Words and phrases I hate

February 6, 2020 • 1:30 pm

Yes, it’s time for another chance to blow off steam about words and phrases that irritate you. I have three today: all, of course, are from HuffPo—the source of everything risible and reprehensible. You’re invited to contribute your favorites in the comments.

1.) “Sick” meaning “cool” or “great.” This is another neologism which means the opposite of how it sounds. And it’s one of those words whose use brands you as being au courant, though of course anyone using “sick” in this way wouldn’t know what “au courant” means. Here’s an example from HuffPo, which further degrades itself by putting quotes around “sick”, quotes whose purpose is unclear. Is it to indicate that they know the word doesn’t really mean “sick” in a bad way, or to show that it’s slang? Who knows? Who cares?

The most famous use of “sick”, of course, comes from this viral video of “supermodel” Bella Hadid going shopping for Nike sneakers. If you have any ear for the spoken word, her use of language will curl the soles of your shoes. Note her continuous use of  “sick” and “dope” (means the same thing as “sick”), as well as her annoying sentence preface, “You know what?” Note also her implication at 1:38 that if you wear the right sneakers she’ll have sex with you (“get it”), but if you wear the wrong ones, well, it’s “quiet for you.”

You need to listen to this as part of your cultural education, but take my word for it—it’s painful.

2.) “I’m all about” or “We’re all about”. This really irritates me because it’s not even close to being accurate. Except, perhaps, for an Olympic swimmer in a competition who’s “all about swimming”, nobody is ever “all about” anything. But HuffPo’s editors (all privileged white women, of course), were all about being hydrated and wearing “comfortable-as-hell” tights.

Oh, which brings up another irritant: the word “hella“, a wrongly used contraction of “hell of” and actually meaning “really” or “strongly” (see above). Belowis example from HuffPo, which is calling out a swimsuit worn by a model of the wrong race:


3.) “You do you”, meaning,  “just act as you normally would.”  Everything I could say about this puerile Deepity was said in my earlier post about “It is what it is.” Both are examples, as the NYT article below says, of tautophrases (see below). And don’t get me started on Chrissy Teigen, who has become internet famous without any discernible talent beyond Tweeting. “You do you, Chrissy”.

From the NYT piece below:

William Safire, writing in these pages in 2006, coined a word for these self-­justifying constructions: “tautophrases.” This was in the midst of his investigation into the ubiquity of “It is what it is,” as evidenced in its use by cultural specimens as disparate as Britney Spears and Scott McClellan, a press secretary for President George W. Bush. (Pause to reminisce.) Whether the subject is an imperfect situation to be endured (“The new coffee in the break room is the pits”) or an existential conundrum (“My body is a bunch of atoms working in brief harmony before death returns them to the universe”), “It is what it is” effectively ends the discussion so that we can stop, nod in solemn agreement and move on.

129 thoughts on “Words and phrases I hate

        1. Convict the sick dope. And every Christian who uses “convict” in the Christian sense (which makes no sense*), will be convicted of felony linguistic crimes.

          The Bible Study Tools website gives this theological definition: CONVICT; CONVICTION and compounds, “to prove guilty”):

          “Usual translation of English Versions of the Bible, where the King James Version has “convince,” as in John 8:46; Titus 1:9; James 2:9; once also replacing the King James Version “reprove” (John 16:8), while the Revised Version (British and American) changes the King James Version “convince” into “reprove” in 1 Corinthians 14:24. It always implies the presentation of evidence. It is a decision presumed to be based upon a careful and discriminating consideration of all the proofs offered, and has a legal character, the verdict being rendered either in God’s judgment (Romans 3:19), or before men (John 8:46) by an appeal to their consciences in which God’s law is written (Romans 2:15). Since such conviction is addressed to the heart of the guilty, as well as concerning him externally, the word “reprove” is sometimes substituted. To “convict …. in respect of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8), refers to the conviction of the inadequacy and perversity of the ordinary, natural standards of righteousness and judgment, and the approval of those found in Christ, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, as the great interpreter and applier of the work of Christ.”


          1. I’m confused too. Something about proofs. Either they are baking bread or they don’t know the meaning of proofs.

  1. “Sick” I’m used to, because it’s from at least as early as the very early 80’s. It’s related to the use of “bad” to mean “good.” (Which itself it, I presume evolved from “badass.”) But I’d be perfectly happy with it going away as long as all the others you’ve mentioned in your posts go too.

  2. I’ve noticed in the NY Times in the last six months or so the use of “handfull” in describing a small number of human beings in whatever situation. Where’s the enlightening information in that fatuous locution? I should think that in at least “a handfull” of situations a specific number could be easily-enough identified. Too, some hands are bigger than others.

    (Also, if I may, does anyone know why the media – NYT notably – report the cost of something in relation to a TEN-year period? E.g., the cost in tax collections to the federal gov’t caused by Trump’s tax cut. For the sake of hyperbole? Why not an amount per year? Or for 20 or 50 years for that matter?)

    1. That 10-year thing caught on because at some point spending bills were required to have a paragraph explaining how it will be “paid for” over a ten-year period.

      This is a joke, of course, because FedGov only pays for 75% of its spending each year, borrowing the rest.

  3. The use of flaunt for flout has become a significant irritant to me. As William Safire used to say, “Not on my watch!”

    1. Yes, especially when the person misusing the word (I’ve heard this in both directions) thinks they are all ‘fisticated by using it. Hilarious.

  4. I rarely object to new slang, so I won’t say these are words I hate, just new phrases I’ve noticed in the past few years:

    – OOTD – outfit of the day
    – On fleek – kind of like ‘on point’ – people will describe the OOTD as being either on fleek or on point
    – Basic – A mildly pejorative word for “typical”. If you rave about Starbucks instead of a little know local cold brew spot, for example.
    – Kill yourself – meant as a humorously over the top response to disagreement, as in “You like Coldplay? Kill yourself.”
    – FML – f my life

      1. “Hard pass”

        Sufficient magnesium taken sufficiently in advance seems sufficiently therapeutic and ameliorative.

    1. “On fleek” is particularly annoying. For some odd reason it is frequently used (at least here in the UK) in an appreciative way in reference to eyebrows. Although the females being complimented rarely have actual eyebrows as far as I can tell…

      1. I think it’s an unusual slang term in that, from what I can tell, it’s completely made up, and not a play on previously existing words. I have to admit I’m too old to know much about the nuances of how it’s used, ha ha!

        1. Yup, I try to keep up with teenspeak to annoy the kids! Inevitably, I’m always somewhat behind the trend but that’s even more irritating to them!

  5. Surely the first example of one of these ‘tautophrases'(or ‘pleonasties’) was uttered by the creator* himself: “I Am What I Am”

    *God not Popeye

  6. I don’t like any of these words or phrases either.

    Isn’t “you do you” sometimes used to imply “stop trying to do me”, making it somewhat akin to “stay in your lane”? Confirmation sought from those much younger.

  7. I rather like “you do you.” I don’t think of it as an equivalent of “be yourself,” as the NYT piece represents it. I’ve usually seen it as a sarcastic or amused response to something you think is a bad idea. “Personally, I think that wearing lederhosen to a job interview will send the wrong message, but hey, you do you.”

    1. According to my (British) 17-year-old daughter the sarcastic/amused version is by far the most commonly used form, although the other (NYT) sense of the phrase does crop up from time to time.

  8. Popular vote. Is there a vote that is not popular? Unless it is manipulated by some absurd rules, such as the satellite location of where you live?

    1. Is there a vote that is not popular?

      The electoral college — for at least two definitions of “popular.”

      1. Exactly, the electoral colleges. The existence of these structures causes your vote during the presidential election to be up to four times less valuable if you live in New York then if you vote in a lowly-populated state. More people voted for Clinton than for Trump in 2016. This is an absurd situation.

          1. Yes, der Drumpfenführer lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes on 8-Nov-2016 (2.1%). As you said, that is a YUGE loss.

            It gives me hope for 3-Nov-2020.

        1. If you live in New York State and you voted Republican in 2016, your vote was worth nothing. If all 2.4 million Trump voters had failed to vote or voted Democrat, it would have made no difference at all to the result.

          The same is true for minority party voters in any state where one side or the other has an unassailable majority.

  9. Bravo, I’m with you. Here’s another one: “stan” as a replacement for “fan”. I’m a Beyonce stan. WTF is wrong with fan? Apparently, it comes from an eminem song about an obsessed fan named -you guessed it- Stan. It drives me nuts when I hear someone say it. Just say fan.

    1. They clearly haven’t listened to the song “Stan”, which doesn’t end well for the obsessive fan of that name. He’s rather misogynistic, too…

    2. A Stan is not just a fan. A Stan is someone who takes their fandom way too far.

      This is the sort of person who stalks a celebrity or starts making death threats to people who do not like the thing they like, or who starts harassing people online because they didn’t like what that person did in the movie series they like…

      People may call themselves Stans as a means of self-effacing hyperbole, but if you’re referring to someone else as a Stan you’re basically saying they’re into something to the point that its downright off-putting.

  10. Although it seems to be increasingly accepted, I cringe when I hear “reveal” used as a noun (as in “the big reveal”). True, I wouldn’t complain about someone using it that way in a jamb.

    1. I see what you did there!

      You did have to frame your comment carefully, didn’t ya? It all hinges on the context. 😉


      1. I’m reminded of some years ago being mildly raked over the coals for employing the impersonal third person singular, “one.” I was accused of being too formal. I felt guilty for about a nanosecond.

  11. Vomiting in movies. When will they stop having people vomiting. Every movie nowadays has someone vomiting in it for some reason.

    1. I agree; it’s practically becoming a new media trope (so to speak). It’s enough to make me, well, … you know.

    2. In that case, you might wanna take a hard pass on Guy Ritchie’s new flick, The Gentlemen (though I dug it despite the exaggerated projectile regurgitation scene).

      1. For me there are two Guy Ritchies. The Lock Stock Snatch Guy Ritchie and the Sherlock Aladdin Guy Ritchie. Not a fan of the Lock Stock Snatch Guy Ritchie, which is what The Gentlemen sounds like it is.

        1. Yeah, if you’re not a fan of Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (and I suppose we can add RocknRolla), then The Gentlemen ain’t gonna be your cuppa Earl Grey.

      2. Not a big fan of movie vomiting but will risk it for Guy Ritchie. LOVED Snatch and Lock,Stock. Took about three viewings of Snatch to catch all the great lines. Subtitles helped. “Open up the dog…”

        1. I love those movies, too, as I do The Gentlemen. It stars a very different Hugh Grant, near Michael Caine-esque. And the McConaissance continues.

          1. I saw a very different Hugh Grant in 2/3 of a very English Scandal (somehow ep 1 didn’t tape) and he was terrific. Looking fwd to McConnaissance as well. Wish they had continued him and Whatshisname in True Detective. They were perfect!

  12. I reserve the right to use “I am all about…” because I have a tendency to apply fanatical determination to whatever I am doing. Right now, I am at the end of a complicated machining project, and I am all about that project. When I am not in the shop working on it, I am thinking about it. I go to sleep at night thinking about milling and assembly sequences, or sketching modifications.
    Next week, the parts will go to anodizing, and I will be all about something else.

  13. Anyone at any time, age, or culture referring to a country as “she”. It’s just weird. Stop it.

    Smoking gun as a metaphor can just drop out of the language now too, I think, along with the walls closing in, the cracks are beginning to appear, and the repetition of “there there” (as in “is there any there there”), which is completely obscure to anyone who is not already familiar with whatever the f*ck it is referencing.

    1. I think the “there” expression comes from Gertrude Stein, who made fun of Oakland, California by sayin, “There is no there there.”

        1. I usually hear that phrase now in reference to the Russia Collusion scandal, usually from Trump supporters who want to discredit the story. (Probably none of these people have ever heard of Gertrude Stein!)

      1. Am reminded of John Gunther referring to Knoxville, TN as “that scruffy little city in the South.”

        Well, at least there’s not the constant horn-blowing which obtains in New York City.

        1. You’ll get no disagreement from me; I dig Oakland, too.

          I was just goofin’ on Gertie Stein’s two most famous apothegms — the one about there being “no there there” across the bay from San Francisco, and the one about “a rose is a rose is a rose.”

  14. What I love about these posts is not just how irritated you get at people who aren’t doing anything wrong, but how you pretend to know the what and why of these expressions just so you can dismiss them. And coming from someone who complains about the “cultural appropriation” police just makes this venting more ridiculous. I get the feeling your frustration comes from feeling the world is passing you by more than from your parochial understanding of English.

  15. I was surprised to see “hella” on the list. I thought it was a Northern California regionalism that had long ago gone extinct. Seeing it in the wild is like encountering a coelacanth. I first heard “hella” when I was in high school in the early 90s. Saying it to anyone in my age bracket usually gets me an easy laugh.

  16. “On Point.”

    ^^^^ I LOATHE that phrase!

    It is exclaimed as if it means anything, yet it’s the least descriptive set of words I’ve ever seen.

    As a “foodie” (<– I know, a word many hate) the worst for me is how often it appears in the reviews of the mostly-young Yelp crowd.

    "The Eggs Benedict was on point!"
    " The steak was on point!"
    "The waiter was on point!"

    What? Wha? What does that MEAN? What's it actually telling me??? Use descriptions, not empty phrases!

    *takes breath*

    I'm calm now.

    1. “The steak was on point!” This is a translation of the French expression: “au point” which means “cooked exactly right”

      1. Interesting, thanks Alexander.

        Though I see the millennials using ‘on point’ for everything…”his shoes were on point”…

    2. An aside – foodie speak is its own world. I have to get my foodie relatives to explain what the heck “negative space in plating” or “culinary foam in molecular gastronomy” are.

    3. I take it in comes from US military slang one hears in films, to ‘take point’ meaning to take the lead, be the front person in a small unit, & by extension, the eggs Benedict were ‘at the front’ therefore ‘good’ as being at the front is seen in US culture as winning, & being first is all that matters.

    4. “On point” is used as a term of art in the law, meaning that an opinion or other legal authority cited as precedent address a relevant issue.

  17. “LIKE” as a completely unnecessary word makes me livid! “Well, I’m, like, mad and I’m like ‘Well, why are you like, not caring when I’m like unhappy?” Don’t these people listen to themselves?

    1. Even worse is that whatever follows ‘like’ always tends to be said with the rising inflection, causing every sentence (and often several times in the same sentence) to sound like a question.
      “So* I was like on the bus? and this like old person? like looked at me? and I like looked back? and he like looked away?”

      *’So’ at the start of sentences grinds my gears, too.

      1. Exactly! I meet and converse with many young people and find myself gritting my teeth. Wish they could actually hear themselves!

    2. My theory is that you tend to see these filler words / discourse markers so much more frequently in the very young because the highest levels of language are still developing and they need the extra time to organize their thoughts.

    3. Regarding the use of “sort of” and “kind of,” and “near miss”:

      In the Sat 2/3/20 NY Times, someone comments to the effect that Bernie Sanders is “almost sort of” an inspiration to Millenials (or whomever).

      I take it that “almost sort of” does not quite reach the level of “sort of,” or “almost” for that matter. And then I perforce compare “almost” with “sort of,” and am not sure which less misses the mark. I perceive that it is running a dead even heat with “like.”

      Also in today’s NY Times, the reporter at least twice employs the locution “near miss” to describe Syrian rocket or other projectile attacks on a commercial airliner which made an emergency landing on a Russian airbase in Syria. Of course George Carlin outstandingly analyzed this usage. Will this appear in the NYT “Corrections”? Does Someone, Somewhere, Somehow justify this usage?

  18. “Shut up!” for “You’re kidding!”
    “I just won the lottery!”
    “Shut up!”
    I’ve never actually heard this in real life, just on TV and the movies. Has anyone heard this in RL?

    I don’t know if it’s still around, but for a while people were using “the shit” as a compliment: “Her singing is the shit.” Even worse compliment than “sick.”

    1. I think that use of “the shit” may have started as dope slang.

      “Is his stuff any good?”

      “His stuff is ‘the shit,’ man.”

      It’s has kind of a Cheech’n’Chong echo to my ear.

      1. In a French detective series I’ve been watching called Spiral/Engrenages, pot and hash are both referred to as “le shit”. Googling it I found it seems to be the fairly current nomenclature.

    2. Of course, if the ‘the’ is omitted, then it’s the opposite of a compliment. As in, ‘her singing is shit’.

      But ‘shit’ (like ‘piss’) is a marvellously versatile word. Consider –

      ‘No shit, Sherlock.’
      ‘Get your shit together’.
      ‘I don’t have time for that shit.’
      ‘We’ll need spades and axes and shovels and all that shit.’

      … and so on.


  19. I’ve always hated the use of mathematical phrases outside their proper context by people who clearly don’t know what the term actually means.

    Most obviously “Lowest Common Denominator” as a generic term for dumbing down.

      1. Interesting, not heard that one, sounds annoying though.

        Forgot to add, even more irritating is the use of “metrics” to mean, in bureaucracy-speak, proxy measures of effectiveness.

        Have you checked whether they satisfy the metric inequality? Well, have you?!

  20. What annoys me more is poor Bella Hadid wearing jeans with holes in.

    I am not sure she would ever have worked at a job where you wear your jeans out like that. I have!

    1. WEAR them out or wear them OUT?? I’ve seen holey jeans at the opera with super-expensive super-high heels. Stooopid. Tacky. Like get off my lawn!

  21. “Isn’t having it…”

    Or when referring to Twitter as if it is a sentient being.

    Example: “Celebrity X said something about celebrity Y, and Twitter isn’t having it.”

  22. So I’m really tired of people beginning sentences with the word “so”, especially when it doesn’t make any sense. (Example: you ask for directions, and the other person responds, “So you’re gonna make a left turn at…”)

  23. I got 28 seconds into that video, as far as the first “Oh my god” – another phrase I detest – and decided that in fact I do *not* need to watch it. I’m perfectly willing to accept PCC’s description of the rest of it without subjecting myself to it. Not even the implied prospect of shagging Ms Hadid would persuade me to watch another minute of it. I don’t think I’d use either ‘culture’ or ‘education’ in connection with it though.

    In other news – I agree ‘sick’ and ‘dope’ are annoyingly counter-factual in their slang meanings, probably springing off from ‘bad’.

    I don’t mind “It is what it is” in the right context, which to me implies that the situation (‘it’) is far from ideal but we just have to deal with it as it stands. The phrase is much over-used, though.

    Pet hates: Trending. Influencers. Hashtag, when tacked on to the end of e.g. a news item. Celebrity gossip (not the phrase, the thing).


  24. Late to the party because I had to let Jerry’s posts stack up about a week but I have to say I hate the phrase “back in the day.” What day??? Why not just say “in the 1960s” or “when I was in high school” or whenever it was? It’s just so imprecise.

    1. How about ‘back in my day’ and when they see me, they will know it was long ago!

      Also, will try to add this to the next time JAC revisits this theme: Sorry. Not Sorry. Two national corporations are using this in their ads, and I fail to see the point of their snark [and apparent rip off of Demi Lovato]

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