Words and phrases I hate

December 13, 2019 • 12:30 pm

Like many Brits, I too am dispirited today, and in fact so dispirited that I can’t brain. When in such a state, I find that my best tactic is to vent, and what better way to vent than rail against language pollution?

Today we have several words or phrases I hate, and of course you’re invited to add your own below.  As usual, most of the examples—all but one—come from HuffPo, which thinks itself clever to use the argot of the kids. (I don’t get the words themselves from HuffPo; I just find it easiest to find them there as examples.)

Because I’m especially splenetic today, we have six—count them, six—examples. Each screenshot links to the relevant article.

1.) “AF”. This, of course, is an abbreviation for “as fuck”, as in the article below. Now I see nothing wrong with using the phrase in a text message to save time and space, but putting it in journalism —if you think that’s the practice HuffPost is engaged in—is a no-no. It’s not only an obscenity, but adds nothing to your article save to make you seem cool and edgy. Look at this travesty:

2.) “Inspo”.  This is an abbreviation for “inspiration”, but makes no sense. Why not “inspi”?  It’s like using “respo” for “respiration”. Again, it’s an attempt to look clever, but at the expense of the many people who get annoyed AF at this kind of jargon. An example:

3.) “Welp”. When did this word, which sounds like a dog giving birth, become an acceptable substitute for “well”? Welp, I suppose some people say it, but when you use it in a headline, which doesn’t need either “welp” or “well”, it’s just ridiculous. To wit (and this one’s from Slate, which is converging in wokeness to Salon):

Let’s make this clear: “welp” never belongs in writing.

4.) “Deal”.  Now it’s okay to say “How to deal with your anxiety when your shrink leaves town”, or “I can’t deal with his obnoxious behavior,” but to use “deal” as shorthand for “dealing with X,” with “X” unspecified, is sloppy and incomplete. For example, this might refer to how you should play cards in August:

5.) “Because X”, where “X” is a noun. This usage is particularly invidious.  It is nearly always is a redundancy, too; and its whole purpose is again to draw attention to the writer’s supposed cleverness. But it’s just dumb, to wit:

Now I for one am very interested in free snacks (in the U.S. that would be on Southwest Airlines, where you can often get additional snacks by asking), but really, why is it necessary to use last three words in the headline above?

6.) “Advancements”.  This one really raises my blood pressure. What’s wrong with the good old fashioned “advances”, which has four fewer letters? I can only guess that “advancements” sounds more educated to the morons who use it, just like those people who say “at this point in time” instead of “now”.  These two phrases are in fact an indication that the person who’s writing or speaking should be avoided.

89 thoughts on “Words and phrases I hate

  1. Something that has started bugging me. Terms and conditions when abbreviated should be “Ts & Cs” not T & Cs. There’s more than one term!

  2. I was disgusted to find that on its website CNN has used the expression “Ruh-roh” for “Uh-oh”
    I learn that it comes from Hanna Barbera cartoons. It should have remained there. Naturally, it’s also used by the HP.

    In an earlier “Words and phrases I hate” post, I lamented the use of “sandos” for sandwiches. Now I see that the deplorable trend is continuing of abbreviating words by ‘o-ing’ them ONLY when it makes no sense.

    Just two recent linguistic abominations I’ve come across.

      1. Come to the SF Bay Area, I think it’s a Millenial affectation. But the word surely could have come from contemporary Japanese usage. After all, in Japan sandwiches are cultural appropriations and I’d bet the word sando is some Japanese spin on “sandwich,” though I’m kinda surprised they didn’t use something on the order of sanduwichu, though that doesn’t sound very hip. Picnic is pikuniku. I like that formation.

        Wiki states that in the Philippines sando means sleeveless undershirt.

        1. Yeah I’ve heard Japanese refer to hair brushes as “hairo brusho” so that makes sense. It’s like us calling something el cheapo I guess.

        2. I live in the Los Angeles area so we have pretty much the same things going on here. As this article explains, sandwiches are evidently called sando in Japan. Although I’m sure someone somewhere has used it to refer to non-Japanese sandwiches, I’ve seen it many, many times with the Japanese variety. They are currently all the rage, particularly the Katsu Sando which is quite tasty.


  3. I think “Welp” is supposed to bring up a cinema cliché image of a possibly obese old male, white, about three beers in, maybe one of those baseball-truck hats, with the sausage burps (to wit, the “p” at the end, possibly sealing off a burp) who is kind of just giving up the fight, going along with any nonsense that crops up.

    I’ve been reading Bukowski lately, can you tell?

  4. I just tried to go to the Huff Post site to see what linguistic idiocies I could find, and I discovered that because I have an ad-blocker, I can no longer access the site at all, not from a link, not from Google. This hasn’t happened before but I’m not disappointed. It’s a blessing in disguise since I gotta go cold turkey from that junk.

  5. There is a new “new age” channel on Sirius XM. In one advertisement, they used the word “transformative” to describe the musical offerings. What makes it worse is the inflection used in the ad. I can’t describe the inflection (maybe valley-girl speak?) just believe me, it makes the horrible “word” worse.

  6. I really have no patience for this word coding business. I did some time in the military where acronyms were always in style and I could hardly stand those things.

    1. Aerospace is rife with them. I think they inherited that from the AirForce and NASA as well. A single NASA mission could have, from top to bottom, as many as several hundred if not thousand acronyms for nearly every part of the mission.

      1. Have to admit, the company I worked for was an acronym. That would be AAFES which I am sure means nothing to anyone here. It is The Army & Air Force Exchange Service. Often you could say AAFES to someone and they would say, oh yes, the rent a car company. No, that would be Avis.

  7. I had been fortunate enough to have previously avoided all of these ghastly words and phrases. But there are probably even more horrible ones out there, so I’ll try to take consolation from that in order to counter the depression caused by the UK’s self-inflicted electoral disaster. And, anyway, it could be worse – while we Brits are moaning about three general elections in four years, Israelis are about to embark on their third of 2019!

  8. “Welp” I would use only if trying to effect a particular dialect or tone, when writing in free indirect discourse. But then, most of the time, I’m merely the amanuensis for the voices knockin’ round my head. 🙂

  9. I am tired AF of AF!
    All seriousness aside, I hate AF even when I see it online, because it exemplifies the overuse of profanity that has blighted American English (the British still take some pride in their language).
    I have no problem with “shit” or “fuck”—I have a problem with their overuse. In California people have entire conversations consisting of little more than “shit” (used as an all-purpose noun) and “fuckin'” (all-purpose intensifier). Consistently using obscenities is like putting ketchup on everything you eat.

    1. My iPhone autocorrect anticipates that I want to write “as fuck” when I start to type in any word starting with “af.” And so, the suggestion we should meet in the afternoon could become “we should meet in the as fuck…” I find this odd behavior.

      Larry Smith

  10. Apparently some writers think it’s cool to be lazy AF. (Sorry Jerry, couldn’t resist.)

    Convo for conversation.
    Sesh for session.
    Merch for merchandise.

    “Underrated” is a word I am rapidly starting to hate. I see it all the time in comments about songs or bands, e.g., “This band is very underrated.” Oh yeah? Says who?

    1. I have recently been dipping into Shelby Foote’s history of the Civil War, in which he records some Federal commanders referring to the Confederates as “secesh” (secessionist). Some language habits are older than we might think!

  11. Here’s one that gets my goat: Using “transpired” instead of “happened”. You hear this ALL THE TIME on TV news. “Hold on! We’ve just been told that the deadly school shooting transpired at approximately …” Do normal people talk like this?

  12. Business if full of cringe-worthy wordisms. ‘Solutions’ has always bothered me. The company is into distribution solutions. Even if they only make paper clips.
    This site has a list of words that are probably fabricated, but they come close to what you see in trendy places.


      1. Thanks. Sounds like a good read. I saw that the authors consider themselves ‘bullfighters,’ as in fighting bullshit business jargon. Have you read it and if so, what do you have to say about it?

        There ought to be a sequel: Why Woke People Speak Like Idiots.

        1. Is this addressed to me? Don’t know. The book was effective at deflating the bubble of confabulated language. But I didn’t read the whole thing – looked through for 10 minutes.

          “Bullfighters” – amusing.

      2. I think I know the reason. From my experience, it comes from highly competitive managers trying to show everybody they are part of the inner circle and have all the
        jargon and buzz words.

    1. “Solutions” has always irked me. It’s become a vague multi-purpose word that can mean “product,” “service,” or “procedure.” It sounds important but doesn’t convey much information.

      The person who coined this usage should be put on trial.

    2. Depends on context.

      Solution is good. Solutions too – math problems can have multiple solutions.

      But paper clips are too clear, too obvious, too expendable. What to call it? A solution. Only in Fantasyland, I think… at lest, must be where it started.

      1. Right. When someone in mathematics or physics uses “solution” it has a distinct meaning. It’s not as clear when a furniture salesman offers “solutions for your dining room”.

        1. Actually, in my first semester at CEGEP I was instructed to pick up a copy of Zumdahl’s _Chemistry Solutions Manual_ as one of the two assigned texts in a general chemistry course. (The other was just Zumdahl’s _Chemistry_.) Until I picked it up in the bookstore I wondered if it meant as a handbook of answers to set problems, or a series of recipes for preparing stuff for lab activities!

  13. “Gumshoe”. It makes it sound like their shoes are made out of chewing gum. Nobody is going to hire someone who is barefoot by the time they walk less than a block. The shoes wouldn’t last because gum is not a suitable shoe material.

      1. “Gumshoe,” to me is an old term for a private eye, a shoe synecdoche of a synecdoche (a sole standing in for a shoe standing in for a private detective who wore the shoe that had the sole that enabled the PT to walk silently — this, of course, was a critical asset.

        It is as GBJames describes, but strictly just the sole, not the entire shoe.

    1. “Gumshoe” is kind of anachronistic, like something a 1930s pulp writer would have used. It’s a crusty journalist word that’s been passed down through the generations even though normal people rarely use it in conversation.

  14. I cannot wholly agree with your “because X” gripe.

    It provides, in one brief phrase, the tired rage one feels in dealing with a particular, egregious organisation or individual. Thus:

    “More privacy violations … Because Facebook.”

    “More power-cuts … Because Eskom.”

    1. These blackouts are not called powercuts, it is ‘loadshedding’, A euphemism I dislike, not least because it sounds a bit like ‘power-sharing’ with all it’s positive connotations

  15. “at this point in time” instead of “now”

    Ridiculous. It should be “at this contemporaneous temporal juncture”.

  16. i think its good we have so many scientifical advancements in the modernistical age. but them’s just my opinions. 🙂

    1. Also used in the designation “AF spanners”. “AF” meaning ‘across flats’, it’s used as a cryptic shorthand for inch-sized spanners to fit UNF or UNC bolts. Also known as ‘SAE’.

      This is in contrast to Metric spanners (which could with equal justification call themselves ‘AF’ but never do), and the antique Whitworth spanners which were described in terms of the bolts they fitted and not the distance ‘across flats’ of the bolt head at all.


  17. ‘Wonky’ to mean that something is full of information.

    Where I come from ‘Wonky’ means there is something wrong with an item (e.g. ‘This chair has a wonky leg…’)

    1. The two meanings of “wonky” may be a coincidence. Like you, I grew up with “wonky” as something broken. Later I learned about “policy wonks” as people who focus on the details of political policy making. I’m guessing this latter use has a different origin. And, of course, it is a short hop from “wonk” to “wonky”.

  18. During the last couple of years I’ve heard (most recently today on 12/13/19 NPR’s “All Things Considered”) of data described as “granular.” How so? What is the average listener to make of that? Sugar, salt and sand are granular, so far as that goes.

  19. “Welp” is an expression of despair, more like a sigh. It’s typical meant as an exaggeration to complain about what the world has come to, while complaining about something small or a first world problem. It’s useful for that purpose, and just slang. It belongs into serious writing as much as other slang.

  20. “It is what it is.”

    I was just reminded of the phrase. Jimmy Hoffa, portrayed by Al Pacino, used it a few times in the movie The Irishman.

    (Hate it… probably because my sister-in-law seems to use it often.)

  21. “What’s wrong with the good old fashioned ‘advances’ in, which has in fact four fewer letters?”

    When I worked as an editor for a health research center the researchers all insisted on “utilization” instead of “use,” which has in fact eight fewer letters. I went along in order to keep my job but I never did get utilized to it.

  22. How about “Do you even {noun}? ” when suggesting someone is doing some thing badly or wrong? I find that particularly grating and here you use something like that odious construct in your essay on irritating distortions of the English language. For shame! 🙂

  23. The captive portal for a certain hotel chain asks you to sign in and then says you’ll be connected to the Internet “momentarily”. No. I want to be connected for at least a few minutes to read the articles on WEIT.

  24. On 6), advancements, I’m waiting for ‘retardments’. But judging from the ‘supremacy’ crap, any word with subword ‘retard’ might send me to woke=hell.

  25. ‘Which airline to fly based on the free snacks’.
    Srsly? Are you brain dead?

    For $3 worth of snacks you would change your choice of airline? Rather than a difference of tens or hundreds of $$ in the fare, or potentially major differences in the comfort of the seating, or convenience of departure time?
    Are you that gluttonous that you can’t manage an interval of a few hours without guzzling some little plastic-wrapped bits of saturated fat?

    How about ‘which airline to fly based on the color of the seat cushions’? That would make about as much sense.


    1. I should emphasise that my snark is aimed at the writer of that headline. If anyone is flying routes where all the services are so indistinguishable in fares, equipment, seating and timetable that the quality of the snacks becomes relevant, I guess my sarcasm is vitiated. All I can say is, that’s never happened on any route I’ve flown (but then I’ve never flown in the US).


    2. For $3 worth of snacks you would change your choice of airline?

      Perhaps, if you perceive all airlines equally bad. 😎

  26. Abbreviating words to end in ‘o’ is an Australian slang thing. For example, “Salvo” (the Salvation Army), “Smoko” (tea/coffee/cigarette break), “Servo” (service station where you get petrol etc), “Alco” (an alcoholic), “Arvo” (afternoon ), “Ambo” (ambulance).

    1. aussieenglish.com.au/ae-269-30-aussie-slang-words-ending-o/

      ‘Inspo’ is not in the list but the article you cite is Australian, so it’s in keeping with the long-standing rules of Australian slang.

  27. I just realized

    There’s a cooking ingredient called aquafaba- it’s essentially the water from boiled chickpeas.


    Aquafaba can be abbreviated AF

  28. Thank you for this! Two of my worst peeves are “welp” and when people say (in casual context) the word “utilize” instead of “use”.

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