Words and phrases I hate

August 15, 2019 • 2:30 pm

The list keeps growing so fast that I can barely contain my bile.  Here are a few stinkers that have bothered me lately. (And of course, add your own in the comments.) All examples come from that bastion of grammatical degeneracy: HuffPost.

1.) “noms” for nominations. This is one of those “look cool” truncations like “fam” for family or “romcom” for “romantic comedy”. The problem, of course, is that the word also means “food” to all Internet cat lovers. Why can’t they just say “nominations”?

2.) “vacay” for “vacation”. This one really ticks me off, as you save only one lousy syllable. Does this mean that “vocation” will become “vocay”, too? And it’s only a matter of time before “fashion” becomes “fash”.

3.)relatable“.  When I hear someone use or write this word, I immediately mark them down on the neuron scale. I’m not sure why it bothers me so much (it may even be in the dictionary), but somehow the longer phrase “that we can relate to” seems better. Or, better yet, what’s wrong with “congenial” or “appealing”?

4.) “advancements”.  What the bloody hell? Why isn’t “advances” good enough?


Don’t worry—I have more. And I’ll be here all year, folks.

154 thoughts on “Words and phrases I hate

  1. I just complained about use of the word “bitch” on another post so I’ll not go on about it here. But…

    “Trump is Putin’s bitch” annoys the hell out of me despite my distain for both of them.

      1. I think I saw the same GIF. It doesn’t bother me as much, though. I grew up with the idea that one simply doesn’t use that word in reference to people since it was (and remains) a sexist slur. The word has broader use now but I’ve not been able to get past the original derogatory usage.

    1. You ok with “bitch” as a verb?

      I’d also be interested whether any women object to it.

      I think it still carries sexist connotations as a noun, but’s lost them as a verb, and certainly as an adjective. (“That’s a bitchin’ El Camino, dude!”)

      1. No version of bitch really bothers this female, I suppose unless I was called one by a man. My female friends and I occasionally call one another one, but sardonically or affectionately.

        1. I know of a fellow who, in response to voicing to his mother a quite mild (and valid!) criticism of her behavior, was called a “son of a bitch” by his mother. He talked back, but in a fit of self-discipline did not employ similar language. His mother’s sister later told him that he should have responded, “You got that right!”

        2. The word seems to have evolved in colloquial usage beyond its sexist overtones. I say good, because I kind of like the word. I’d hate to cause offense to women.

          “Science. It’s works, bitches.”

          “Don’t bitch so much.”

          There’s nothing sexist about such usages.

          It has gotten to the point that referring to a female canid as a “bitch” sounds funny to me.

      2. Somehow “bitchin” almost feels like it has a different linguistic history than “bitch”. (Wild-ass guess, and probably wrong.)

        I think “bitch” as a verb is sort-of offensive and think it probably derives from the use of the word as a sexist slur. But for some reason it isn’t as creepy to me as “x is y’s bitch”. It could just be a function of my old brain reacting to the language of younger folk.

        1. I may be wrong, but the etymology is I think as follow:

          a bitch is someone who is obnoxious or annoying.
          to bitch is thus what that person does
          bitchin’ by valence inversion – think “bad” meaning “awesome” like with Michael Jackson’s song.

      1. Would you say that “civility” or “good manners” or “etiquette” sounds (more than?) a bit stodgy? I’ve read (and it’s my perception, however objective or subjective) that the contemporary mass pop Amuricun culture is “crass.” What are your thoughts?

        1. None of those words sounds stodgy to me, and the concepts behind them aren’t stodgy either. But American culture is crass, no doubt about that. Always has been, almost to a point of pride for us Yanks, or at least self-identification.

  2. Mine are still the same. Haven’t had a chance to read so-called news much lately or internet sales blurbs. Maybe I just don’t like “fake news”, “blurbs”,”ads”, etc.

  3. I just began using the term “vacay” because so many of my friends do. I guess because I grew up with two immigrant parents who could barely speak English and would often add English portions of a word onto Polish words to form completely new words, I am not bothered by slang or different forms of words. I’m more bothered by behavior than words.

    1. I grew up with two immigrant parents who could barely speak English and would often add English portions of a word onto Polish words to form completely new words

      Classic “creole” language formation situation and methodology.
      I’ve plenty of linguistic “get off my lawn” moments, but at the end of the day, language do evolve. And no, I’ve never seen that film, despite generally being a Clint fan.

        1. Have I got the terms confused? Quite possible. There is a distinction made along those lines, but it would be like me to get cart and horse in a side-by-side configuration instead of fore-and-aft.

    1. My French conversation club had a DVD-swap night last week, and I picked up Tati’s “Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot“. Which is funny enough, but not exactly much good for improving one’s ear.

  4. I hate “learnings” and “trainings”.

    As in “what are the learnings from this project?” and “we will have some trainings next week”.

  5. Use of the word “trend” as in “trending.” The actual word means precisely the opposite of what is intended by these uses of it.

    Also, baseball announcers at some point decided that they could no longer refer to the hit speed of a fly ball. So that became “exit velocity.” After that, to shorten, it became “velo.” Go figure.

              1. I’ve always wondered about that. It isn’t as if going 11.2 km/s (or whatever it is) straight *down* will work, though. I guess it is slightly better to say that a wide range of directions work … all in the spirit of pedantry, of course.

  6. Here are a few from German that make me recoil.

    Bekannt means known, Machung is a horrible distortion of the verb ‘make’, but turned in to a noun, so it refers to the making known of something. Its purpose is to declare that this thing is now known, or rather it declares that you now know this. So if you see the plural “Bekanntmachenungen” on a notice board, it means that you now know all the new regulations and will be penalised for not adhering to them.

    Again, horrible sounding. Geschlecht here means “genital”, Verkehr means traffic. Literlly genital traffic, as in sexual intercourse.

    Nipples. Literally, breast warts.

    There are plenty of good ones though. Erdferkel (earth-piglet) is even better than aardvark…. Can’t think of any others at the moment….

    1. Mark Twain had a thing or two to say about the German language.

      One of them was, “Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.”

        1. +1

          I recall that Henry Miller said that German was a language of boxcar words, but that doesn’t come close to what Twain had to say.

      1. Poor Twain, he could not read long sentences! Or he could not read German. I prefer to read long flowing sentences in German than short sentences in English with a full stop every other word or so. It obviously depends on the skills of the writer.

      2. The old comic strip Tumbleweeds showed an Indian with arrows imported from Germany, and when they were released they made the sound “Getwangefluten!”

    1. I’m no fan of “celeb,” though I’m rather fond of “celebutante” — it fills a niche for people famous for being famous.

      1. It grates on me mightily when I read of “influencers” (not yet recognized as a word by the computer program underlining it in red in this post)in the Thursday and Sunday NY Times “Styles” section.

        1. ‘influencers’? Yeah. Pretentious self-important wankers, mostly. Though that’s a bit too long to say.


  7. Just in time!! There I was, thinking, “I sure hope Jerry asks us once again for our verbal pet peeves.”

    And by golly, you did!! I just got back from the hospital where I was waiting while my Sweetie had a procedure done, took some five hours because of delays and one thing after another, it seemed. And here it is! Jerry came through!

    I am SICK TO DEATH of tag questions!!! Stop it! Stop it before I go crazy (yeah, and there’s my politically incorrect word, but I’m being driven crazy)!

    Okay? Okay? The voice rises at the end of the phrase or sentence. We’re getting him ready for his procedure, okay? and we’ll take him back now, okay? and when he’s ready we’ll call for you, okay?

    (Don’t ask me if it’s okay!! YOU’RE the nurse, not me. You should know if it’s okay!! It’s not my job to judge if it’s okay if you do your job, d@mn it!!)

    I’m hearing tag questions so much these days! It’s such an irritating mannerism!

    He’s done now, okay? and his things are here in this bag, okay? and we’ve called the nursing home, okay? and the van has just now arrived to take him back, okay?

    Ugh!! I’m tired!! Okay??

      1. My last sentence, well, I really am tired of these tag questions. At the same time, I’m just making a lame joke.

        It’s been a long, hard day, okay {grin}?

        1. My sympathies to you both. Medical stuff is hard enough without having to grit your teeth at the staff. Hope the recovery is smooth.

    1. Sometimes I hear the question “right?” play the same role as “okay?” right? And it’s just as annoying, right? With that same upturned voice at the end, right?

    2. I totally agree with you Laurance — and it really bugs me when parents tell their kids what to do that way, like it’s actually up to the kid. “You can’t hit your brother, okay?”

      1. “You can’t hit your brother, okay?”

        I can top that. I once saw a woman pick up her lap dog, which had just flagrantly disobeyed an order, and tell the mutt, “Bad dog! Okay?”

        1. As for the moms, I think the “okay?” is her means of ensuring she’s been heard and understood.

          As for the lady with the lapdog, she … er, … well, she’s on her own on this as far as I’m concerned. 🙂

          1. I had to think back to my grandparents and parents who would end a sentence similar to the examples given with “verstehen?” or simply “versteh?” which later if life became “okay?”

  8. 1) Vacay blech
    2) Uni for university said by anyone NOT from the UK or Australia
    3)Pronouncing an address like “Maple Ave” as “Maple Av” rather than “Maple Avenue”

      1. Righto. And of late, on Telegraph Av I see cafes advertising “sandos.” I admit to scratching my head for several days before I realized what a sando was.

          1. Yeah, sandwiches.

            Back in the Stone Age, our paths might have crossed on The Ave. Or perhaps in The City.

            1. I was in Berkeley 70-72,The City the latter half of 69, and Palo Alto 64-68 and 72-76. I take it you’re still in Berzerkeley?

  9. Since ‘advancement’ already has an established meaning as an uncountable noun, its use as a count noun when the shorter ‘advance’ will do is quite grating.

    I also favour the abolition of ‘abolishment’, which I’ve now seen several times recently.

  10. “Noms” for “Nominations” is a legitimate abbreviation and saves a great deal of typing. “Noms” for “Food” is not and does not. It annoys me.

  11. I hate it when people start sentences with the phrase “These days …” because they always mean that things are in the crapper these days! I like to refer people to the research of Steve Pinker. Yes, we have things to work on, but we have solved a lot of big problems and we are coming up with solutions to others faster than ever.

  12. I also don’t know why people say “historical” rather than “historic.” Historical sounds like hysterical.

    1. They like to talk fancy, but don’t really know how, or realize that ‘historic’ and ‘historical’ have different meanings. Everything that happened in the past is historical, no matter how trivial. The word ‘historic’ points to the significance of the event to subsequent and current events.

  13. “Relatable” and “advancements” are abominations, without reason for being.

    As to the two shortened forms — “noms” and “vacay” — such things come and go, and sometimes they stick around and become part of everyday language. Does anyone complain about “stat” for statistic, or “quote” for quotation, or “sub” for submarine (or substitute), or “legit” for legitimate? I can tolerate the two new arrivals while they’re with us, but would just as soon they disappear.

  14. 1. “Wait.” As in, the response “Wait!” when one clearly and loudly utters a perfectly understandable statement, understandable to anyone who has a reasonable intellectual curiosity, reasonably keeps track of current events, and has a reasonable vocabulary, and has not been living in a cave all their lives.

    The same with “What?!” in response to a perfectly legitimate and reasonable statement.

    In my view, these are examples of what Professor Dawkins describes as the “Argument from Personal Incredulity.” (Or is it “Ignorance”?)

    2. The slow, fatuous, calculated-for-dramatic effect utterance of “Oh__ My__ God!___” especially from people who, if one put them in a corner, would make noises about being a Christian. It would seem to be trivial (if not blasphemous), if a believer is serious and sincere. “Oh My God, I have a hangnail!” “Oh My God, these shoes are so dated!” Why not the occasional “Zeus!” or “Thor!”?

    A couple of weeks ago I was treated to a 5th grader uttering “Jesus!” about ten times throughout the day in response to the most inconsequential things he observed during the day. I wanted to ask him, “Sir, do you really want to bother Jesus about this? He might have more important things to deal.” No doubt he’s in the presence of adults who carry on like that.

    3. In the NY Times (and no doubt in other media), the use of the word “might” and “unclear” in headlines and news article text. ANYTHING “might” be, and be “unclear,” as far as THAT goes. I always think, “Let me know when you ACTUALLY KNOW something, and have ‘cleared’ up the mystery, so as to make my purchase of your periodical worth it.”

    4. On NPR yesterday, I heard a segment on “Sharenting.” (Ugh)^3! That is, parenting in the context of SHARING photos and text touting the accomplishments of parents’ children, even if the children would rather their parents not so share, in some cases the children angry that they have no control over it, and feeling embarrassed and mortified.

    1. I do agree about “Oh. My. God.”

      It seems almost inevitable (but is probably just my selection bias) that any phone-shot video of a crash on Youboob has a background of someone saying “Oh. my. god. oh. my. god. oh. my. god.” on autorepeat.


  15. The misuse of ‘substitute’.

    Example: from the Wiktionary entry for the non-word ‘baristo’

    “From barista (“espresso-server”), the -a having been misinterpreted as the Italian feminine singular ending -a, and then substituted with the masculine singular ending -o to specify a masculine, rather than feminine, agent noun.”

    What annoys me is the misuse of ‘substitute’ to mean ‘replace’. If you want to use ‘substitute’ you say ‘substitute an o for an a’. This misuse is endemic in casual writing, but it’s especially annoying in a context that at least pretends to scholarly precision.

    1. So maybe if the waitress had told Jack Nicholson “no replacements” instead of “no substitutions,” things might’ve worked out better in Five Easy Pieces? 🙂

  16. It’s a lot of fun to be a grammar and usage-nazi, but it means something, too. There’s a lot of illiteracy around, but everyone has different failures, so we get to laugh at one another’s mistakes while making the equivalent mistakes ourselves.

  17. I give a pass to words that express something that can’t be said in a single word, so “relatable” doesn’t rankle me. Languages are not the inventions of linguistics experts. They result from people coming up with ways to express the previously unexpressable. I approve of creativity.

    I wouldn’t use these expressions in formal writing, but I have picked up “might could” and “all y’all,” which are quite handy.

    1. “Might could” and “all y’all” are solid regionalisms. The first reminds me of the type of phrases Truman Capote had in the mouths of Kansans (often via free indirect discourse) in In Cold Blood.

    2. Except that “relatable” means nothing.

      I have had to ban it in my creative writing class. When students have nothing to say, they say, “That story is really relatable.”

  18. The second one sounds like they’ve been hanging around too many Australians. We will literally do this to any word.

  19. I’ve long had a beef with “utilize.” This abomination is popular with health care researchers, who claim that there is a difference between utilizing services and using them. If so, it’s a distinction discernible only to health care researchers.

    1. the use/utilize distinction I’ve heard suggested is that “utilize” means to put something to other than its intended use. (“I utilized my pool cue to unclog the toilet.”)

      That would be a useful distinction, I think, if people actually observed it. They don’t, so it isn’t.

  20. I’m getting increasingly annoyed by people who haven’t said anything yet, but start with “I mean” (BBC Newsnight presenters/interviewers)or “So,” (the pedantic type).

    Also: “hating on”. Proper hate doesn’t need a preposition.

  21. I’m not to fussed on what people say, if I don’t like it I simply wouldn’t use it, but vacay makes me think it’s describing vomiting! What’s with that I ask ya.

  22. Pardon my ignorance, I live abroad and only learn about english language changes through sites like this one. And this is where I picked up the word “noms”. Does it really mean food only to ailurophiles? Why?

    1. You asked John so I’ll improvise an answer

      Looking on the nets at informal sources I see that “Om nom nom” or “nom nom nom” came from the sound of the Cookie Monster eating on Sesame Street. Supposedly it spread from there to lolcats where any picture of a cat biting your face is funnier with “nom nom nom” written beneath.

      Then it infected everyday language as “nom” the verb & noun.

      It’s not just kitty lovers who use “nom”
      I’m a kitty lover who would never use it & I’ve never met anybody in the UK who uses it, but maybe I keep the wrong company.

      I prefer to say “grub” or more likely the verb & noun “nosh” which is very common & well understood. “Nosh” comes from Yiddish which spread through your chipper Cockneys & then out to us provincials via TV documentaries such as the middle class Jamie Oliver pretending to be a cheeky Cockney chappie on his old scooter while saying “bosh this in the bowl” & other crass, bollocks Mockney nonsense.

      Then Eastenders & TV comedies such as Never Mind The Quality – Feel The Width & Till Death Us Do Part & Sunday radio comedy too I’m guessing which I think spread a lot of fun Yiddish words [& insider words from other groups too].

      That’s my best guess.

        1. I like “scarf down” is it used just as “scarf” with the same meaning?

          Over here we have “scoff” as in “that was great scoff” or “they scoffed the cake in a trice”, but I don’t recall it being used at all very much recently – there’s something a bit Billy Bunter about it or I can imagine Enid Blyton writing “…biscuits & lemonade scoffed at midnight in Malory Towers…”

          But I might be out of touch.

          1. One can scarf with or without the down. One can also say scarf city, But that’s perhaps kind of surfer jargon or I may even have made that up in relation to my old dog when the beach boys surf city came out. Or was that jan and Dean? I think of scoffing as being more like being disdainful towards something/someone.

              1. I re-read a whole bunch of the early ones recently and they are sublimely funny. I didn’t find them that funny as a kid, but as a grown-up they’re hilarious.

      1. I am also a kitty lover and never use the word nom. I had not known of this word until joining this site. It is not common here in Nova Scotia or in the Maritimes generally. The rest of Canada i cannot speak for. To be fair I am not native to Canada having arrived as an immigrant from the old country, the UK, so perhaps this also influences my lack of exposure to the word.
        Grub and nosh are used here though and not just by the recent expatriate community. Could be exposure to UK television.

  23. I also dislike the use of the word ‘nazi’ to describe anyone who is a little over zealous in the enforcement of rules. Nazism was as vile and repugnant a political movement as it’s possible to have and to call someone a nazi because they’re over fussy about the correct use of apostrophes, for example, seems to me to do a serious disservice to the many victims of real nazis.

    1. I mixed those two up in a legal brief about 25 years ago. I realized it when I was reading over the brief a few months later in preparation for oral argument, and I can still feel the cringe that came over me. Right in the middle of what I thought was a pretty goddamn good paragraph, too.

  24. An annoyance that I notice more and more of late is people answer a question where they start with “Okay”, “Yes”, “So”, etc.

    interviewer: What is your new bill about?
    politician: Yes. It deals with the…

    It seems it’s mostly employed by politicians, which makes me wonder if there’s some psychology to it, and they’ve been coached to employ it.

    1. I’m guessing it’s a stalling tactic, to buy time while figuring out how to avoid answering the question.

      1. They’ve probably been told that saying ‘yes’ at the start of a sentence signifies positivity and agreement, so just use it regardless of whether someone’s asked you a question.

        Which is ridiculous, but that’s the way political speech has been going for a long time – they use all these behavioural tricks which might, possibly, maybe, gain them some infinitesimal advantage with viewers, but makes listening to them a constant slog and makes them seem even less sincere than usual.

  25. I was struck recently while doing my Swahili exercises how that language seems to be quite strict about distinguishing a singular “you” from a plural “you”. The app I’m using (yes, I do know that I’m going to need proper lessons and a grammar text book, one day) is programmed by Americans (you can tell by the “mom” where it should be”mum”) and it sounds odd to me that they talk about “una-“(verb root) translating as “you” (verb), but “mna”-(verb root) translating as “you (all)” (verb).
    It just makes me wonder, how on earth did a language trait from an East African lingua franca reappear in the language of southern America?
    I’m sure there’s a logical explanation – for example, the you-singular versus you-plural distinction is considerably more strongly found in (Castillian) Spanish than the French which I’m much more familiar with. But it just seems weird to me.
    And that reminds me – it’s time to do my daily exercises. Swahili, then German then French.

    1. ‘I was struck recently while doing my Swahili exercises how that language seems to be quite strict about distinguishing a singular “you” from a plural “you”. ‘

      Well, French for example, does too. ‘tu’ and ‘vous’. Except that over the centuries, ‘vous’ has drifted to include ‘tu’ except for certain situations. (As I see you noted).

      But Polynesian languages (like NZ Maori and Rarotongan) do even more with their pronouns, they distinguish singular, dual and plural – koe, korua (you two) and kotou (you all). But then they don’t really have any male/female genders, except (IIRC) in the case of cousins/aunties etc of the same sex or opposite sex from the speaker. Nor (traditionally) do they have separate names for girls and boys.


      1. Hmmm, triple classification of numbers in Maori. Interesting, I hadn’t heard of that.
        It’s interesting getting back into languages. I quite enjoyed them (FR & ES) at school, but only rarely had reason to put them into use until a couple of decades down the line.

      2. This seems very similar to Inuktitut, if I recall.

        Inuktitut has very little facility for systematic number naming, too, so there are references in the anthropological literature of *highest number* contests being held, which I thought was funny – and worth thinking about in our own system if one constrains the time or space to write/say it.

    2. “I was struck recently while doing my Swahili exercises…”

      Crikey. Yesterday I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on Alien: Covenant and then microwaved an old Chinese meal from the fridge. I feel like I might not be living the most productive of lives by comparison with other commenters here.

      1. It takes bloody mindedness, and alarms on my phone.
        I’ve been putting off writing a “precis” of a French film for my French Conversation group for most of the last week. I’ve worked out *what* I want to say, but I definitely need to write it down so I’ve got the idiom nailed into my skull.

  26. Optics. Metrics. Skillset. Careering (dont they mean careening?). Access (when did this become a legitimate verb?).Racist. Diversity.

      1. I would guess that she only hates ‘diversity’ when it is (mis)used as a synonym for persons of color.

        In other words, an all-black football team might be ‘diverse’ in that sense but certainly not in the original sense of the word.


        1. Maybe. But then I hear a lot of people talking about their dislike of the word ‘diversity’ as a dogwhistle. It’s a kind of ‘in’ that helps drag the discussion slowly into how good racial homogeneity is, and how it’s ‘natural’ to want to be with ‘your own kind’, etc.

        2. Perhaps Lorna will explain, but the juxtaposition of “diversity” next to “racist” as objectionable leads me to conclude otherwise.

          At this point I’d align closer to Saul’s “Fucking hell” response.

  27. Recently someone told me that one of their in-laws uses ‘kindy’, to refer to ‘kindergarten’.

    ‘Uni’ to refer to university is bad enough, but ‘kindy’? I was a little bit sick in my mouth.

  28. “Useless”, “lazy”, “workshy”, etc…

    I’m absolutely sick of hearing these words at work.

    The same goes for:


    “ethically-suspect” / “morally-bankrupt”

    “thieving shitehawk”

    “humey re-re”(short for ‘human resources’)

    “offy-in”(short for ‘official investigation’)

    “resty-justy” (short for ‘restorative justice’)


      1. No, I was just being silly. But it sounds just about believable doesn’t it? People say ‘fro-yo’ for frozen yoghurt after all.

        (‘Kindy’ from my previous post is true though.)

  29. When someone is asked a question and the response is:
    “what I’d like to say is…” or
    “what I want to say is..”

    I think it’s fairly common in American English.

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