Words and phrases I hate

August 28, 2019 • 12:30 pm

Beyond the depressing news from Britain (and Matthew has promised to write us a daily summary during the “troubles”), there’s not much I feel compelled to write about today. So let’s return to a favorite curmudgeonly pastime: describing words and phrases that rankle us. I have three today:

A.) “This. Just this.” This phrase is used to agree with or emphasize some statement or sentiment. (Sometimes it’s just the single sentence “This.”) The word is the verbal equivalent of an emoticon: a cheap and not particularly appealing way to express assent. For some reason it seems widely used by Social Justice Warriors (and I am referring to the offense-brigade type) to align them selves with a group that is distancing itself from others.

B.) “because why not” or “because. . “ I don’t like this because it’s ungrammatical, and that alone is enough to rile me. I’ll give an example: “Why did you eat your hamburger but leave the bun?” “Because carbohydrates.”  And that’s one of the less disturbing examples. An article at Sentence First goes into more detail on why and how “because” has become a preposition, including this:

‘Because’ has become a preposition, because grammar

If the title of this post made perfect sense to you, then you’re way ahead of me. But just in case, we’d best recap. Neal Whitman wrote a good article at Grammar Girl recently on the possible origins of because as a standalone preposition. This helpful passage from Whitman sets out the context:

In Standard English, the word “because” can be used two ways. One of them is to introduce a clause, as in “Aardvark was late because he was waiting for the repairman to show up.” Used this way, “because” is a subordinating conjunction. The other is to team up with “of” to form what’s called a compound preposition. For example, “Aardvark was late because of heavy traffic.” In the past three or four years, though, a new usage for “because” has been developing.

The new usage – older than 3–4 years, mind – is what Laura Bailey and Mark Liberman, respectively, have referred to as “because+noun” and “because NOUN”. Liberman says the idiom usually seems to imply “that the referenced line of reasoning is weak”. Sometimes, yes, but it’s also commonly used just for convenience, or effect: No work tomorrow because holidays!Of course evolution is true, because science.

Because X is fashionably slangy at the moment, diffusing rapidly across communities. It has a snappy, jocular feel, with a syntactic jolt that allows long explanations to be forgone. Because time-strapped. Maybe the causal factor is so obvious as to need no elaboration, or the speaker is distracted or giddy, or online and eager to save effort and move on, or maybe the construction appeals for undefined aesthetic or social reasons.

Anything that’s “fashionably slangy” is suspect from the outset! (Which reminds me: “outset” is not the same as “onset”, yet many people use the latter when they mean the former.)

C.) “Impactful.” There is no use for this word. “Meaningful,” “consequential”, “important”, “effective”, or, best of all, “influential.” With all of those words, there’s no need for the clumsy and bothersome “impactful”.  But of course HuffPost loves it:

You know the drill: go ahead and rant:

167 thoughts on “Words and phrases I hate

  1. ‘Kindi’ for ‘kindergarten’. I put it in last time, but now a member of the family(not genetically related I stress) is using it all the time so I’m going to put it in again. Because I hate it that much.

    I can’t make people stop using ‘uni’, that’s out there, it’s too late, but I’m going to have a bloody good go at stamping out ‘kindi’.

    1. Glad you mentioned “uni”. I don’t hear it from Americans though, just the rest of the English-speaking world. Of course, I am well out of uni so I may be wrong about this.

  2. I kinda like impactful and because I like it, I think it’s gonna stay and become a staple. Because, why not.

    Also, since it’s that type of thread, can I whinge a bit on those that whinge on the word “literally”? Comeon, everyone knows it’s being used as an intensifier nowadays (not to mention, erstwhiledays) and I have grammaticians and lexicomaters on my side. Enough with the whinging.

    1. What’s the difference between a literalist and a kleptomaniac?

      A literalist always takes things literally.

      A kleptomaniac always takes things, literally.

    2. I hate to be a grammar nazi, but the original sense of “literal” was a clear, concise way of saying, “I mean exactly what I appear to mean and I’m not using figurative language.” Now that the original meaning has been lost, we don’t have an easy, short-hand way of expressing that idea anymore. A useful word has been ruined by careless people, and we don’t have an alternative yet. This seems to me like a regression of some kind — a case of language becoming more primitive. Languages do evolve, but not always in the right direction!

      1. While we’re at it: linguists might condone the new use of “literal” as an intensifier, but so much the worse for them. Linguistics departments in the United States are infected with political correctness (masquerading as “descriptivism”) and it’s considered bad form to criticize any type of usage — no matter how sloppy and inaccurate — lest we offend a marginalized group of some kind. If enough people start saying “me want hamburger,” some linguist will endorse that usage.

        1. Me want literally back but since me won’t get it I propose doubling it when it is meant literally, as in: His head literally literally exploded when he cut the fuse too short. It can be tripled, then, when necessary.

        2. I would’ve thought they were the stuffy and anal-retentive kind of people. Let me also say here that I have an issue with those taking issue with the use of “me” as a perfectly valid alternative to the pronoun I.

          1. “. . . use of “me” as a perfectly valid alternative to the pronoun “I””

            That’s a bit extreme. If you want to go that far, why not just abolish English grammar and stop teaching it in school all together? At that point, language is just a free-for-all.

          2. Isn’t this “me” instead of “I” a kind of speech used by Rastafarians?

            Or am I wrong and being fooled by a stereotype?

      2. Context usually fixes the ambiguity without further elaboration. The word is totally versatile. It’s also funny that the ridicule of its users usually comes when its use in context can never be misunderstood. Anyway, parsimony of speech in an effort for unerring understanding between two erring human beings throwing sounds symbols at each other in casual conversation is overrated. I’m not saying we should be sloppy but literally is still a good word. Though, even when used correctly, it’s almost always in a context when it also acts as an intensifier, so I think this word has some psychological issues. It doesn’t know what the hell it wants to be.

        1. “Context usually fixes the ambiguity without further elaboration.”

          The operative word here is *usually.* There’s always a case where some ambiguity is going to result.

          Also, the problem is that the word “literally” has two contradictory meanings now: the dictionary definition that means “non-metaphorical” and the popular sense of meaning something metaphorically (e.g. “It was *literally* raining cats and dogs” or “I was *literally* crying my eyes out.”). A word that has two contradictory meanings isn’t useful in everyday speech.

          Even worse, the popular sense of “literally” doesn’t add much meaning to a sentence. Is the sentence “I was *literally* crying my eyes out” more memorable than “I was crying my eyes out”? “Literally” is just verbal filler — it serves no purpose.

          1. I would say it’s more useful. It’s not hard to use it in either sense and make sense. As to the second point, I disagree (surprise, surprise!) and say that it contributes to the tone of the message and some find that useful. In the end, it’ll be interesting to see how this word evolves over the next century.

      3. I emphatically agree. What do we use for ‘literally’ now the word has been corrupted?

        Also, ‘inappropriate’, which has been twisted to mean ‘offensive’. The word simply means (or used to) ‘not optimum/suitable for the current situation’ – as in, it would be inappropriate to open a can of beans with a hammer and chisel. Also, messy. Most combinations of arbitrary items are inappropriate, but only a small percentage of those are offensive. The current trendy usage of the word is highly inappropriate.


        1. Are you suggesting ‘actually’ as a substitute for ‘literally’? It will serve as a rough approximation, but it doesn’t quite mean the same. There is an implication that the ‘actual’ facts – the actuality – is slightly different from what has previously been assumed. Which ‘literally’ doesn’t carry.

          Or are you saying you hate ‘actually’? It’s sometimes used superfluously, and sometimes (usually at the start of a sentence) as a play for time, similar to ‘Umm’, ‘Err’, or ‘Well’. As such, I don’t think its meaning is abused so I don’t mind it.


  3. Five Impactful things you can do in 2019


    come into forcible contact with another object.

    1. Impact Donald Trump
    2. Impact Mitch McConnell
    3. Impact Boris Johnson
    4. Impact Joe Arpaio
    5. Impact Betsy DeVos

    Did I get those right?

    1. It appears they {(Bob T.’s first five) and more than a few too many others} each suffer from impaired mental functions caused by impacted circulatory vessels in their respective brains.

  4. Oh only 3?

    One thing that really gets me worked up are, for want of a better term, ‘horrible intransitives’ — e.g. the movies shows at the palladium, the book publishes in spring, the article reads well.

        1. Incisive observation! I used to milk tooth puns back when I was an apprentice dentist, in dentured servitude.

        1. Removing all one’s teeth would avoid impaction and give your countenance considerable impact. Especially on a blind date.

  5. I’m not going to rant about a specific word. I’ve recently decided I hate when foreign words that enter into an English conversation are pronounced with the foreign inflection. I noticed it a lot during the El Paso shooting. Many commentators, when saying the city pronounced it as if they were speaking Spanish. It just doesn’t flow well and it distracts. I don’t know if this is supposed to connote respect, or what?

    1. Always remember – a commentator doesn’t commentate, but comments. When you attend an orientation session, you become oriented, not orientated.

    2. I’ve had people look down their noses at me for saying I visited Barcelona and not “Barthelona”, but the Catalans say it with an S and not a TH.

      Here in Germany, Germans pronounce the t in ‘ballet’, and to stop anyone complaining about it, they’ve even added an extra T to it — ‘Ballett’. No more arguments!

      1. I remember reading that the physicist Murray Gell-Mann always pronounced the names of cities in foreign countries just like the natives, to the extent that people often had no idea which city he was talking about.

        1. “people often had no idea which city he was talking about.”

          Except, of course, the natives. 😎


      2. Pfff, same with Ibiza. The Catalans say it correctly and *you’re* the one who’s messing up. What, are you saying the Catalans are sub-humans with a speech impediment?

    3. Most large foreign cities have an ‘English’ version of their name, and in that case it’s pretentious to use the native one, IMO. As in saying ‘Paree’ for Paris or ‘Roma’ for Rome. (Except, of course, when talking to natives in that country).

      Of course foreigners do the same – ‘Londres’ for London, for example.

      But for place names without an established English equivalent (which is, 99% of them), it’s just ignorant to not even attempt to get the name right, or some approximation that a helpful local might charitably manage to recognise. Also self-defeating, if trying to ask the way.


      1. I learned, from visiting Washington state and living in Wisconsin, to never attempt to pronounce a place name before hearing local people say it first, especially when asking directions to the Washington towns of Sequim or Kalama, or the Wisconsin community of Oconomowoc.

  6. The new word “impactful” obviously comes from the recent conversion of “impact” from a noun into a verb. I used to complain about that, particularly slang cases like the repulsive use of “chill” as a reflexive verb. But then I looked into verbification more closely, and learned that innumerable very useful verbs (“ship”, “mail”, “merge”, “access”, “fool”, etc. etc.) began life as nouns. I guess it’s just the way language, uhhh, evolves.

      1. Sadly, that is how many now-accepted verbs came into being, so though I share your revulsion for many, many current ‘verbings’, I cannot claim grammatical authority for denouncing them.


    1. I had to report here that I heard “impactful” spoken out loud. I looked on Google’s “define” page. “Impactful” did not exist before ca. 1950 :


      The other words you cite are difficult to interpret this way. I might look at the Ngrams. Also I recall Pinker’s witticism “verbing weirds language”

  7. Anything that’s “fashionably slangy” is suspect from the outset!

    At least you said ‘outset’ rather than get-go, that would have really have got my goat (a very handsome Bagot, if I was asked to choose).

  8. I really hate ‘anyways’ instead of ‘anyway’ (especially if speakers start every other sentence with it, without the word having any function whatsoever)

    Because irritating!

  9. “Latinx”.

    Yes, we’re not going to use the word Latin because using a perfectly good English word to refer to a group of people is cultural imperialism, but we’re not going to use the word Latino either because we think Spanish grammatical gender is a sexist abomination and we woke Anglophones need to make a show our militant opposition to it and that’s totally not cultural imperialism despite our clearly not knowing a plugged thing about how Romance languages actually work.

    Bonus points for coming up with a hideously ugly formulation that’s pronounceable in neither Spanish nor English.

  10. In no particular order as I loathe them all to the same degree and to the fullest extent that it’s possible to loathe something like this.

    1. Friyay, as in, “Hooray, it’s Friyay!” It’s particularly odious when written or spoken by adults. About as bad as tank tops with the slogan “I’m tired of adulting” worn by grown women headed for a Body Combat workout.
    2. Staycation (gross, just gross!)
    3. Onboard and onboarding. I hear this one in meetings a lot, as in “What we need to do to onboard new staff is …”
    4. I also hate any and all utterances and iterations of “impactful.”
    5. Activation, when it’s used in sentences such as, “Our priority here is patient activation.” (Yes, I work at a med center… that one was a dead giveaway. My boss is convinced there are people who won’t pay attention to me unless I use the phrase “patient activation” in meetings. My goal is to prove him wrong this year by using other terms and sentences that mean the same thing.)

    There are many more words and phrases I hate–like the sound of the word Tippet when it’s spoken all breathy and mystically in the same sentence as “On Being” by one of the women in the world who happens to have that surname and a radio show. HA! 😉

    1. Staycation, yes, thank you, fully supported. I’m also getting pretty tired of twee neologisms like ‘wine o’clock’.

      Also sentences where the words are set out individually to make a point. This. Is. Not. Acceptable.

      1. I. Agree. So. Much.

        And oh, that’s so odious: WINE O’CLOCK. Somehow, I hadn’t had the great pleasure of that one gnawing at my eardrums yet.

        I have this memory of me in 4th grade being thoroughly grossed out when a teacher told us to “guesstimate.” I suppose I’ve been a linguistic curmudgeon for some time…

        1. Why the hate for “staycation”? It succinctly tells you the person stayed at home for vacation, preventing the awkward question and answer, “Where did you go on your vacation?/I was broke so I stayed home” 🙂

          1. Oh? Is *that* what it means? I got the exact opposite meaning – I assumed it meant to visit a place and stay in that place for the duration of the vacation (rather than, for example, touring).

            So no, it’s not at all obvious.


    2. Wtf is ‘patient activation’? Reviving the dead ones? Opening a file on them? Engaging their attention? Involving them in their treatment? I genuinely can’t guess the meaning of this stupid phrase.


  11. Not quite in the same category, but two phrases that I wish (without much hope) I never see again are “gentle giant” and “winter wonderland”. They are just too trite and overused.

  12. “Impactful” is a hollow barbarism. Hell, I still cringe at “impact” as a verb, let alone hearing it tormented into an adjective.

    The “because + noun” construction was fashionably slangy at first, as the linked article says. But it’s now grown passé with overuse, because of course it has.

    Hipness, like gravity and the electromagnetic force, is subject to an inverse-square law: as it propagates from its source, it dissipates exponentially.

    1. I was eviscerated on this very forum, perhaps nine years ago, for expressing dislike of “impact” used as a verb. By a reader, not Jerry.

      (Thankfully my guts spontaneously regenerated immediately after.)

        1. I considered bringing that up, bur figured it was too gross. Heard about a lot of gross stuff when my ex was an emergency doc.

  13. The utterly (udderly?) bovine-looking coworker. Either hyphenate it or use the perfectly adequate colleague.

    1. I think one of the characters in Dilbert (the comic strip) claimed that that it should be spelled ‘cow-orker’, and pronounce with a Cockney accent: “‘e’s a bleedin’ cow-orker, that one”

  14. “Impactful”

    Oh, gawd, yes – kill it with FIRE! I don’t know how this word suddenly slipped into regular usage, but it has become a word cancer.

  15. “Utilize” – totally useless, frequently utilized by someone trying to sound intelligent.

    [double irony recognized]

    1. “Utilize can be used when indicating that the application is beyond its original intended use. For instance, “I use my frying pan to cook with, but I have utilized it as a weapon.” The intended use of a frying pan is for cooking, so the proper word here is use.”

      For me, personally:
      “I utilize my brain for responding to comments”

    1. Translation: Not a specific phrase, but randomly initialising parts of sentences, with the ridiculous assumption that the reader will understand it.

  16. Anything that’s “fashionably slangy” is suspect from the outset! (Which reminds me: “outset” is not the same as “onset”, yet many people use the latter when they mean the former.)

    Curious. I think I know how to use the two words, but have trouble stating a formal rule. Clearly “onset” doesn’t work in your sentence. A stab is that “onset” should be followed by “of” or maybe an “implied of” that has an obvious referent in context?

  17. I have to admit that I still kind of like the ‘because + Noun’ construction, because it has a sort of built-in gesture (a sort of hand-wave). It does have that shortcut feel of instant messaging that can sometimes be used to comic effect.

    Because+Noun attacks the often tired talking points that you often hear from the Right, such as ‘Sanctity of Life’ or ‘Guns don’t kill people, etc.’ Those phrases make us skip any meaningful argument, and skewering them in a short phrase is kind of satisfying.

    Another example I remember from years ago of this kind of comic shorthand was a character appearing in the Ally Mcbeal television series (the one with Calista Flockhart) who often used the single word ‘Bygones.’, because it was too much trouble to use the somewhat hackneyed phrase, ‘Let bygones be bygones’, when the word was only ever used in that phrase, hence the lack of any confusion when you left out all that verbal fat.

    1. I like your analysis. I don’t mind the because+noun construction, but can’t see myself using it – it seems fraudulent like pronouncing French words correctly when I don’t speak the language.

  18. Curated – instead of selected. Some things are curated, as in objects in a museum, which are cared for and carefully preserved. Now the word is used to dress up any selection of things, generally to make the enterprise sound more grand or important that it really is.

  19. Deployed is another dress up word.

    Mouse traps were deployed strategically.

    Mouse traps were set in the pantry.

  20. “Have a nice rest of your day!”

    Absolutely not. It’s “have a nice day” or “enjoy the rest of your day”. I don’t know why it even occurs to people to manufacture that ridiculous Frankenphrase up top.

    1. I’m entirely tolerant of that one when used sarcastically. Similar to, ‘Other than that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the play?’

      Otherwise, I agree with you.


  21. Exactly

    People say it when they want the person offering their take on a subject to shut up.

    It is also used to imply general knowledge of a subject although a slight uncertainty about some aspect of it, as in: What exactly is a nuclear reactor?

  22. I’ve always thought that living languages such as English are in a constant state of evolution. And dictionaries and grammar books are better seen as records, not rule books. To my knowledge, only the French have the hubris to try to prescribe their language via the Académie française.

    1. So true, but beside the point. We have to live with the annoying becoming common, but still retain our human right to complain. And who knows, maybe the complaining will be impactful?

    2. Actually, I just remember that’s not true. In 2016, before Brexit, the English (and posssibly Irish) delegates to the EU parliament published a report entitled “Misused English words and expressions in EU publications” which was essentially a rant about improper verbing of nouns (like did right there), misused conjunctions such as “to” over “of” in the phrase “with the aim to…”, other benign mistranslations, and so on. It’s a real interesting read if you’re a language nerd. Here’s a link to the pdf : https://www.eca.europa.eu/Other%20publications/EN_TERMINOLOGY_PUBLICATION/EN_TERMINOLOGY_PUBLICATION.pdf

    3. Their counterparts in Quebec are also language prescriptivists. (This is especially amusing, given anglicisms and loan words in Quebec French are generally even more common than in France, for obvious reasons.)

  23. I must admit that I too grow slightly annoyed by these and many other recent deviations in the English language. But if we go back many decades, into our youth, there were similar mutations and I for one happily participated in their use. Terms like “In your face!”, or “don’t be such a spaz”.

    Mutations happen.

  24. How about “reach out” for “contact”? For example: “The reporter reached out to Facebook for comment” or “Don’t hesitate to reach out to the sales department if you have any questions” — that sort of thing. The phrase seems maudlin and melodramatic, as in “reach out in the darkness” or “reach out and touch some one.”

      1. I, too, hate ‘reach out’. It could be ‘contact’, ‘speak to’, ‘send an email’ to or many other things.
        In addition, I really dislike people who use ‘myself’ not as a reflexive pronoun, but as a supposedly more polite way to say ‘me’.
        Sorry about all the quotes!

        1. I dislike the use of “contact” as a verb. My first reaction when someone tells me to “contact” her is to reply with, “Okay. Should I “office” you, “sidewalk” you or “home” you?

  25. Impactful is just dreadful.

    “This” and “because reasons” are mostly in the category of “Twitter and comment reply” language use, where they seem okay to me. I don’t notice them elsewhere.

    What is perhaps more concerning is that “Twitter and comment reply” is rapidly becoming the main form of language use in our society. How words are used on Twitter may become the new standard for our language.

  26. Many times in the NY Times: “It is unclear” that this or that happened. Also, something “may” result in something.

    What is the informational content of that? Has anything actually happened? It is just a way to slip in a speculation in allegedly objective news reporting.

    Let me know when you ACTUALLY know, NY Times.

    1. Lawrence O’Donnell slipped some speculation into a newsy sounding comment recently by using the phrase “if true.” He is being roundly criticized for it (and apologizes). People contemplating the use of “if true” should probably remain silent.

      1. I agree, “if true” is illegitimate in news. I’m sure the jokers on Fox and Friends thought of it that way too right out of Ken & Barbie Doll College of Journalism. A nice paycheck or two later they come right around on “if true”.

      2. I think the problem with O’Donnell’s reporting on this last night was that it was in derogation of the general standard of responsible journalism (going back to before Woodstein and Watergate) requiring at least TWO reliable sources before reporting a story. Because O’Donnell had just one source, he felt the need to add “if true,” whereas he shouldn’t have reported it at all unless and until he had confirmation from a second source.

        1. Yes, and this latest manifests a serious, widespread problem affecting all the cable news networks: On air personalities who make the worst possible case out for their ideological enemies, while best casing co-believers – this is dishonesty in one of its least attractive forms.

          I don’t want O’Donnell being the one to tell me that at long last Trump is finished. I’ll want a reliable source.

          [I finished The Undoing Project you recommended. Good book, thanks.]

  27. My pet hate is the phrase ‘outside of’ as in ‘ouside of America’. What on earth does the ‘of’ mean?
    In certain contexts, it can make sense if it means ‘apart from’, but otherwise it’s just annoying.

  28. “Parm” for Parmesan. If they can’t wait long enough to say the whole cheese then how are they going to wait for it to age long enough?

    1. That reminds me that I hate the pretentious though half-assed “parmizian”. It’s either parmesan or parmigiano.

      1. If you really want to wait for the good cheese to age then say Parmigiano-Reggiano. By the time it takes to say the whole thing the cheese is ready!

  29. Last time I did something impactful it took the panelbeater three days to straighten it out. 🙁

    Other hates of mine: “Hashtag [xxxx]” Wtf is that supposed to mean?

    And, “Just sayin'” – usually used by trolls after they’ve said something contentious. You said it, you bloody defend it, or don’t say it in the first place.


  30. English is wonderfully mutable, filled with $5 words like “mutable,” and weird constructions like “because ….” Love it or hate it it keeps surprising. And it’s full of weird little mysteries like “Take a dump” for example. Where are you going to take it to, I always wonder. Who came up with that phrase and what was going through their head when they first said it? And how come we can decipher what is really meant?
    Apologies for the crudity.

  31. Yes, and this latest manifests a serious, widespread problem affecting all the cable news networks: On air personalities who make the worst possible case out for their ideological enemies, while best casing co-believers – this is dishonesty in one of its least attractive forms.

    I don’t want O’Donnell being the one to tell me that at long last Trump is finished. I’ll want a reliable source.

    [I finished The Undoing Project you recommended. Good book, thanks.]

    1. Planning to read the undoing project soon Michael Lewis is the traffic rider. That was dictation for terrific writer 😖

      1. Great writing, he knows how to tell a story. I had read Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and initially thought the Lewis book would be ho-hum second hand stuff, but it really does add value. It lays out some of Kahneman’s and Tversky’s ideas pretty well, without going into a lot of detail some might not be looking for.

        1. Good to know. I read thinking fast and slow couple of years ago. Have you ever seen or heard Michael Lewis speak? He’s a great speaker, too.

    2. Planning to read the undoing project soon Michael Lewis is the traffic rider. That was dictation for terrific writer 😖

  32. “From my reporting…” on TV, by reporters who have investigated something and are currently reported on their investigations. It’s not reporting until it’s been communicated to someone!

    Also, they should get off my lawn, because!

    1. And another thing:

      Blogs that don’t allow posters to correct typos. I can understand not allowing us to change a post that someone has argued against in order to make the interlocutor look like a ninny, but c’mon it’s late at night and “reported” came out of my fingers. My brain knew the right word was “reporting.”

      1. I think you need something after your because in order to be sufficiently annoying. Get off my lawn because grammar, or some such🤓 I’m too lazy and tired to put in the quotation marks because I still have a broken wing…Actually the previously complained about use of because doesn’t bother me that much in casual writing But I can’t imagine saying it.

  33. Probably mentioned before but here goes:

    1. “Dropped” when used to mean “released” or “issued”. It used to refer to the release of music (e.g., “Drake’s new album about to drop”) but now is being used way too casually and inappropriately. I just saw it used by Dayton, OH police in their press conference about a fleeing suspect who killed 2 kids. Their powerpoint slide said “A citywide Signal 99 was dropped.” I thought this meant the signal did not reach anyone. Only by listening to the speaker I learned that the Signal 99 had been sent. If I see this much more I’m going to blow a gasket.

    2. Cutesy annoying portmanteaus. Seems to be a favorite tool of marketers for naming events. For example, a local beer drinking event is being called “BARmuda Triangle.”

    3. “Forever home”. First noticed for pet adoptions but I recently saw it used by homeowners: “This is our forever home.”

  34. Meaningless, highly ambiguous, and downright deceptive words and phrases, especially those used in a religious context.

    “Higher power” is one; it is so devoid of denoted meaning as to be useless, especially when used by pollsters such as Pew Research (e.g. https://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2018/04/23160206/Beliefs-about-God-Questionnaire.pdf). Do I believe in a “higher power”? Yes, because of evidence; the naturalistic “higher power” is lightning; as an atmospheric phenomenon, it is higher than terrestrial, marine, and subterranean phenomena, and it involves the transfer of energy over time, which is as good a definition of power as one is likely to find in a dictionary, encyclopedia, or physics textbook. Not what the pollsters intend? They should be more specific.

    “Nones”, also as used by pollsters presenting results of religious surveys, is a deceptive made-up category consisting of [philosophical] atheists, [philosophical] agnostics, Sheilaists (see Wikipedia for definition) and other religious believers, as well as those who are so ignorant of their own religious traditions that they cannot answer a multiple-choice question (e.g. Protestants in some Protestant sects that don’t know that their sect is Protestant). “Nones” is frequently conflated with “atheists” in media reports, even though actual atheists are a small minority in the made-up category. In spoken English, “nones” is indistinguishable from “nuns”, which adds to ambiguity.

    “Atheist” is itself ambiguous, with definitions ranging from “not a theist” (i.e. a person who does not believe in one or more deities), through “one who knows that there are no deities” (philosophical atheism), confusion with antitheist and/or misotheist, and more (usually carrying negative connotations, often used as a pejorative). There is no “anumismatist” word for those who are not numismatists; if there were such a word, it wouldn’t convey much information about a person. Likewise, “atheist” (without a corresponding definition) is so ambiguous and uninformative as to be nearly meaningless.

    There are so many such terms that I could go on and on, but I’ll close with “Christian”, another term that is uninformative, but for different reasons. By way of example, consider religion polls which ask a respondent’s religion, listing multiple choices such as “Catholic”, “Protestant”, “Jewish”, “Muslim”, …, “Atheist, “Agnostic”, “Other”. Invariably, there is a significant number of “Other” responses, with write-in comments such as (these are actual comments, by the way) “Why is Christian not on here?” and “Babtist” (a misspelling of Baptist, and not (by a long shot) a one-off quirk). It seems odd that so many Baptists in particular are ignorant of their sect’s history (easy enough to find: http://www.baptisthistory.org/baptistorigins/baptistbeginnings.html); many Baptists maintain, apparently seriously, that Catholics aren’t Christians…

    1. My parents tried to raise a good catholic son, but failed. Part of that upbringing included twelve years of Catholic schooling, in which I was taken to task for referring to myself as a “Christian”. I was informed that I was a Catholic, not a Christian, and it was only hellbound heretic Protestants who called themselves “Christians”.

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