Words and phrases I detest

April 29, 2020 • 1:15 pm

Yes, it’s that time again—time to take out all your pent-up, pandemic-induced frustration on those who use odious and reprehensible language. As always, nearly all of my examples come from HuffPost. I have to say that I don’t find them by reading HuffPost; I simply hear something I don’t like and google it along with HuffPost. Sure enough, it’s nearly always there!  Here are five—count them, five—examples of the latest words and phrases that curl the soles of my shoes.

1.) “Mic” for microphone.  Yes, I know that “mike” isn’t part of the word, but “mic” looks like it’s pronounced “Mick”, while “mike” for “microphone”—which, as I recall, used to be the contraction—sounds like it’s supposed to sound. Below is one example of the odious “mic”, even using the with-it phrase “mic drop” (more about that on another day). Click on screenshots to see the articles:

If you use “mic”, I will castigate you (or if you’re a male, replace the “ig” with “r”).

2.) “Hilariously relatable”. This combines two ridiculous words into one phrase. First of all, there’s the “relatable” bit, meaning “you can relate to this”. I’ve talked about that one before, so let’s move on.

“Hilariously” is part of an increasing trend, especially on clickbait sites like HuffPost, to tell the reader how he or she should feel. Increasingly, words like “hilarious” or “burns” (as in, Chrissie Teigen burns Trump with a tweet”) tell you how you’re supposed to react.

In fact, what happened in the piece below isn’t hilarious at all, and doesn’t even deserve a snicker, much less a chortle. The pitcher was practicing by throwing against a screen in his backyard and accidentally broke a window in his house. Isn’t that hilarious? Nope. Is it “relatable”? Not unless you’re a major league pitcher!


3.) “Inspo” for “inspiration”. What moron thought up this contraction? If there is to be a short neologism, why not “inspi”, pronounced “in-spee”?  This word is used only to show that the user (and reader) are in the same tribe, the tribe that uses ridiculous contractions. Example:

Gag me with a spoon!

4.) “Social” for “social media”. I hear this on the local news almost every night. The announcer says something like “Follow us on social,” which of course makes me want to do the opposite.  “Social” IS NOT A NOUN, it is an ADJECTIVE. People use this either to be lazy, au courant, or both. Here’s one example:

It’s not easy to find this in print, but here’s one example:

5.) “Preventative” instead of “preventive”.  These two words mean the same thing, and I suppose “preventative” may even be in the Oxford English Dictionary (I can’t be arsed to look). But why put in that extra syllable? I tell you why: it makes you sound smarter to use a longer word. But language mavens won’t think you smarter; they’ll think you pretentious.

Now get off my lawn! But first give your own language triggers in the comments.



263 thoughts on “Words and phrases I detest

    1. Because mofo is the way Samuel L. Jackson says it🤓
      I’ve always said preventative, and not to be pretentious. Thought preventive was kind of a lazy version. Mic/mike. Who cares?

      1. “Thought preventive was kind of a lazy version.”

        True, to the extent that it allows one to utter one less syllable.

        (“Commentator” versus “commenter” comes to mind. This was thoroughly “commentated” on on this website a few years ago.)

        Mic/mike. Who cares?”

        “Tic,” “tick,” and “tike” comes to mind (for some reason).

        Douglas Adams on some things (in technology) that bug him (and surely not a few posters here):


          1. ‘This is a lighthearted recurring post, so really, you don’t need to say “who cares”?

            ( care, and that’s enough for me.’

            Re: “Who cares?”: those are not my words. I simply quoted, and responded to, another poster. I neglected to include the beginning quotation mark of the quote. I can see how that might give the impression that I said it. To the extent that omission contributed to causing confusion or offense, I apologize.

      2. Gotta say, “preventive maintenance” sounds to me like you missed a syllable. I googled it, and both show up a lot. For instance, Portland has both a “CNC Preventive Maintenance” and a “CNC Preventative Maintenance” business at different locations.

    2. Stupid me. I had to look up the meanings of “mofo” and “mofu,” and after reading various definitions online and learning the meaning of “MOFu” vs “TOFu” and “BOFu,” and “mofumofu” in Japanese (something soft and fuzzy like a cat’s tail — someday Szaron’s tail will plump up and become mofumofu like Hili’s), I went to “mofo,” which in Portuguese means “mold,” then spied the Urban Dictionary’s definition and now I know.

      1. LOL – which former British prime minister David Cameron famously used in emails thinking it meant “lots of love”.

        1. Haha, my mother thought the same thing. She was texting my Niece and said something like “I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well, get better soon. LOL”

  1. “Mic” was the abbreviation for microphone, as when labeling a jack; “mike” was the slang term (I do not think it is a contraction; a contraction would be something like “m’phone”). Suddenly, it seems, everyone started writing the abbreviation “mic” in place of the slang term “mike.” I am too old to change, and I will continue to spell it “mike.”

    Which reminds me, e-mail should be spelled with the hyphen, like X-ray.

      1. Yes, but usually not when the hyphen is preceded by a single letter. Consider A-list, B-list, C-section, D-day, E-commerce, and I am barely started.

        Regarding any-more: Ha ha! Incidentally, I do not like it when anymore is used to mean nowadays.

        1. I think that last is a regionalism. I heard it where I grew up, but where I live now, you don’t hear it so much anymore. 🙂

            1. Yeah and I think it’s a regionalism within Canuckistan as I always used it in the negative “I don’t do that anymore”. But I hear it in some other way I can’t describe – which is the “nowadays” way. I don’t really understand that one and I remember first hearing it when I started working in Oakville. I think it’s more a regionalism among people outside the GTA/GTHA though. A smaller town regionalism in Canuckistan vs a city way of speaking. But who knows – my dad is from the maritimes & it’s through him I learned “gotchies” even though it originated in Western Canada & my mom is from New Zealand and I didn’t know that the word was “counter” not “bench” until I was 6 because I had learned that regionalism from her.

          1. Yes, sorry, that is what I meant – it was always (as far as I know) used only in the negative, so “We do not do it that way anymore,” and “We do it that way nowadays,” but not “We do it that way anymore.” I hear the last all the time here in Colorado; I did not realize it was a regionalism. Anyway, it sounds wrong to me anymore.

            1. Me too and I’ve never really understood that meaning. I am slightly confused whenever anyone uses it.

  2. I know for a fact in the BBC microphone is always abbreviated to the form you dislike, albeit pronounced mike. I’d say it was standard in the UK. But then you don’t have to live with it.

    1. Standard in sound-geek circles. Can’t imagine in my 13 years working in a booth in an opera house making the techies and designers use “microphone” or the inappropriate “mike”. Same with sound techs at conventions and rock and roll shows and everywhere else. Without “mic” we’d have all failed our duties and the amplified and sound-supplemented arts would have died.

  3. 40 year audio professional, spent nearly all of that time as a television audio mixer. “Mic” is the accepted shortening of microphone. Using “mike” is one of the surest indicators someone is unfamiliar with audio. It’s like saying “sound board” instead of console.

    1. I, too, am a 40-year audio professional named Peter, and I must concur. “Microphone” is abbreviated “mic” except when it’s used as a verb, e.g. “She will double-mike the narrator”. It “scans” better (if it is permissible to say “scan”).

      1. Mike in that context seems to be its own verb, and not an abbreviation. No one says “she will microphone the narrator,” nor “she will double-microphone the narrator,” as far as I know. Providing a microphone is “miking.” So she will double-mike the narrator with two mics.

    2. “It’s like saying “sound board” instead of console.”

      Is it a “record player” or “phonograph”?

      Is it like saying “drink” instead of “beverage”?

      Is it like someone holding forth on rap when the discussion topic is music? (I.e., the latter being something which has a sequence of musical notes – “melody line” – which can be shown on paper or a computer screen, with or without lyrics.)

    3. I always took “mic” as the technical term also used among people who used microphones for radio transmissions and worked in communications. Some style guides consider “mic” the noun and “mike” the verb as in “miking” someone.

  4. The OED says that “preventive” is preferred. I prefer it myself and change “preventative” when I find it in manuscripts. So the OED agrees with both of us!

    1. Preventative is official usage in some quality system manuals, so that’s what’s used in those systems.

      However, CFR 820.100 uses Preventive, so that should be preferred (at least for US and medical).

    2. Both adjectives, preventative and preventive, entered the language at about the same time–in the mid-1600s–and they have both been in standard use since then. There’s nothing at all wrong with either of them. To my ear the longer version, which I have always used, sounds fine.

    1. Probably also true for orient and orientate, but when someone uses the latter, I always assume they are not well educated and it makes me cringe.

        1. “Unpick” seems to be used in British sewing circles whereas I think we Yanks would say pick a seam.

        2. Like I hear “pry” open vs “prise” open. I think the former is NA English (at least the only one I every heard) & the latter British English.

  5. “On social” reminds me of Trump’s use of “the medical”.

    100% agree on preventative. I correct staff use of this on a regular basis when reviewing and signing chart notes.

  6. This is kind of the opposite of an annoying abbreviation – call it an annoying expansion:

    One of my buddy’s favorites is how we treat the “www” in a web address. This stands (not surprisingly) for world wide web. But when we’re telling someone a web address, we say “double-you double-you double-you” instead of “world wide web”, even though the former has triple the number of syllables. We literally take a term, truncate it, then re-expand it to triple it’s original syllable length when speaking about it.

    1. Maybe we should shorten it slightly by saying triple-double-you. The Dubya part always brings unfortunate associations with Bush, though he looks veritably statesmanlike these days.

    2. That seems a problem with no easy solution, much like trying to end the confusion of “its” and “it’s”.

    3. The trouble is that if you put worldwideweb.google.com into your browser, you will find it isn’t a real server. You have to say “double ewe double you double yew” because DNS doesn’t understand that it means worldwide web.

      In fact in writing that out, I’ve just realised it should only be “ww”. “Worldwide” is one word.

  7. “Preventative” instead of “preventive” — The same reason I prefer “title” to “entitle” (when giving a title to a book, article, etc.).

    I particularly dislike “utilize” instead of “use”, not just because it’s longer; it’s not even supposed to mean the same thing. As you said, “But why put in that extra syllable? I tell you why: it makes you sound smarter to use a longer word. But language mavens won’t think you smarter; they’ll think you pretentious.”

  8. “Preventative” instead of “preventive” violates the cardinal rule “eschew surplusage” (even if the surplusage in question is merely a two-letter syllable). For the same reason, “oriented” is to be preferred to “orientated.”

    And I think you’re right that people believe the former makes them sound smarter. It’s the same reason people substitute “disinterested” for “uninterested” or “enormity” for “enormousness,” even though, in so doing, they accomplish the opposite.

    1. I’m with you 100% on all the other examples, Ken, but I believe that I had only heard or read prevenTAtive until maybe 25 years or so ago. I figured preventive was a lazy version. The use of disinterested for uninterested is just plain worng.

      1. Well, “preventive” goes back at least to the boast on Crest toothpaste packaging when we were kids, Merilee, that it has been shown to be:

        … an effective decay-preventive dentifrice when used as directed in a conscientiously applied program of oral hygiene and regular professional care.


        And I think “disinterested” and “enormity” are both WRONG when used as above (although someone can probably dig up counter-examples in the OED dating to the 16th century). They rob our modern language of precision.

        1. 😂Guess I never read the small-print on my Crest until I started teaching calculus and a friend pointed out that the Crest boxes said something like “Fights calculus.”

            1. I did get a lot of mileage out of the Little Rascals’ “Algebra, this is no place for you”. Algebra, IIRC, was a donkey but it was amusing to say every time we had to do algebra in elementary school.

              1. As Alfalfa replied to his dad who was disappointed with Alfalfa’s report card: “Gee, Dad, I thought D meant Dandy!”

    2. These bug me too. Same with “desalinization” instead of “desalination,” or how about just “desalting.” Also, “epidemiological” instead of “epidemiologic,” and “ecological” instead of “ecologic.” Why does an adjective need another adjective ending?

        1. That’s made my day, Ken! What a takedown! Maybe I should make better use of my lockdown by reading some more Twain.

    3. I’ve always understood ‘disinterested’ and ‘uninterested’ to mean different things. The former refers to not having a vested interest in something while the latter refers to not being mentally stimulated/intrigued by something. My Concise Oxford Dictionary supports this usage.

      Something can be said to be uninteresting – i.e. there is nothing about it that provokes the curiosity, but it doesn’t make sense to describe something as disinteresting.

      1. Exactly the point. But you’d be surprised how many people in the US, including those who ought know better, misuse “disinterested” in place of “uninterested.”

  9. Several more to consider:
    Utilize v. Use
    Fulsome (seems to be its own antonym)
    Warrant as a verb
    Sanction as a verb
    Verbiage because people pronounce it ver-buj
    Awesome, like uh, really?
    Bolus, when used to indicate a small group
    Nauseous instead of nauseated when indicating how you feel

    I need to get back to work.

      1. I heard “bolus” used by a university nutrition professor to mean that average mass of food descending through the esophagus to the stomach.

    1. Warrant and sanction are useful verbs.

      “The possible consequences of this failure mode warrants a full investigation. The expense has been sanctioned by management, so we may proceed.”

      Nauseous describes something that induces nausea, so using it to describe a nauseated person is simply wrong.

      Utilize is a bad substitution for use.

      1. Jblilie, I fear that nauseous/nauseating
        vs nauseated is a losing battle, though it does bug me. NObody seems to know the diff anymore.

        1. Yes I say use nauseated for when I feel, well nauseated but who knows if that’s right or not. I use lay and lie incorrectly all the time.

      2. “Warrant and sanction are useful verbs.”

        “Sanction” is used often used imprecisely. E.g., one hears of “U.S. sanctions.” I take that to mean “against” another country, say Venezuela. On the other hand, a sports event is “sanctioned” (approved, endorsed) by a sport’s governing body. Perhaps for the sake of clarity the words “for” and “against” should follow the word “sanctions.”

        1. “Sanction” is one of those verbs — like “cleave” or “enjoin” or “screen” or “temper” — that is a so-called contronym: it can mean an action or its opposite.

          1. Like Mr Trump speaking the truth: “we did one hell of a job!”, refering to his Covid response?

            1. For a job reference or recommendation, “You would be fortunate to get this person to work for you.” [subtext – “I sure as hell couldn’t!”]

    2. You may enjoy The Lego Movie. If you watch it you simply cannot miss hearing the main song “”Everything is Awesome!” Enjoy! 😉

      1. I love all the Lego movies. I changed the song “Everything is Awesome” when I’d had enough of my project team. I think I actually sang it for them:

        Everything is awful!
        Everything is cruel when you’re part of team!

    3. Fulsome drives me crazy. It seems to have thoroughly permeated academia as it’s repeated over and over.

  10. I am aware of the use of “mic” as the technical abbreviation, but when it’s used colloquially as a word, I prefer “mike” to “mic” – the latter spelling makes my teeth itch. Consider this: there is a word for a major home appliance: “refrigerator”, but collocqually, it is called a “fridge”. Where does that ‘d’ come from? On the other hand, “frige” looks wrong, as if the ‘i’ should be pronounced as in “ride”; we can only hope that the shortened form doesn’t lead to the misspelling “refridgerator”. That would be as annoying as the misspelling “lightening”.

    On items 2, 3 and 4: I have never seen these before reading them here, but I find them as reprehensible as the now-common term “optics” for “image”.

    I have always used “preventive” and agree 100% with PCC(E).

    I recently came across this in a news post – that someone had

    “…embarked on a mission to re-orientate gays…”

    Conversion therapy is bad enough, but there is no such word as orientate. The process is called orientation, but the associated verb is not orientate. You orient yourself (this word is used because it literally means “point yourself to the east”). Similarly, commentators don’t commentate, they comment.

    1. I have been rather sharply aware of “mic” used as short for microphone all my life, since my older brother is named Michael and he’s usually called “Mike.” According to a few online sources, this abbreviation has been in use at least since 1961. In a way, it’s a more technically correct term, though I don’t see much wrong with the alternative…though the notion of someone speaking into the “mike” conjures weird images in my head.

  11. Break it down for you. It always makes me think that the TV talking heads don’t think I’m smart enough to understand something without their analysis. I think that what they actually mean is additional details forthcoming.

  12. My current pet hate is “ramp up / ramping up”. (“Going forward” was one a little while ago, though I’m noticing it less frequently now, thankfully.) think it’s the ubiquity of such phrases that really gets me – it seems no-one can be bothered to think of their own phrase so they parrot the buzzword that everyone else is using.

    George Orwell was right in his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” when he wrote “Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print”. Of course, in the same essay he also said “Never use a long word where a short one will do”, so “preventative” is ruled out despite the long history I mentioned above!

      1. Or from the participle “concerning.” Usually used as a predicate adjective as in “______ is concerning.” I find it concerning that “concerning” adds nothing.

  13. I’ve mentioned this one before but my irritation with it hasn’t abated; if anything, it’s gotten stronger: the brain-dead use of “I” when “me” is called for. Just today I received an email from a colleague asking the recipients to “send John or I a message”. Where does that even come from? Isn’t it obvious it’s wrong? But it now seems to have reached a critical mass so that all sorts of otherwise good speakers are making this mistake.

    My other one is people saying they’re humbled or “it’s humbling” when they’ve received some great honour. Again, where does this even come from? I guess it just goes to show that people don’t think much about what words actually mean. They just repeat what they’ve heard others say in a similar situation.

    And one other one: using the present tense for things that occurred in the past. Hate that—it’s confusing. There’s a CBC interviewer (otherwise very good) who does this constantly. I find myself shouting at the radio: “the past tense, the past tense is what you need to use here”. Of course she’s hardly the only one. And I know that some commenters here defend this benighted usage, but I feel that, unless you’re trying to achieve some literary effect (and even then …), it’s just wrong and confusing.

    1. And the use of “we” instead of “I”, often by artistic types when talking about a solo project.

        1. I’m guilty of that. I catch myself doing it and have a little side discussion with myself in my brain. I do it reflexively to not look conceded even if I was the only one working on something and everything that I am presenting is what I did good or bad.

    2. “send John or I a message”

      Worse, much worse in fact, is using myself instead of the incorrect “I” when trying to sound important — “send John or myself a message”.

      1. Yes! Thank you. That’s another one that makes my blood boil—how could I have forgotten to mention it? The wrong-headed idea that “myself” is a more formal version of “me”. Grr!

      2. “Myself” is a foxhole of ignorance, where cowards take refuge, because they were taught that “me” is vulgar and “I” is egotistical.

        — Red Smith

  14. T&Cs apply. Does that mean only one “term” applies? It’s supposed to be “terms and conditions” apply so it should be Ts&Cs apply.

      1. If your version were correct it would be Ts&C so T&Cs would still be wrong. I contend that it’s an abbreviation of Terms and Conditions, I.e. plural on both so, as I said before, it should be Ts&Cs.

          1. That’s my argument though, by having only one “s” at the end it reads term and conditions, term being singular. Both should be plural.

            That’s why I contend that it should be “Ts & Cs” for “Terms and Conditions”.

  15. In a recent post that was not a “Words and Phrases I Hate,” I noted that I heard Mike Pence say that he was going “socialize” an idea or plan. I had never heard socialize used that way but I see that it’s one of those business jargon locutions. I detest that and I’m socializing my detestation to y’all.

  16. I am a descriptivist by nature so new phrases rarely bother me. One that does reach at least “Bah. That phrase has now jumped the shark,” levels with me is “A love letter to”, though. Suddenly everything is “a love letter to” something, and often it’s something kinda bizarre. (Sandra Bullock said Bird Box was a love letter to her kids, John Krasinski said A Quiet Place was a love letter to his kids. At this point Jigsaw is going to start musing about how murder is his love letter to his puppy in the next Saw movie. I’m a fan of both Bullock and Krasinski but geez, if your love letter to children is a horror movie, I shudder to think what something even slightly harsher, like a “rebuke at a bad report card” looks like.)

    Another phrase that I think is kinda funny but I suspect annoys the host is “It’s been”.

      1. I have one family who uses the phrase by itself sarcastically, although now that I think of it, that could just be her own personal usage, maybe it’s not a commonly used slang phrase (I’m not up on slang so when I hear a new term I tend to think “Oh, that’s what the kids are saying these days!” ha ha). So if something was kind of awful and everyone knows it, instead of saying “It’s been real” or “It’s been great” she’ll say “It’s… been.”

  17. One of my pet peeves is when TV networks advertise an upcoming episode as “All New.” Does that mean it’s not going to contain segments from older episodes?
    I think this usage may date from when magazines, especially pulp fiction ones, would often be filled with reprints of old and out of copyright stories. When they were able to afford to pay writers for new works they would proudly announce the issues as All New.

    1. I remember when I did my first job out of university – it was editing computer books. They told us that “new” was a marketing ploy that got people to buy whatever product had “new” on it…so of course they had “new” plastered all over their books.

      1. It’s not “new” that bugs me; it’s their insistence on claiming it to be All new! A magazine issue could consist of some reprints and some newly published items or it could be all new items. What TV episode is not either a new piece or a rerun?

        1. Castle season 5 episode 22:

          Whilst searching the apartment of a suspect, Beckett steps on a pressure plate that arms a bomb. If she moves, it blows up.

          While everybody else tries to diffuse the bomb, Castle distracts Beckett by manufacturing an argument about their relationship. This is depicted in the show through the use of flashbacks to previous episodes.

          It’s like a standard clip show but the narrative is a bit stronger than normal.

  18. As in your example of “preventative” instead of “preventive,” I don’t understand why so many physicians use the term “dilatation,” instead of “dilation.” It’s bothered me ever since the first time I heard it regularly used by many otherwise well-educated people.

    1. Yeah, what’s wrong with dilation? No need of the other syllable. And why do Brits put an extra “i” in aluminum?

      1. I had to look that up, the best reference that I could find (after about 2 minutes of looking) was that a British editor of Quarterly Review in 1812 changed it because:

        “Aluminium, for so we shall take the liberty of writing the word, in preference to aluminum, which has a less classical sound.”

        Very British 🙂

              1. I have no qualms about splitting infinitives or ending a sentence with a proposition because prohibitions against their use (thank goodness I didn’t slip and use “usage”) are Latin rules imposed on what’s basically an Anglo Saxon language in structure, and I ain’t takin no stinkin effete imperial language structures colonizing my language.

              2. You need to end with a “thank you very much”, or at least a harruuumph. or as ol’ Winston C. Put it, “This is the kind of pedantry up with which I shall not put.” Ah to have Churchillian eloquence back…

              3. Really, Latin rules? I think more they are rules because someone didn’t like that English works differently than other indo-European languages. We don’t have to take that crap! You’ll never keep me down with your despotic rules! Our infinitives & propositions will not be tamed!

              4. Splitting infinitives is mostly fine outside of classical Latin, especially when it helps to keep the meaning clear.

              5. But you can’t split a Latin infinitive because it’s all contained in one word like most other indo-European languages.

              6. I split my infinitives all the time. Who came up with that stupid “rule” anyway? It’s not my fault English makes an infinitive with two words.

              7. As a general principle, I think it serves the interests of clarity to keep the parts of a verb as close together as possible. That said, it’s silly to claim there’s a “rule” against splitting infinitives.

                I usually try to avoid doing so, because I know some people think it’s improper, and there’s no reason to needlessly distract such a reader (when it could be avoided, for example, by putting that “needlessly” before the “to” or at the end of the sentence). But sometimes smack dab in the middle of an infinitive is the place juste for an adverb, and in such cases there’s no reason to unnecessarily avoid putting it there.

              8. I also think the “rule” about not splitting infinitives is ridiculous and I flout it all the time. The first word in an infinitive looks suspiciously like a preposition to me and in other preposition-plus-verb-form phrases an adverb seems to me to often fit (note the flouting) naturally between the two, e.g., Sarah was prevented from immediately recognizing her friend by the strange clothes he was wearing.

            1. I’ve read somewhere that ‘aluminium’ was adopted to agree with (almost all) other similar element names. Looking at the periodic table, there must be at least 50 -ium’s (more than all the other endings put together, I think) and only three -um’s even if you include ‘aluminum’ (the other two are lanthanum and tantalum).


              1. Oh yes, you’re right. Four if you include Al. I knew that but platinum escaped my memory. I think that’s about it for the ‘um’s, though.

                Even Americium is an -ium 🙂


              2. It actually states this reason in the link I provided.

                “British editors in 1812 further amended it to aluminium, the modern preferred British form, to better harmonize with other metallic element names (sodium, potassium, etc.).”

                Einsteinium too!

        1. I’m always amused by the British spelling of “diarrhea” for some reason….the one that looks old fashioned, “diarrhoea” like you had to utter “o” during it.

      2. Australians do it too. And I will continue to do till either (a) my dying day, or (b) till Americans vote Trump

        (Also, with ‘aluminium’ the emphasis on the ‘in’, rather the than the ‘oo’, which I find more aesthetic. But if you guys vote out Trump I’ll say it as well as spell it.)

        1. I remember when my nana said it (visiting from NZ) & I was baffled as to what she was talking about.

          1. But seeing “tire” spelled “tyre” really threw me off when I went to NZ. Also seeing the word “Jail” as “gaol” which I read somewhere.

            1. Yes — ‘gaol’ is ridiculous. Even those who are usually sticklers for non-US English spell it ‘jail’. Only officious primary school headmasters spell it ‘gaol’ — the type who also pronounce both r’s in library and February.

              1. Ha! There was a substitute elementary school teacher who pronounced both r’s in library!

              2. No Li-brary so I guess there are two rs but I was thinking more the pronunciation of Liber-ary.

              3. My first encounter with “gaol” was Oscar Wilde’s narrative poem about his time in prison, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.”

    2. As anyone who’s read a medical report can tell you, doctors tend not to be riveting prose stylists. 🙂

      I once had a gig tutoring medical students in English Comp (at a university that required med students to pass an expository writing course to graduate). These were students who were quite bright regarding chemistry and other sciences, but for whom the Queen’s English did not flow felicitously from their pens.

  19. Not a word or phrase, but: The Inappropriate Use of Sporting Metaphors.

    I think we British – or more precisely we English – are particularly guilty of this. If we stuck to soccer (eg ‘missing an open goal’), it might be OK. But for some reason we remain fixated on cricket.

    We talk about, say, politicians as being ‘on the front foot’, or ‘on the back foot’, or ‘on a sticky wicket’, or ‘playing a dead bat’, or ‘hitting the opposition for six’. We might be understood in the parts of the Commonwealth that play cricket, but in few other places. I have attended meetings in the UN and the EU where English politicians have actually used such phrases, and watched the faces of the interpreters as they struggled to find an equivalent.

    We’re no better when it comes to others’ sporting metaphors. I assume the phrase ‘behind the 8-ball’ comes from pool, but it conveys nothing to me as an image. Yet it is often wheeled out over here by people who don’t seem to know or care what it actually refers to. And I think I know what ‘stepping up to the plate’ means; but when a losing English cricket captain refers to his team needing to ‘step up to the plate’, one wonders what sport he thinks he’s playing.

    Is it just my countrymen (and it usually is men) who do this? Or is it just as widespread everywhere else?

    Harrumph! Rant over!

    1. I’ve played a lot more pocket pool than other types of billiards, but I think “snookered” makes for a more vivid metaphor than “behind the eight ball.”

      And it wasn’t until a few years ago that a Brit chap filled me in on the etymology of “sticky wicket.” I mean, I always understood the gist of what it meant in the metaphoric sense, but was under the misapprehension it was somehow derived from croquet. 🙂

    2. “when a losing English cricket captain refers to his team needing to ‘step up to the plate’…”

      Oh for heaven’s sake. And not a good metaphor unless you’re Chris Gayle or Adam Gilchrist.

      Was it Root? What an idiot. He should have listened to his predecessors and said they need to “put their hand up” and play better. (Or if it’s a real disaster, “there’s a lot of pride in that dressing room.”)

      The wicket keeper on my team once yelled at us to “pull our fingers out and dig a bit deeper”. I tried to discuss it with him later, but he didn’t seem interested.

      1. I can’t be arsed to look it up at this time of night, but yes, I think it was Root, possibly after the first Ashes Test last year. I think I also heard one of the commentators (Vaughan?) using it as well.

        1. Apologies for calling the English captain an idiot. (Issued in case anyone is aware of my nationality and wants to compare his demeanour and intelligence to various Australian captains.) I misspoke, and I deeply regret if anyone felt offended by it.

      1. Um, because the expression ‘we remain fixed on cricket’ wouldn’t actually mean anything in English.

  20. Why “evo-devo” by the way? Are you aware of how that evolved and developed? I feel like “evo-dev” would be better, since the first always conjures for me the notion of “Evolution-devolution” which doesn’t make much sense.

  21. HuffPost is the archetype source for dumb crap and an endless and useful source for words Jerry hates!

  22. When I hear ‘preventative’, I think ‘laxative’.

    I don’t like how everything is being ‘monetized’ nowadays.

    I hate ‘going forward’ and recently heard a talk show host say, ‘… in future going forward’. Say what?

      1. Oh and “boil the ocean”. I hate these sentences: “At the end of the day, we aren’t going to solve world hunger. We don’t need to boil the ocean”. Perhaps because it’s a flowery way of saying, “I don’t want to do what you’re suggesting because it looks hard”. I want to just tell them to f-off.

    1. Similarly, I am annoyed when someone refers to “past history”. Unless one is talking about a particular subgenre of science fiction, isn’t all history in the past? I once had a teacher who said that if it’s in a book, it’s history; if it’s in a newspaper, it’s current events.

  23. Andrew Cuomo recently used the word “tranche” which I hadn’t heard before. Now I’m seeing it all over the place in the news and elsewhere.

    I dislike hearing “if I was” when “if I were” is the correct usage.

    I’m not very current on black speech patterns
    but, I’m not fond of use of the word “bitch” unless referring to a female dog. It seems to be used all the time now for black females, and I seem to be seeing or hearing it used for black males as well. I won’t dredge up the intracommunal use of “nigger” that must not be used by others without it being considered racist.

    1. From Oxford Dictionary via Google “a portion of something, especially money. “They released the first tranche of the loan”

      The first time I heard it was when Mike Pence let it slip off his tongue some weeks ago. I looked it up and found the above basic definition; then found something about tranches being kinds of securities in something called “structured finance,” which I know absolutely nothing about. I’d just complained above about Pence’s use — I would call it abuse — of “socialize.”

      Problem was that Pence didn’t seem to be using “tranches” a way that made even the slightest sense given the definitions. I think he said something about receiving tranches referring to material objects, quantities, I thought of PPEs or ventilators. At least that made sense in the broader context of what he was saying. I imagined they might be large pallets stacked with boxes and covered by plastic, something like that. I thought it must be a word for pallets that he dredged up from some obscure source and slipped it in because he likes to find words that he think make him a clever wordsmith but are really the basest level of business jargon. But I can find no justification for that use, except perhaps in its most general sense of “shares”
      of something, though nowhere do I find the word associated with material objects.

      If someone has more information about this, it would be good to know because I really don’t know and am only speculating. Maybe Pence was using it in a completely acceptable way.

      1. “Tranche” seemed to be a vogue word during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, regarding portions of bonds secured by collateralized debt obligations.

        Since then, it seems to have expanded to mean a portion or slice of anything.

              1. @Diana:

                “Blanche Tranche” — wasn’t she Stanley Kowalski’s sister-in-law, the one who was always depending on the kindness of strangers? 🙂

      2. It’s another oldie – in use in English since about 1500 (borrowed from the French verb trancher (to cut/slice). The economic sense only goes back to the 1930s, though.

    2. I use bitch to other women and when I’m being nasty, to men. I like how Randy Rainbow uses it under his breath in his parodies.

  24. The phrase that drives me bonkers is, “me and…” Me and my dog went for a walk. Me and my sis got our hair cut. One would never say, “me went for a walk,” or “me got my hair cut,” would one? I suppose it’s ok in song lyrics such as “me and Bobby McGee…” but I don’t have to like it!

    1. It’s worse when “me” is acceptable and someone says “I” or “myself”. As in “The spider chased Joe and I” or “The man walked with Mary and myself”.

    2. Hey, feelin’ good was good enough for me
      Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee

      That use of the phrase “me and Bobby McGee” (as written by Rhodes scholar Kris Kristofferson) is grammatically correct, even by prescriptivist standards. As used there, “me” is an object of the preposition “for.”

      The use of “me” as the subject of a sentence (as in your examples above) is grammatically incorrect (although perhaps appropriate in certain colloquial usages).

        1. In Turkish they use the word tarzance” (literally “Tarzan language”) to describe that kind of ungrammatical spoken language where you don’t use verbs. I know, because that’s how my own attempts to speak Turkish came out. (There should be a cedilla under the “c” in the Turkish word, but I can’t seem to add it.)

  25. I will upset some people with this, but there is a new tendency to randomly add “kind of” into verbal speech. We have the technology to edit this stuff out simply by voice pattern, so why don’t podcasters do it? It would knock half an hour off the average podcast.

    “So would you kind tell us what you’re kind of talking about kind of?”

    “Well it’s kind of like I was kind of saying about the kind of tendency to kind of try and kind of…”

    1. I catch myself saying “sorta”. It’s awful and makes me cringe when I say it. I think I say it as a verbal place holder when I’m talking. It bothers me so much that I sometimes stop and correct myself, “No I didn’t sorta do this, I did this”

  26. Using ‘mic’ for ‘microphone’ has been common parlance amongst musicians and the recording/sound industry for generations.
    Get used to it.


    1. Probably because amplifier inputs are labelled “TAPE” “PHONO” “MIC” etc

      I agree with PCC though, since it’s short for ‘microphone’, (which nobody ever has called a ‘mickrophone’), it should be spoken as ‘mike’.

      I have no idea what the phrase ‘mike drop’ means though, other than its literal meaning. Obviously it has acquired some other figurative meaning but I have no clue what that might be.


      1. Well English Cs are superfluous and make the same sounds as the already existing Ks and Ss. It sucks.

        1. Yes. That is apparent when English words are transliterated into Cyrillic which has no ambiguous ‘C’, it either uses Cyrillic ‘C’ which is equivalent to our ‘S’, or ‘K’ which is ‘K’.

          As in МАКДОНАЛДС.

          And ‘X’ comes out as ‘KS’ as in ТАКСИ.

          (Quite diverting, touristing in Russia, spotting which words are recognisable adoptions from English once you decipher the Cyrillic script).


  27. I once heard someone explaining a protocol use “mike” as a spoken shorthand for microliters. Admittedly, “lambda” might be spoken, but i always found “mike” …. peculiar.

    1. It’s like the shorthand “klicks” for kilometers – it perverts the SI *thrice* over. [No common prefix, no common unit, no recognizable combination.) And when I see that in some _science_ fiction, that’s the fourth perversion.

      1. My dad doesn’t like the American pronunciation of “kilometer” which puts the emphasis on the middle syllable Kil-OM-eter. I tend to say both and don’t care.

        1. My father and I have had a similar discussion several times. He says the stress should be on the third syllable of kilometre because it’s on that syllable for all the other divisions of metric length (centimetre, millimetre). He doesn’t like my saying kilometre with the stress on the second syllable. I just prefer that pronunciation for some reason. I didn’t realize it was a British versus American thing. My father was born in England, so that may be a contributing factor, though he would claim it’s strictly a matter of logic (English pronunciation being so logical after all).

              1. “No, but alTIMeter works well,, although I think the brits say ALtimeter.”

                I’ve noticed that they (or at least Professor Dawkins) say “A-MY-no” acid.

              2. I can’t speak for all of the UK’s myriad accents but generally there is a difference in syllable break points if you’re using ‘metre’ (distance unit) or ‘meter’ (device indicating measurement).

                That said, I hear kilLOMetre more than kilo-metre wherever I am – I suppose it just comes off the tongue more easily!


          1. I think it’s an Americanism that came up recently. Canadians tend to say both as they do with a lot of American vs British words. I thought the other pronunciations and may start saying them that way for laughs but the example I gave home was odometer. No one says ODOmeter; they say oDOMeter

        2. I think kil-OM-etre came about because people were used to saying mile-OM-eter, even though the first is a distance (~metre)and the second a measuring instrument (~meter) (English spellings) 🙂

      2. I hate ‘klicks’ (‘clicks’?) too – I think it’s a kind of pseudo-military slang affected by the same kind of people who bought HumVees to drive to the grocery store.

        (And there: I used ‘kind of’ twice, not randomly so as not to commit the sin mentioned in #27)

  28. it makes you sound smarter to use a longer word.

    “Leverage” instead of simpler “use”.

  29. I am discommoded when I hear “a large amount” of people used instead of a “large number” of people, or “less” used when “fewer” is more appropriate. It’s hard to figure out what people actually mean when they use words in innovative ways. As General MacArthur used to say, “Don’t issue orders that are easy to understood. You must issue orders that cannot be misunderstood.” These may not be his exact words, but I think they convey the gist.

    1. Substitute “misunderstand” for “misunderstood” where appropriate. I would make a lousy General!

    2. ‘As General MacArthur used to say, “Don’t issue orders that are easy to understood. You must issue orders that cannot be misunderstood.”’

      I can’t provide a citation or exact quote, but I once read one of MacArthur’s subordinate’s reflection on MacArthur’s approach to decision-making (and by extension issuing orders). If he was presented with a problem that only he could make a decision on, he’d reply, “Take care of it!” (As if that were somehow a meaningful answer.) If a specific recommendation was made to him, he’d reply, “Do it!” (Apparently not troubling himself to take the time – if only for a few seconds – to evaluate the recommendation.)

  30. “Social” may have originated as an adjective, but according to the OED it’s been used as a noun since the 17th century. Though it’s interesting that its original use as a noun meant ‘social companions’. I’m more familiar with its use for a social gathering (e.g. a “box social”), which dates from 19th century North American English.

    1. The only context in which I’ve heard or seen “social” as a noun is as shorthand for “social security number”.

  31. Impact instead of affect. Makes my teeth grind. Very common with TV and radio newspeople, probably because they never learned the difference between affect and effect

  32. I’m not sure that you need to be a major-league pitcher in order to relate to having thrown a ball through a window. Surely many a small child with a wayward arm has performed this feat and the hilarity (such as it is) resides in the fact that even major-league pitchers sometimes sometimes have to own up to smashing the window glass.

  33. Trifles, all.

    But why isn’t anyone except me tearing their hair out because people are pronouncing the “t” in “often”? Now, in addition to being scolded by an anonymous tin voice to wash my hands, the anonymous tin voice is exhorting me to do so “ofTEN”. This is my absolute limit!

  34. This from Cheryl Chumley in the Washington Times article about coronavirus on Tuesday:

    But the quote-unquote medical experts refused to go there…

    That really irks me. Much better to write ‘But the “medical experts” refused to go there…’ Even in speech I would find it irritating.

    1. I think what they mean (and ought to say) is “so-called” or maybe “self-styled” — or, as I sometimes prefer because it carries both connotations, “soi-disant.”

      1. I’m sure that’s it, and I totally agree with your alternatives. Her construction is just plain ugly, and a poor show from someone who writes for a living (then again, she is a journalist…).

    2. I agree with your irritation. That ‘quote … unquote’ thing was probably quite clever the first time it was used, and rapidly ceased to be thereafter.

      Besides she’s doing it worng, she’s cancelled her own quotes before the phrase she’s trying to apply it to. Should be “quote medical experts unquote” if she wants it to mean what I think she intends it to mean.



    1. A couple of times when I’ve heard someone say, “I could care less,” I’ve replied, “Then do so.”

  35. It does not really bother me, but different than instead of different from when followed by a noun, sounds positively weird to me. I guess it is just American usage, like Aluminum instead of Aluminium.

  36. One that drives me mad, and is, alas, so common in the US, is the mispronunciation of `voila`as `walla`.

  37. I’m late in posting this, but here goes:

    On pg. D2 of the Science section of the hard-copy Tues 4/28/20 NY Times, there is the article, “Ancient Crocodiles That Decided to Go for a Lifelong Swim.” There is the sentence, “But after eons of evolutionary experimentation, some lineages peaced out of the terrestrial world . . . .”

    Now, I have no particular problem with the locution, “Peace, Out.” But I find its above use as a verb (“peaced out”) quite fatuous. Too bad the croc in question didn’t have a mic to drop.

    On the same page is, “Getting a Peek At a Black Hole Spewing Fire.” Dennis Overbye employs the locutions, ” . . . this blowtorch of the gods . . . ” and ” . . . a central blob of unholy energy . . . .”

    Give me a break.

    1. Now, I have no particular problem with the locution, “Peace, Out.” But I find its above use as a verb (“peaced out”) quite fatuous. Too bad the croc in question didn’t have a mic to drop.

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