called the Irish Schindler.

        2. From Nuns to Nazis sounds like

          the “marching song” of the Sound Of Music Disappreciation Society. There has got to be one somewhere.
          Sorry, I just invoked Rule 34 with “Julie Andrews Stormtrooper Slashfic”. but to be honest, it was probably out there already.

          “Everyone’s WWII Cookie Recipes – from Nuns to Nazis”. Who wouldn’t want to crack open that book?

          As long as it contained recipes where the sugar can be replaced with carrots. Remember rationing.

  6. “Influencers,” I abhor. “Tone-deaf” in its current incarnation is a cliché to be avoided for the reasons stated. And “the Squad” is a nonce term, likely to evanesce as quickly as it appeared.

    But “merch”? I’ve no more problem with it than with “stat” for statistic, or than with “sub” for submarine, at least when used in a jocular sense. I wouldn’t put it to paper in serious or formal writing.

    1. Merch bugs me too. I don’t know why. Every time I hear Sam Harris say it, a brain cell dies as I squeeze my scalp muscles too tightly.

    1. There is a … spread of people who go from there, through fans of a certain type of SiFi (“Captain Kirk, put that green-skinned woman down! Lips off the brown-skinned woman too!”) all the way to dog-lovers in the most literal sense. Peopel who call themselves “puppy parents” always make me thing towards the Bodil end of the spectrum.

  7. I bet your squad would really like some merch showcasing these words and phrases, especially if you got an influencer to promote them, or am I tone deaf on this?

  8. What I hate is when someone describes themselves as a father, husband, brother, son, uncle, grandfather, second cousin, Ambassador to the Philippines. Really, only one of those things is of any interest or really takes any talent.

    Or when this person dies, people say “He was a father, a husband, a brother, a son, an uncle, a grandfather, a second cousin, the Ambassador to the Philippines.”

    Really, just stop that shit, ok?

    1. You want to interrupt & say, “yeah yeah suffice it to say he had a big family; can we get on with it?” Also that listing you have should go on your Twitter profile in ever diminishing relationships until you run out of space.

          1. “He was a man of few words” [Sits down.]

            There was an “American President-ism” about that which I heard recently, but I’ve forgotten the target. Something like “He’d use no syllables when one would have been a superfluity.”

  9. “Merch”. The way to make spam sound not spam. Example: Hey cool fam you guys are so cool I’m looking out for my fam so I made some cool merch for a limited time in my merch store just for you, aren’t I so thoughtful thinking of you.

  10. This doesn’t really follow the established thread,yet since mood and opportunity coincide:I wish to register my detestation (nb no verb “detestate” extant) of ugly and unnecessary verbalisations of Latin nouns ending in -atio.Nobody has ever been “obligated” to do anything in any way,shape or form;although they may very well have found themselves “obliged”in various ways… While I’m at it,the loss of distinction between “disinterested” & “uninterested” (first attested ca.1760) & the use of “literally” to mean “metaphorically” (1820’s) still rankle.There’s lots,lots more,but that’ll do for now

        1. I used “it is what it is” today in an email but I put in brackets “I hate that phrase”.

    1. (nb no verb “detestate” extant)

      I think we need to refer that one to the Legal Department. Someone can die “intestate” if they’ve never made a legally acceptable will, but if an acceptable will is set aside for some reason, wouldn’t that “detestate” the person?
      There’s also a meaning on the old couplet that “These two bricks and mortar / Will teach you not to shag my daughter.

  11. “Plus “The Squad” was originally used by Taylor Swift and her rat pack to refer to their own in-group.” The Squad has an even more distinguished earlier history. The blackshirted thugs of the Italian Fascist movement were originally called ” Squadre d’Azione” or, for short, “Squadristi”. The latter euphonious plural noun recommends itself for use in the present connection.

    1. I told a coworker that Taylor Swift dated Tom Hiddelston so I could tell the whole squad story with him. My coworker was so upset. A man in his 40s proclaiming “she dated Loki?”

  12. Musicly I am tone deaf. I can tell when an instrument is out of tune but could not tune it if I had the training. I also cannot what key a song is in.

    1. Agreed. Waiters invariably use it when they bring your food.

      I instantly think “I’ll enjoy it if it’s any bloody good, and if it isn’t I won’t. Either way, why are you giving me orders?”

      But I don’t say it.


  13. Ifs, ands, or buts. “The Grants of Grace run without Ifs, and Ands, and Buts.” –Thomas Goodwin, 1680. Thanks a lot Thomas Goodwin. Not!

  14. All that glitters is not gold. Yeah, captain obvious, we know that. “Hit is not al gold, that glareth.” –Geoffrey Chaucer, 1380. Thanks but no thanks Geoffrey Chaucer! Just kidding…

    1. The original Shakespeare line is “all that glisters is not gold.” From Merchant of Venice.

      For whatever that’s worth.

      1. As a preemptive advisory to not judge Strider by his rough travel-worn appearance, Gandalf cited this poem about him …

        All that is gold does not glitter
        Not all those who wander are lost;
        The old that is strong does not wither,
        Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
        From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,
        A light from the shadows shall spring;
        Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
        The crownless again shall be king.

  15. Here’s another one: people who generalise about supposed categories of people by pluralising single people as if there are more of them and then pretending that you somehow possess them — your Shakespeares, your Einsteins, your Weird Al Yankovics.

  16. Whilst. Amongst. Amidst. Resorting to the semi-archaic in a transparent attempt to acquire intellectual heftst. Only say themst if you have your teethst in. And evenst thenst, don’t say themst.

          1. On cheese, Merilee, as Lucretius never said. O-levels, 1976: Desmond, who never got French, pleased as a knock-em-out jorum after the exam, wandered up to me. “I got it in, Dermot! ‘What a pity! Quel fromage!'” I didn’t have the heart to tell him. Quel dommage.

  17. To balance out the social-justice-y phrases I’ll add my least favourite alt-right/Trump-right phrases/insults:

    ‘cuck’ – this seems to mean ‘any male who can talk to women without having a panic attack’. Usually used by insane loners who end up burning down synagogues.
    Derived from the genuinely inexplicable obsession these right-wingers have with being ‘cuckolded’.

    ‘soy’, short for ‘soy-boy’ – this is an insult derived from the indisputable fact that every single male who opposes Trump eats nothing but soy, and soy turns you into Caitlin Jenner or something.

    ‘NPC’ – another insult(notice a pattern?), this time derived from videogames. A Non Player Character is a character in a game, usually friendly, who is programmed to do certain things and just go about their daily lives…like all Trump opponents! Because if you don’t support Trump you’re not a free-thinker. Used by the kind of tragic types who secretly think we all live in the Matrix.

    (…See also ‘sheep’/’sheeple’ – an enormously inventive portmanteau combining the words ‘sheep’ and ‘people’. Only used by genuinely radical thinkers, the type of people who see through NASA’s BULLSHIT about the moon landings, or the government’s JEWISH CONSPIRACY to cover up the fact that 9/11 was an inside job.)

    ‘SJW’ – depending on the person using it, it can mean an annoyingly sanctimonious left-winger who has gone too far in their political correctness…or it can mean anyone who has ever expressed a yoctosecond’s worth of compassion for their fellow humans. Eg. ‘fuckin’ Churchill…what an SJW’.

    If I’d known what these words meant before I went online, I’d have been much better off.

  18. Not quite as current as most of the above absurdities, but I still find the proliferation of prepositions in some word formations annoying. We used to have ‘beat’; then it became ‘beat up’, and then ‘beat up on’. For ages ‘visit’ has been ‘visit with’. More recently, ‘hate’ seems to have become ‘hate on’.

    All from the US, I’m afraid…

  19. So very late to the party!

    My least favorite bit lately is ‘My bad’. It is so irritating, especially when used by someone being corrected for a thing they did incorrectly. I’m usually half tempted to say ‘No shit, Sherlock’ (excuse my language) – because it is abundantly clear that it is, in fact, that person’s ‘bad‘. It isn’t even an attempted apology, just a nonchalant way to brush the thing aside.

      1. I *like* the sarcasm inherent in ‘No shit, Sherlock.’

        ‘My bad’, though, grates, and not just because it’s a notpology. But because ‘bad’ is an adjective, not a noun, so ‘My bad’ begs the question ‘Your bad *what*?’


  20. Did anyone bring up “Props?”

    “At least give that man props for a valiant effort in defeat.”

    Short for “proper recognition.”

    “Props” is annoying, and signals that any kudos offered by one saying it will be hollow.

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