Last Updated: November 28, 2013. The newest Worst Words are in red.
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Robert Hartwell Fiske's Dictionary of Unendurable English A Compendium of Mistakes in Grammar, Usage, and Spelling with Commentary on Lexicographers and Linguists
Today's popular dictionaries often fail to define words correctly or to distinguish between them; some dictionaries even maintain that one word means the same as another simply because people who do not know the correct meanings of the words confuse them. Robert Hartwell Fiske's Dictionary of Unendurable English a supplement to whatever dictionary you own or use is an attempt to combat this nonsense, to return meaning and distinction to the words we use.
"However curmudgeonly, Mr. Fiske betrays a bluff humanitarian spirit. ... Fiske wants to save the English language. And he knows that he can count on little help. 'Dictionaries have virtually no standards, offer scant guidance, and advance only misunderstanding.' His own flogging of Merriam-Webster's is one of the many pleasures of this lovely, sour, virtuous book." Wall Street Journal
"[Fiske's] documentation of brand creep is fascinating: Reporters use non-words such as 'alleve' (a misspelled rendering of a commercial analgesic) when they mean to say 'relieve.' 'Abilify' an antidepressant has been perverted into a synonym for 'enable.'" Sheila Anne Feeney, Star-Ledger
"A helpful compendium for even the most literate among us, not to mention a refreshingly conservative addition to the increasingly liberal domain of dictionaries, ... [Fiske's book] is a confrontational work challenging the evermore yielding traditions within the discipline of lexicography." Christina Connolly, Library Journal
"Fiske, the language-obsessed creator of online journal The Vocabula Review, does not mince words. Nor shall I: His dictionary is one of the grumpiest, most self-righteous intellectual exercises I've ever had the genuine pleasure of reading." Mia Lipman, Shelfari
"Distinguishing between the many guides for writers and speakers of the English language may appear difficult at first glance, but on closer examination of bookstore and library shelves, one at least, Robert Hartwell Fiske's Dictionary of Unendurable English, is notable for the courage of its convictions." Mike Nichol, Daily Writing Tips
1. Used instead of "yes" and, still worse, when compounded with a word like "certain": "absolutely certain."
2. Everyone says it, no one means it, it drives me crazy. "Yes," "correct," "I agree," or even the overused "precisely," would be more tolerable.
I cannot tell you the number of times I've heard this and have cringed! It's "across," as in "across the street." Argh!
acting out behave badly; misbehave
action to act
A verb created from a noun not previously lacking in a root verb, namely, to act. Favored by lazy administrators as a way of making their mundane tasks seem more consequential or deliberate. "When we have received the report from management, we will action their recommendations immediately." Apparently, act (on, upon) or implement doesn't create enough of an illusion that something will actually happen. By forcing the word action into their speech, they foolishly believe it evokes images of thrilling car chases and back-alley shootouts, rather than somniferous pencil-pushing. When one hears action used as a verb, one can expect to see very little actual action in the form of a noun.
advise to inform; to tell
In the sense of to tell or to notify. For example, "He advised the committee that the budget was being developed."
aka also known as
I really hate aka -- and my spell checker doesn't know it! How is one supposed to pronounce it and what does it really mean? More importantly, what happened to the perfectly good word alias? From the usage one encounters, aka seems to mean alias so why not say the proper word.
A sloppy word misused by lazy journalists under the false belief it frees them from libel. A person cannot allegedly do something, rather someone else has to allege the crime. Wrong: "Bob Jones allegedly stole the car." Correct: "Police allege Bob Jones stole the car."
alot a lot
Please for the love of God! "Alot" is not a word.
Instead of the correct wording: "all right."
Extremely popular with teenage girls, it's the new "awesome."
Anal (short for anal-retentive): the new all-purpose pop psychology buzzword that's come to replace "fussy," "particular," "careful," "conservative," "old-fashioned," etc. Used extensively by a**holes.
The conditions of or cover the conditions of and. If a and b are true, a or b is also true.
It's our 3-year anniversary" - this used to be "It's our third anniversary." Even worse - "X"-month anniversary. Webster's definition of anniversary: "The annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event" Adding "-year" is redundant, and using "month" is silly as it's a portion of a year.
Used frequently instead of "expect". US "media" talk incessantly of every event
they have instructed their audience to expect as "highly anticipated". To
anticipate is to take action based on an expectation, e.g., you anticipate
hyperinflation by buying things.
antiquing shopping for antiques
1. I hate that. When I go to the grocery store, am I fooding?
2. Hey I love the list! The only thing is, the only way I've ever encountered the word "antiquing" is in the sense of performing alterations on a piece (sanding, adding a patina, etc.) to give it an older appearance; a popular do-it-yourself kind of operation. Which is still a slightly annoying word, but a little less annoying than if used to mean "shopping."
3. I wouldn't know how to describe what it was that I once so hated to do with my parents on trips to New England or upstste NY, but now love passionately: "antiquing." Shopping for antiques sure as hell doesn't work for me!
a number of some; several
Zero is a number. Why not just say "some" or "several"?
I don't really hate the word, just that everyone uses it wrong! It is from the German angst, for fear or dread. Anxious means to look with fear or dread or loathing about something to happen in the future, but everyone else uses it like they are looking forward with glee or happiness or eagerness! Just wrong!
1. "Anyways" is not a real word. It should just be "anyway."
2. Perhaps it is only in Canada, but the young use this word all the time, to my intense distress. I forbid my grandchildren to use it!
Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News uses it every night. Tune in and listen. It will drive you nuts.
aspic a clear jelly typically made of stock and gelatin and used as a glaze or garnish or to make a mold of meat, fish, or vegetables.
It sounds like a friggin snake, and I hate snakes.. plus, Aspic is a jelly made from meat stock, ok yuk!.. Making aspic is notoriously difficult and reserved for Julia Childesque cooks who think they have mastered osso buco and other congealed delicacies that Andrew Zimmern would gasp at.
Idiot's version of "athlete." Why must sports announcers continually misspeak this simple noun? From where does the extra syllable come?
1. An all-purpose adjective for "good." Up until two decades ago, "awesome" was reserved for the sublime: i.e., an F5 tornado or God. The casual use of this word is more loathesome than "groovy" was in the 60s.
2. In high school, I had the word "awesome" criticized in an essay as inappropriate slang. In response, I began using the alternate spelling "Ossim" when I was using it as slang, but left it spelled correctly when used correctly.
It's so odd to say and type, not to mention that it the spelling seems to be awkward in itself.
1. Idiot's version of "asked." Hate it! You have some of my other peeve words here!
2. Very few people actually use this implement to chop wood any more since the advent of central HVAC, yet it seems to be the way a lot of younger people request things by AXING someone!
What's wrong with using "in the past" or "long ago"? This one
makes me cringe every single time someone utters it.
Is it really too hard to just write "barbecue"? This tacky spelling reeks of laziness and plain weirdness. I'm tired of seeing it.
After scanning the list, and finding I am not the only person who detests the use of awesome ... hurrah ... I add basically to the list. Why must people begin an explanation with this word?
Behaviors is pretentious, entirely unnecessary extension of behavior a word almost never used until about fifteen years ago. Yes, Shakespeare used it, but he could and the rest of us should not.
America's misuse of the verb "to ask" has now slimed its way into Britain. "It's a big ask" is used to mean "That's a major request" or "That's an extravagant expectation."
big of a deal
Why do people say, "it's not that big of a deal"? It should be "it's not that big a deal".
Bird-brained substitute for "bird-watching."
Along with Valentime's day. What do users think when they see these words written?
I HATE this word. Most of the offenders seem to be 50+ year old women describing their bedazzled kitty cat sweatshirt. Give it a rest!
blog web log
1. Blog and blogger are ugly neologisms for a web journal ("web log") and someone who keeps it ("web logger"). Of all the new words coming from the web, these are not only the ugliest, but their meanings are furthest from what the sounds of the words actually suggest. Sadly, they've taken hold, and will probably be here awhile.
2. It sounds so ugly! Like a "blogged" toilet or bowel. Or "flog" with its cruel associations.
"Can you bottom-line that for me" is just heinous. I can't explain it further; it simply gives me hives.
As in "I brought it at the shop." Christ on a bike! Brought is NOT the past tense of buy.
bucket a group; category
A vogue word used by financial and legal folks indicating a group or category. Time to kick the bucket!
Used as "office-speak" in place of the word "meeting" far too often. "We'll have to causus on this subject later." I hate it!
In the world of people not trying to impress others with their extensive vocabulary, caucus is defined as a meeting of supporters or members of a political party.
I realize that this is digusting, but I do believe it rightfully belongs on the list of Worst Words. As it means "the neck of the vagina", the very sound of that word is disgusting, and I gag when I hear it. It conjurs mucousy images when spoken. Gross!
chair chairman; chairwoman
chichi showy; precious; fashionable
Just awful, simply awful. It takes two otherwise okay verbs ("chill," which I know is old slang, and "relax") and combines them into a dumb-sounding "chillax."
Is it necessary to comment, or is the onomatopoeia sufficient to turn your stomach?
Images of mucus and chewed cheese spring to mind with alacrity.
clean cleanliness; freshness
"Clean" when used as a noun, e.g., in detergent commercials, "This product will give you a fresh-smelling clean!" Blecccch.
The sound of this word just pisses me off! The only thing worse than hearing it is looking at its spelling while saying it aloud. C-L-O-I-S-T-E-R, cloister. I take that back, typing it makes it even worse. I'm so mad right now.
What I'll never attain until this word is stricken from the English language.
Complected isn't even a word. At least not when I went to school. When
referring to skin, complexion is the correct word. She has a nice complexion... She
has a dark complexion, not, she's dark complected.
This word is so overused after GWB decided to use it. Now it's a buzzword used in so many contexts that it's practically lost its real meaning. Even when used correctly, it annoys me now.
My mom uses this word waaaaay too much.
This excrescence, once redolent of Naugahyde furniture and bong water, has resurfaced as a favorite of syllable addicts. Those who know what it means may use it and its cousin "contemporaneous" once a year without meriting contempt. All others should stick to "modern" or "present-day."
It's converse. It's converse. I hate it. I hate it.
copacetic satisfactory; fine
It is not a word. The act is a coronation but the receiver of the act is crowned not coronated, even if Rush Limbaugh does not think so.
Makes me think of a putrid squid-type creature. This word gives me the shivers.
could care less
This phrase is constantly and almost universally misused. I cannot remember the right version of the phrase having been spoken or written by anyone for as long as I can recall. The phrase is typically used to convey one's total disregard for an object of contempt. Should complete disregard be intended, however, the wording should be "could not care less." If the user truly could "care less," some concern clearly remains and he or she obviously holds some minimal regard for the object of contempt. With any remaining regard for said object of contempt, the phrase is pointless.
could of, should of, would of
Idiots forms of "could have," "should have," "would have." It's ruining the world; it's everywhere and it's disgusting.
cousin brother (sister) brother (sister)
That's how it is in India!
AARGH! Crispy is cutesy! Why doesn't anyone understand that?
I can't quite say why I don't like this word. It makes me think of someone pinching her fingers and making a squirrel face.
Whattup, Dawg? Not your IQ, dude...at least, that's what you sound like. And I thought "Geet along lil' dogie was bad."
Oooo...this is de-lisshhh-shussssss....ugh! Can't you just say it tastes great? Delicious is so over-the-top and deserves to be abbreviated into "delish," which is just as bad, but at least you get it over with quicker.
deplane to disembark
Shouldn't this be disembark instead of the ridiculous neologism?
What's wrong with "talk" or "conversation"? This is now used as a code word for "I'm willing to talk but I'm never going to listen."
Basketball announcers often use this word to describe the difference between the game clock and the shot clock: "there's a three-second differential between the game clock and the shot clock."
I hate the word dinghy. I would classify this word as "unspeakable," because there are no fitting substitutes.
The root word has been so disrespected that sometimes I can't remember what it means.
disconnect a misunderstanding
I realize you have an entry for "orientate," but I have to call attention to this one. I heard it while watching a television nature program on Emperor Penguins. According to the narrator, adults returning from the sea from feeding may encounter fog, which is very hazardous, because it "can cause them to become disorientated." I almost came out of my chair.
disrespect to humiliate; degrade; debase
As a verb. It's even worse in the past tense as in, "She disrespected me in front of the kids."
don't go there
The subject not open for debate. Discussion of the topic is offensive. You are walking on soft ground. An idiot cannot defend a premise.
Legalspeak that has crept into everyday speech. It should be deep-sixed for reasons too many to count, but here are three:
1. You don't "do" due diligence, you exercise or effect it.
2. Avoid the "doo-doo" sound at all costs; it sounds like a potty-training manual.
3. Legalspeak should be banned on principle.
The word is DROWN. The past tense is DROWNED. People who say this sound like morons.
According to the dictionary, the word "drug," is "a chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of disease or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental well-being." It is not the past-tense of "drag" as in "I drug the body down the stairs." This misusage seems particularly popular with Judge Judy litigants.
1. I have an intelligent 14 year old daughter who has managed to incorporate "dude" into her normal vocabulary. It really makes her sound like a slacker!!
2. Oh my Heavens! This word goes along with the line of beer bottles you've arranged on your bookshelf...as decor! Now go get an education and put some books on those shelves.
It sounds revolting. It is crass American shorthand, and invokes images of gross people stuffing handfuls of unspeakable food into open, salivating mouths.
Idiot's version of "escape."
This pompous noun has replaced "teacher."
This ugly construction is found everywhere. It has become a worst word by virtue of its constant inane usage.
engage with read; participate
Why are academics suddenly (or so it seems to me) so fond of the phrase "engage with"? Students don't read a book nowadays, they "engage with" it. They don't participate in class discussions, either. They simply "engage."
I think I first started disliking this word when waiters began using it as an über-cheery command.
enthused enthusiastic; excited
epic 1. of, constituting, having to do with, or suggestive of a literary epic. 2. surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size.
3. heroic and impressive in quality.
It's epic how epically people have ruined the epicocity of epic and epics everywhere. Please forget the word epic.
eponymous (i-PON-ah-mes) of, relating to, or constituting an eponym (A person whose name is or is thought to be the source of the name of something, such as a city, country, or era)
Used to death in fashion mags, reviews of small businesses and sunday magazine pieces. As in "we interviewed ellen fishwanger in her eponymous boutique in Williamsburg."
equanimous composed; not easily elated or depressed
Idiot's version of "erudite."
excetera et cetera
Et cetera is a two-word Latin phrase meaning "and [et] others [cetera]." The first word is "et" pronounced "ĕt" and rhymes with "pet." The first word is NOT pronounced with a "hard c" or "hard x" sound, as in "expert" or "ecstasy." The second word begins with a "soft c" sound, as begins "circus." Say this: "et-set-er-a" and NOT "ex-set-er-a."
It is used so frequently it has lost its meaning. It is one of the favorite crutches used by people speaking in front of an audience (e.g., politicans, motivational speakers, teachers, etc.). Its use can be perceived as a futile attempt to convince people that something is great (e.g., when being trained on something trivial at work and the trainer asks: "Isn't this exciting?") or heading in the right direction (e.g., when a CEO tries to convey the message that "these are exciting times, blah, blah, blah"). The word is so overused, many times it ends up meaning the exact opposite.
How can you not have this horrible word? Anyone uttering this low-brow gutter-English should be brought up on charges!
People use this word to lend a trendy, red-carpet flair to their speech. Unfortunately, like many overexposed celebrities, this word has worn out its welcome!
This has been, and should remain, a verb. The noun form of "fail" is "failure."
fambam family and close friends that are like family.
Any user of this hideous creation should be forbidden to breed.
This should be directed against a financial news station that has, otherwise, good reporting. I cringe whenever I hear the wrong pronunciation for the entire month of February.
It's supposed to mean "fertile" and "prolific," but the sound of it merely evokes images of fecal matter.
feedback information; response; comments
facilitate to make easy or easier
famously excellently; splendidly
Overused and unnecessary. "'Cogito ergo sum,' as Descartes famously remarked." Ugh! He may have said it loudly, but he didn't say it famously.
first and foremost first; foremost
It's annoying. I never know what they mean by it.
flush out flesh out
Another gem from a manager making tens of thousands of dollars more than I; it was also news to her that the Chinese language comes in more than one variety.
If it needed an "r," it would have one.
Bandied around so often it has no sound or impact anymore. Often used by disgruntled consumers and white trash who lack the education to compose a rational, intelligent statement. When in doubt, go for the "f" word.
When you say it, the g's feel sort of like they are stuck in the back of your throat. It's just unpleasant.
1. At my high school, I continue to hear the word gay used incorrectly: "Man, this test is gay," or "The computer class was gay." In this sense of the word, gay is a substitute for dumb or stupid. This incorrect usage drives me crazy!
2. When did this become the pejorative of choice? "This gay class" "that hat is so gay". Please. Aside from the common connotation that equates gay with homosexual, the word itself means "happy". You have a happy class? Glad to hear it. Your hat is happy? Hats can have emotions? I'm confused!
It scares me. It means warm friendliness. Does that sound friendly to you? first of all (not to be racist) it's almost unadulterated german. German is not a pretty language. Second of all it sounds like I am saluting Hitler.
The word for people whose pretentious stuffiness belies their inability to say *sex* without tittering like a ten-year-old. (They probably can't say *tittering* with a straight face either.)
Misused by servile types to mean any male "The gentleman was extremely drunk at the time and doesn't recall grabbing the young lady's posterior."
Vile on the auditory senses, sounds archaic, and should be immediately removed from all dictionaries. Only ever promulgated by elitist toffs who are oblivious to the fact that it instantly defines them as a total cretin.
Used most frequently in publications created by companies that deal with money, as in "You can gift up to $9000 to your grandchildren."
ginormous gigantic; enormous
1. I almost spat out my coffee this morning after learning that the Merriam-Webster dictionary saw fit to add this word to the lexicon.
2. It's just stupid. Who could love this word?
I mean come on, just say it out loud. Doesn't it feel weird in your throat? There are better ways to express satisfaction with a situation than to discomfort your glottis.
gobsmacked surprised, astonished
My vote for one of the least attractive words in the English language today (leaving aside some of the four-letter ones) would have to go to "gobsmacked." I don't know if it is in use in American English but it is not uncommon in British and Australian English and is an unappealing alternative for surprised, astonished, dumbfounded, aghast, etc.
going forward in the future
What's wrong with "in the future"? My respect for the speaker plummets when I hear this one. This is business-speak babble at worst, and is redundant, at best. "In the future" has worked just fine up to this "time frame" (that's another, but I'll save it for a later rant). Besides, the way most corporate word-manglers use this phrase, it is evident from context that the future is implied. Who cares about changing goals "going backward"?
Just grammatical foolishness! UGH. That gots to be the most preposterous thing!!!
The noun from "gracious" is "grace," nothing else.
gravitas 1. substance; weightiness. 2. a dignified demeanor.
1. I wonder if there has been any discussion concerning the media's new favorite term ground zero? There has to be a better, more sensitive way to refer to the results of that terrorist act. Hearing talking heads using the term over and over trivializes the thing we are deeply concerned about. I bet (to question) it is too politically incorrect to rate a discussion. Perhaps I am wrong in being irritated.
2. "Ground zero" is where the bomb goes off (originally, a bomb of the nuclear variety); OK, and an apt term for the twin towers that came down on
9/11. It's NOT a synonym for "square one," which is the point at which we start something new. I know, 'zero' and 'one' sound like places near the
beginning of something, but these two expressions are not equivalent. The headline "Church Destroyed at Ground Zero is still at Square One"
recognizes the difference.
grow to increase; to expand
Annoying and overly general when used in corporate lingo. "In the second quarter, we expect to grow the business internationally." Also: Grow profits, grow income, grow revenues. "Increase" revenue, and "expand" business will do nicely, thank you.
guesstimate to estimate
1. Use estimate, for crying out loud! It's the same word!
2.You can "guess" or "estimate." Why create a new "word" to say the same thing?
I don't think this word has been properly used since the musical "Guys 'n' Dolls."
Everyone is now a "guy." I am all for equality of the sexes, but there are limits. I do not enjoy being referred to as one of the "guys," as in the annoying "Hi, guys!" and it's one woman greeting a group of female friends.
Healthy is a nonsensical synonym for "healthful" ("a healthy meal," "a healthy lifestyle") that even respected writers and publications use frequently.
1. I'd heard this gruesome mispronunciation so often during my first year in the US, I felt like I had whiplash from my double-takes. Fortunately my pure hatred of "axed" - the bastardized version of ask, has somewhat numbed me to these American "neologisms."
2. Ugh! I hear people say "I'm afraid of heights" and never mispronounce it. But when they describe the heighth of something, it gets butchered. Why-th??
In common usage as a substitute for any greeting: hello, good morning, afternoon, evening. We are even subjected to the admonition to "say 'hey'" to so-and-so.
holistic comprehensive; total
Yet another example of business executives trying to use jargon to make them sound big and clever. I want to hear no more about holistic regeneration and holistic approaches, when comprehensive will do.
1. These are, of course, not at all fears, but a pervasive distrust. Still, they could be acceptable if "heterophobia" and "Christophobia" entered the lexicon.
2. I agree with what it says here already, in that it is not fear but hatred. However, it is a miscoined word, as words beginning with homo- mean smae, so the word should mean the complete opposite of what was meant.
hone in home in
So many people believe that to "hone in on" a target is correct. Have they never heard of bees homing in on their hive, homing devices on missiles, etc? To hone means to sharpen, as honing the edge of a blade. I'd like to use a sharp blade on those who "hone into" anything.
Honestly, I use this word all the time.. but half the time. It's just like "actually." You can say a sentence without it, but you just don't.
hopefully with luck; I hope; it is to be hoped
Constantly misused to mean with luck or I hope that.
how are you?
"I'm good." Remarkably widespread among the educated.
"Icon" is already listed here, but I want to add my fist- shaking two cents against "iconic." It has come to the point nowadays where EVERYTHING is "iconic," even non-visual things. Music is "iconic"; food is "iconic"; What's up?! Enough already.
There is no R on the end of this word!
i.e. that is
In spoken language, "i.e." is pronounced "that is," not "eye ee."
Meaningless formula (a verbal tic, if you will) used habitually by many to begin nearly every sentence, especially those that are not intended to clarify anything preceding them.
impact to affect; to influence
Look it up!!!!It means "to be jammed firmly together" or "wedged between"(like an impacted tooth) A made up word, used by self important fools in an attempt to make themselves sound intelligent.
The quality of attracting attention or creating a positive impression. (Someone in upper management at a publishing company told me, "Well, in the case of impactful, that actually is a word" to reprimand me for mocking co-workers' use of non-words such as "incentivize" and "gift," as a verb. I was laid off a few short weeks after this comment. The manager had come from a management position in advertising but had given herself the title Executive Editor at our publishing company.)
Although clearly an adverb, it is used in the adjectivial phrase "most importantly" when what is wanted is simply "most important."
Idiot's version of "input."
incent to motivate
It means, in the corporate-speak I've heard, to motivate someone to do something by promising something if they do. Then the thing they get is an incentive. That word is fine, but it does not automatically beget a verb. My problem with "incent" is that it gives the subject no credit for a decision. They become a perfectly predictable robot, subject to the whims and offerings of the clever, incentive-offering manager.
I need you to ...
A completely unacceptable replacement for "please."
input ideas; comments; opinion; information
Misused, lazy intensifier favored by public-relations people and blowhards everywhere. "She's incredibly talented." What is it about her talent that is not believable?
I despise this word. It is a bureaucrat's invention because he/she couldn't think of "perceptive." P.S. "operationalize" is another of this type of "cock-up" the correct word is "deploy" (I know you already have an entry for this.)
How can something instantly be a classic? This is a stupid marketing phrase that has unfortunately become part of everyday speech.
1. "Invite" is only and always a verb; never is it a noun.
2. It is a verb and a good verb; it is not a noun; the noun is "invitation." Nothing else.
3. Invite is a verb, invitation is a noun, and I'm very fed up with those who send me "invites."
Constantly confused with "coincidental." It is NOT ironic that a snowstorm hit the Northeast on the same day in two different years. It is a coincidence. "Ironic" refers to the use of a word to convey the opposite meaning, or to express incongruity. As in: "It is ironic that the thinnest contestant ate the greatest number of hot dogs in the allotted time."
issue problem; difficulty
"Issue" seems to have supplanted "problem" among the vocabulary deficient as the all-purpose word for anything difficult or disliked. Especially bad is the psychobabble "has issues with."
Adjectival "key," once reserved for crucial openers of figurative locks, is now so overused for the merely somewhat related as well as for the crucial as to have lost all meaning. Many speakers seem to call just about everything and anyone "key." To quote my 1966 edition of "Modern American Usage": "The interests of good writing suggest that we leave 'key' in actual or conceivable locks and reinstate the simple qualifiers 'chief', 'main', 'prime', 'important', 'outstanding' where the logic of a lock and a key isn't evident." And I find constructions such as "____ is key" particularly awful.
A silly slang term that has nothing to recommend it. It's a shibboleth that identifies people who care little about language.
letters (colors, numbers)
Example: "Little Johnny already knows all of his letters." His letters? He has a different set than the rest of us? The correct way would be to say "Johnny already knows all of the letters of the alphabet." Being a mom, I hear it a lot from other parents and it always bugs me.
leverage to capitalize on; to parlay
I hate it when people use to leverage when what they really mean is to capitalize upon or to parlay. For instance, I have a dollar. I want to turn that into twelve dollars by buying a share of Dizzy.com stock. (I didn't say I was smart.) I tell my stock broker, "Hey! Buy me a share of Dizzy.com so I can leverage my dollar instead of letting it burn a hole in my pocket!"
liaise to establish a liaison
The worst word that I have come across is liase. Argh!
Please, it is pronounced library (LI-brer-ee), not lie berry!
I'm so surprised I looked through the list and didn't find this word? Isn't this the word that is THE CLICHE of hated words, especially as used in the beginning of a comment, as in, "Like, didn't you see that!?" And overused by every famous socialite around!
Likely is an adjective, e.g., "It is likely that..." or "a likely story." It is really stupid to use it as an adverb instead of "probably", e.g., "The government will likely adopt a neutral budget,"just to sound financially knowledgeable.
I don't hate the word, I hate that no one uses it correctly. The Kardashian sisters use it constantly and incorrectly, and I think they are the reason for its recent popularity. Can someone please tell them that a person can't "literally have butterflies in their stomach"
unless they ate a butterfly?
During conversations on news programs, when someone starts every sentence with, "Look ... "
Why must corporate-speak infiltrate the rest of my world? I've talked about looping in friends on things that are not email related; don't get me started on "circling back."
It just sounds a little kiddish.
1. Love is the emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. 2. Highly used without understanding the definition, often used instead of lust it's just passion, don't make it more than it is it is annoying.
I hate it when a waiter says "enjoy your meal" Should say "enjoy your dinner, lunch," etc. Meal reminds me of some kind of gruel or sticky oatmeal.
Usually to describe a discussion or, worse still, "dialogue." Can it even BE a discussion if it is without meaning? I was recently involved in a court case where the decision turned on the judge's emphatic view that "meaningful consultation" (the term used in the contract at issue) was more than "consultation."
megabucks millions of dollars
"I'm having a meltdown." So what? Get over it!
Idiot's version of "mind-boggling."
Commonly used, at least in the UK, to describe something that is really good. Why can't people say that it's really good? It's so overused! I hear this annoying word every day and it drives me mad!
This one has been bothering me since early grade school. It was used by the teachers who were teaching me to read using the phonics method...it is used incorrectly so often it is ignored
"Moist" should never ever be used to describe anything except for chicken and maybe cake.
morish yummy; one wants more of it.
I hate this "word"; it is in the category of non-words that creep into the common vernacular, and as most people are dumb, most people begin to use them as real words ... and then because they are part of common usage, they are added to the dictionary! For many years, I assumed something that was "morish" was a product of "Moreland" or some such place. I realize that this does make me somewhat ignorant on the geography side of things, but I guess I was just giving people too much credit.
Yes, very, very bad. Apologize as if you really meant it, please.
1. Myself is a reflexive pronoun. It refers to the speaker, as in "I hurt myself." It is not equivalent to "I" or "me." Imagine saying "Myself is going to the mall" or "You hurt myself." Yuck. Get over the business prohibition against using "I" and "me."
2. Correct as far as it goes. As well as a reflexive pronoun, it is an intensive pronoun, as in "I myself did such and such," wherein in emphasizes (intensifies) the subject of the sentence.
You sound so stupid and overall give off an air of incompetence when you say this word.
networking developing contacts; interacting with others, esp. to further one's career
It's lost all humanity. Even fish don't want to be in nets.
nice agreeable; pleasant
The word I dislike the most is the word "nice" used to mean courteous, amiable, or pretty. Many teenage girls use this word to describe their classmates.
A beautiful French name that is almost always murderously mispronounced. Notre Dame is properly promounced "Notr Dahm."
1.No replacement for "you are welcome" or, more elegantly, "my pleasure."
2. I encounter this response for everything now. For me a "problem" should be something that causes difficulty. But it is used for the most inane things, for things that are not in and of themselves problems. For instance, I went to McDonald's and ordered something. I asked for extra napkins and, of course, the response was "no problem." In what way could giving me extra napkins be a problem? Is there some potential difficulty in the act of giving me an extra napkin that my server had to overcome to make it possible? I particularly find this response when dealing with telephone operators. I call a lender's phone service line and say, "I'd like to make a payment." The response is, "Okay, no problem." Could there be a problem their receiving my funds? Is there some difficulty they would have in taking my money? I've never encountered that, so why, "no problem?" Could there be? Let's stop using this for the most inane things! It inflates the value of the mundane!
As in "a whole nother issue". It's "another." Try "another whole issue."
I would like to add the non-word "nucular" as one of the unspeakables. One never sees this spelling, of course, but the President of the United States recently pronounced "nuclear" as "nucular" in an address to the nation, so it's time to take a stand.
A professional athlete's first sentence has to include the word
"obviously" (this especially applies to pro hockey players).
Not so big (of)a deal, perhaps, but soooo wrong.
off my own back
This is used instead of the (correct, though hackneyed) "off my own bat." It
demonstrates laziness or stupidity, as the abuser has clearly not thought of the
actual meaning. Perhaps it is the result also of a failure to distinguish between the different endings because the speaker normally substitutes a glottal stop for oth.
1. I hate the "oi" sound. It just sounds dirty, for lack of a better explanation. And, "ointment," in of itself, just makes me think of grandpa's boil remedy, or grandma's butt paste.
2. It sounds so dirty!
It is illogical to try to make "one" a plural. These worst words can almost always be replaced by "those."
ongoing continuing; perpetual
This odious term has been used by bureaucrats, reporters, and other idiots to refer to actions or processes that are of a continuing or even perpetual nature. That which continues to "go on" merely continues and does not have to be "ongoing." It is unfortunate and disturbing that this alleged word has found its way into some dictionaries.
operationalize to use; to do; to put in place
1. Used as a substitute for orient as in to "orient oneself to a new environment."
2. This is a created verb again! A misuse of "orient." Example: She wasn't orientated about the company as she might have been.
optics (OP-tiks) the branch of physics that deals with light and vision, chiefly the generation, propagation, and detection of electromagnetic radiation having wavelengths greater than x-rays and shorter than microwaves.
Optics is a bad word only when it is used to mean "appearance" as in news programs that talk about "the optics" of a policy or program. Optics is perfectly fine, when used in science or mechanics
Paradigm has lost its original meaning and become a squishy term for anything having to do with a new way of doing or viewing anything. It sounds pretentious and it is.
parameter limit; boundary
Used in mathematics involving independent variables. It was not meant as a pseudo-elegant alternative to perimeter.
Idiot's version of "party."
partner to join; to collaborate
The most egregious phrase I have come across: "The new way to office!" Ouch. This was posted on a new office building near my office as an enticement to local businesses to rent space. Office as a verb gives us: I am officing, You are officing, and so forth. In the subjunctive: If I were to office, then I would partner with them. Gross! I realize that in English we have many words that function as both verbs and nouns. I also realize the language changes, but some of the recent coinages in the business arena are laughable and painful to listen to.
party to celebrate; to carouse
penis and vagina
(Well, you asked for it...) They stand out as uncomfortable . I asked myself years ago, Is it the connotation of the words or the sound? I believe it's the sound. Think about it; penis and vagina do not rhyme with any other words in the English language, which proves that they do, indeed, SOUND different. The only rhyme I can think of is "Venus." Most every other word can be rhymed with, save for these two.
perseverate to persevere
I hate this psychological term in all instances, but especially when it's used as a synonym for "persevere."
I hate when you ask someone a question and they begin their answer with 'personally'. Example: "What did you think of that movie"? "Well personally..." Ugh I know your talking about yourself because I asked YOU your opinion!
peruse to read carefully; to read
Looks and sounds pompous!
pick select; choose
I hate this crummy word used instead of "choose." "Pick" is fine for a guitar or ice or your nose.
Formerly a fine word that has been beaten into triteness with gross overuse wherein it is understood to refer to, and only to, this particular planet of ours. It wider application has been lost and the word should now be banned.
point in time now
"At this point in time"... you sound like Richard M. Nixon. The correct word is "now."
portion part; helping; allotment
portion is one of those words to which I have a visceral reaction: disgust. Portion and its ilk (including meal) are mean, stingy little words. They bring to mind slapped hands and lectures about "people starving in China," and also those scary, molded plastic trays with sections for individual foods (slop such as creamed corn and Jell-O and boiled fish). Portion is also insidious: a simple, concrete word, it is used constantly by people unaware of its niggardly nature. To me, it is the worst word.
posse group of people; search party
The word I hate? Posse. It looks ugly, sounds ugly, feels ugly, and should never again be used. Ever.
This is cumbersome way of saying "slide" (as in "slide show"). It's little more than a lazy advertisement for Microsoft.
A gratingly annoying perversion of the word "pregnant."
Used far too much in general, and infests amateur reviews of
books, movies, and music in particular. In essence, anything that is even
a little bit unconventional or avant-garde will be labelled "pretentious",
especially if it takes effort to understand, and someone will invariably
say that those who enjoy whatever it is are pretending to do so in order
to look smart, which doesn't make sense, but who needs logic anyway? There
are things I could label pretentious, though not always as a criticism,
but it's become such a useless buzzword employed by lazy, dull reviewers
that I don't bother using it anymore. These days, when browsing reviews,
if I see the word, I skip over the entire thing and dismiss the review as
utterly worthless, unless it's written by someone I know who knows what it
really means and doesn't throw it around to describe everything. To
paraphrase a comment I read somewhere, stupid people use pretentious to
describe things that make them feel stupid. Kill this idiotic cliche dead.
I hate preventative used instead of preventive. We have corrective, not correctative; we have prevention, not preventation.
1. It's the lazy man's version of "prioritize"!
2. In addition to the existing fine submission, this word could well refer to a promotion for a monk.
proactive anticipatory; initiatory
As opposed to anti-active?
1. When product is used instead of program, for example, when you call your insurer and are told to press 3 for their "Child Health Plus" product or when AOL tells you that you'll be directed to their "classic AOL product."
2. When it is used as a generic term for putting goop in your hair, as in "You really need to use more product to take care of that frizz."
Since when do professionals become professionals through this process?
Idiot's version of "pronunciation." I get very irritated when people mispronounce the word "proNUNciation"! Especially when spoken by English teachers.
Many people when discussing the male prostate gland often use the word prostrate inappropriately.
In physics, a tiny change in location, not the overused cliché indicating a large leap.
This is just a fancy way to begin a question. It's often used by people to make themselves seem more inquisitive and intelligent, especially lawyers and professors. "Query whether..." "Query this..." Just ask the damn question!
A cloying word that deserves burial in a potter's field alongside the Yuppie generation that spawned it.
This is a VERB, not a noun. You can quote, but you don't write quotes. They're quotations!
1. This nonsensical verb is a corruption of the original metaphor, to "amp up," literally, to increse the amperage of, or, figuratively, to intensify. The corruption, to "ramp up," makes no sense. "The administration has ramped up its efforts to fund the reconstruction of Iraq." Enough already!
2. RAMP UP actually comes from electronic engineering, where voltages in something like a video switcher actually follow a ramp up and down as video signals are mixed in a "more or less" ratio with each other.
Maybe this is a teenage thing, but the rise of the word "random" as a way to comment on an abrupt subject change or something one finds funny, is just idiocy and makes me angry.
rationalize to fire; lay off
"We will rationalize our work force." Rationalize is used in corporatespeak for "fire" or "lay off."
Seems to be the verb du jour. I visualize an extended arm whose hand is ready to clap my shoulder. Please do not reach out to me; just contact me.
Idiot's version of "realtor." In ignorance, some people add a phonetic sound (real-A-tor) that doesn't exist in the word.
Reality is misused as in "but the reality is...." I hear this from my girlfriends (in their mid-forties) when they are trying to explain differences in perception. Reality is objective, and yet they use it for truly subjective explanations.
rearchitect to redesign
Always makes me think of regurgitate, as in do you mind if I regurgitate last nights dinner
How can one re-invent anything, especially a person, who wasn't invented in the first place? A thing can only be invented once. I find this faux word the worst of all. We need to invent a new word to fill the need of lazy journalists et al.
"I want a girl, just like the girl that married dear old dad..."
Popular in the Middle East among those whose first language is not English. A road map is nothing but a plan.
My trailer-trash sensors surge into over-drive every time I hear this word substituted for "saw," as in "I seen Derek combing his mullet."
If it's a smooth transition, why do speakers feel the need to screw up the speech by interjecting the word for it?!?!?!
This word annoys me very much.
service to serve; to provide a service to
The worst word I've encountered in business-speak of late is "service," as in, "we service that account." All nouns can be verbed, but we had a perfectly good one already serve. They may serve me, but servicing is something that a stud does for a mare! When I hear that "I'm getting serviced," I can be assured of being screwed.
share to tell
Unctuous folks use this word when they mean "tell," but it's hardly ever used any more to mean "to divide and parcel out; apportion." Perhaps that's because it's so much easier and cheaper to share feelings than to share money or possessions!
A word social scientists use to turn your brothers and your sisters into statistics. Should never be used to refer to real people.
Pretentious, and adds nothing to the perfectly good "skills."
This word makes me cringe. Every time I hear it I think of someone with rabies foaming at the mouth.
Prissy, and has nothing to do with sleep.
"I'll just have a slither of cake." No you won't, matey. Not unless it's made of snakes. I've heard this many times even on the good old BBC. Of course they mean "sliver," a thin slice. Do they also say, "The worm slivered along the grass"?
Sounds horrible, looks horrible. It certainly does not create pleasant imagery. We just don't need it.
smegma A sebaceous secretion, especially the cheesy secretion that collects under the prepuce or around the clitoris.
An oily, proteinaceous, foul-smelling excretion found around the genitals of mammals. Sounds as disgusting as it is.
I absolutely LOATHE this word; why cheapen something as wonderful as a kiss by making it sound like an automotive component?
The past tense of "sneak" is "sneaked." It doesn't need a new one, particularly one that has such a disgusting sound.
It's become the new "ummm" for this generation. It starts the conversation, it fills in on the breaks and it seems to help to conlude the conversation. For example, "so, I had a really bad day at work and I couldn't wait to get home so, how was your day? good? so, why don't we go for a drink so that we can forget about it so, what do you think?" What the hell is up with this? I catch more and more people just slipping it in as if it's a good alternative to "umm" ARGGGG!
A perfectly fine adjective, but it may not and should not be used as a noun in place of Social Security Number, as in "What's your social?"
I shudder every time this word is used because it reminds me of wet bread dripping clumps of moist fluff.
Solution belongs back where it came from: math, chemistry, and logic puzzle books. Sucked dry of all meaning through nefarious overuse by corporate sales and marketing. Is it a kid's book, or a "pediatric text delivery solution"? The second one will surely bring a higher price! For the love of all that's holy, please stop using solution and remember: if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.
Since when is "spend" a noun, as in "What's the spend on that project?"
stakeholder an interested person or party
This refugee from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" needs to be, well, buried with a stake through its sweet heart.
status check the status
Culled from an HMO website: "Click on this link to status a recent claim." The creator of this abomination should be condemned to the fourth level of HMO hell. Just say "Click on this link to check the status of a recent claim."
! am sooooo sick of this word.
Presidential usage does not make it correct. See also "nucular."
This word gives me the same shivering teeth feeling as chewing on wool.
No deliciousness. No cacti. It makes my intestines weep.
If someone committed murder would you say they homocided?
I remember it becoming popular in the '80s, "thank you for being so supportive." Sounds like someone talking to a bra or a jock strap.
1. Idiot's version of "supposedly."
2. No one knows how to say it (supposedly) right!
As in SWEEEEEET! I won a million dollars? SWEEET! Say it with a Cheshire grin; it's more effective that way. Apparently, it's the new "groovy" or "cool." But I think it's just plain gacky--SWEEEEEEEEEET!
I don't mind this as much when used about something abstract, but for some semi-irrational reason I loathe this word when used to describe something one is eating. "This potato salad is really tasty!" (Shudder)
The noun from "thankful" is "thanks"; nothing else.
that would be
I cringe when I hear someone use this as a substitute for "that is."
This is a word my kids learned at preschool. The teacher requested they wash hands after "toileting." Toileting is not a word and teachers should not use it. They are making my kids stupid.
Yet another abomination from the sportscasting world. Can't they say "third consecutive"?
As a legitimate oceanographic phenomenon, such as what occurred after the magnitude 8.0 earthquake in Japan in 2011, I have no complaint about this word. However, it is being used to describe any event or action that occurs in abundance: "There was a tsunami of protest." The Japan tsunami was a tragic and terrifying event, and I decry the current usage of this word, which amounts to trivializing its meaning.
Although there is no such word in the OED or Chambers, more and more journalists are joining up "under" and "way" in this manner. This displays both spelling illiteracy and ignorance of our maritime past and of the fact that "under way" means that a vessel is moving, and by extension a project is progressing (though in the case of a vessel it might be moving backwards). One might also mention the occasional attempt to be nautical and spell it as "under weigh" by those who think it has something to do with raising the anchor. But that is "by the weigh." I hope you will pillory this word, as otherwise I seem to be a lone voice in the wilderness.
utilize to use
A perfectly obnoxious substitute for the perfectly fine use.
Misused constantly. Hello, media, it means "without precedent."
Wars, natural disasters, economic woes, and similar events are rarely "unprecedented."Think, and if necessary, do some research before you use this word!
No age group can make this diminutive sound right. It's just wrong...do not use it ...and please take it off the menu.
Only bad when it is used to mean "oral." Verbal can be written, but oral is always spoken.
I'd like to add verbiage to the list of Worst Words. It is used way too often by my supervisors when they mean wording. Worse still, they always mispronounce it as "verbage." It's maddening.
Used (by lazy and unschooled under thirties, usually) instead of "versus" to indicate opponents in a match or contest.
Often used in place of "versus." Example: "The annual contest of Ohio vice Michigan is always exciting."
Not that there is anything wrong with the word itself...I hear it constantly used by hipsters, pseudo-intellectuals and self-proclaimed creatives to describe things pertaining to film, tv, literature, and art that are not structurally cohesive and/or poorly executed. What they are really saying is "I couldn't understand any of it, so I will say it's "visceral" so I don't have to feel like an unenlightened half-wit for having spent money on it while making the other person listening to me feel intellectually inferior to me."
Not a car manufactured in Sweden, vulva outranks both uvula and scrotum. This is the most repulsive word in the English language.
The noun version of "walk" is "walk." Why do people add "age" to acceptable words in an attempt to create nouns?
I can't stand when people state that they are "weary" of a situation when in fact they mean that they are WARY of a situation. I've been hearing/reading this one more and more frequently lately.
Whenever someone says "well" after you ask them something or you tell them a fact they don't like they say "well" and it is just so annoying.
For heaven's sake, if someone has outwitted you, do you honestly believe that saying "whatever" is going to redeem you in any way?
window (of opportunity) chance; opportunity
Commonly heard in popular music to mean "with you." My high school choir teacher forbade this word, rightfully so.
The use of "wonderful" to describe everything one approves of, likes or admires. To me the only thing full of wonder is the Grand Canyon, not the newest wonderful restaurant.
"Would have" is not a substitute for "had," as in "If I would have paid attention in English class, maybe I'd have passed." I've heard intelligent, educated people use this term and it makes my skin crawl every time.
Lazy consultants use the word yearend instead of "at the year's end" or "at the end of the year," e.g., "Mr. Bumbles will issue your $2 bonus at yearend, and not a moment before." I searched Google for "yearend" and came up with 39,000 hits. Evidently its use is widespread. Ugh.
I hear this ALL THE TIME at work. Why can't they just say "are you open". Very stupid if you ask me.
1. Since moving to Tennessee, I have heard "you all" and "y'all" made more encompassing when addressing a group. The phrase is "all y'all." It is commonly used here.
2. I hate it. I'm from the south and I hate how the uneducated people use this word all the time.
It is becoming more common. Even radio interviewers drop "you know" into their talk. If the listener is being told a fact or opinion, they do not know until after it has been said. And the speaker mostly wouldn't know what the listener knows. And sometimes, you hear a "you know" on its own, not as part of a statement. I think it is often a stand in for "You see what I mean" or "You know how it is."
The plural of "you" is "you." "You guys" is redundant, frequently gender incorrect and always offensive. The colloquial "you all" or its contraction "y'all" is tolerable only in its own geographic region.
Has had a long life and deserves a quick death. Trite, grating, and, as a descriptor, it is worse than useless, because it has rendered meaningless the once-useful noun "professional."
Paris Hilton, with her unforgivable "I'm hot, your not" shirt, should just disappear.
Commonly used in the Philadelphia and Baltimore area to mean "you" when speaking to or about more than one person. "Are yous going to the movies?" Truly grating.
Do I need to explain this? The sound makes my skin crawl, not only for the appalling lack of vocabulary it reflects in its user, but in the visual imagery it evokes in envisioning either the item described or visage of person from whom this hideous word emanated.
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