Words miffing

Dear Everybody,

I propose we ban the following worn-out words and phrases this year:

  1. I know, right? Alternately, just Right? It’s used to express enthusiastic agreement with something that somebody just said, but entusiastic agreement really shouldn’t be expressed as a question. If you agree, you shouldn’t have to ask; just do so. And speaking of so…
  2. So… At best, the word “so” is a vague adverb. In Johnny Carson’s days, it was a set-up for any number of awful jokes. (“It’s so _____.” “How _____ is it?” “It’s so _____ that ________.” Hilarious.) Then several years ago, lazy people started using it as a verbal burp at the start of a conversation or sentence — but unless you’re Yul Brynner making an arrogant proclamation about city-building and child-bearing, you just sound stupid when you start a sentence with “So.” I once worked with someone who answered every question with a sentence starting with that word, and it drove me nuts. “How are you this morning?” “So my car wouldn’t start.” “I’m sorry to hear that, but at least you got here, right?” “So I tore my coat when I was running to get here on time.” “What are you going to do?” “So I’m going to sew.” See? Sigh….
  3. Literally. It rarely is. I’m not sure what’s going on with this one, but I think people are mistaking it for “figuratively” or another of its opposites. “Literally” means “word for word” or “without exaggeration.” Yet people pair it with exaggerations way too often. “I literally had to fly here to make it on time.” That’s fantastic, Superman, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t literally fly from your house to the doctor’s office, eight miles away.
  4. Seriously? Alternately, Really? I have to admit, these two are my guilty pleasures. Maybe they should just be flagged as “nearly worn-out” and therefore, to be used sparingly (and only by someone who can really pull it off). In my home, however, they are to be outright banned — because I’m getting a little tired of hearing, “Really, Dad?” from my six-year-old every time I tell a joke. The verbal equivalent of rolling one’s eyes.
  5. SO not ______! I think this originated on Friends — a standard Chandlerism, I believe. It was funny when he and the other characters said it, not at all funny when real people do. I cringe every time I hear someone say, “That’s SO not fair!” or “It is SO not warm in here!” Eek. It’s SO not the proper way to talk.
  6. Leverage, but only when used as a verb. It usually happens in a corporate environment, as in, “We should leverage your team’s talents.” I hate that; it’s just a euphemism for taking advantage of someone. I know it’s been around for a while — and I’ve hated it for just as long — but I’ve never made one of these lists before. Plus, it still hasn’t gone away. Until it does, I’ll include it every time I make one of these; it’s just my personal crusade.
  7. Sheep. Used to describe people who are perceived as unthinking followers. You’re likely to hear it uttered in disgust — and to great excess — by Ron Paul supporters and wacky, InfoWars-style conspiracy nuts (but I repeat myself). Look, just because someone doesn’t toe the line of your particular theory or philosophy, it doesn’t mean they can’t think for themselves. In fact, I’d say the opposite is true — you buy this crap wholesale, then dive into it headfirst, but we’re the weak thinkers? Besides, you’ve made an analogy of the wrong animal. Sheep are misled, not knowing the fate they’re approaching. Look around today, and you’ll see more people willingly heading toward their doom. The word you want, is “lemmings.” You’re welcome.
  8. Tea baggers. We get it; somebody in the Tea Party unknowingly used a term for a  sex act, to express their outrage with the president. I watched the original Rachel Maddow segment and joined in the laughter. It was probably one of history’s funniest gaffes, and my inner 12-year-old appreciated the humor — the first time. But you know what? That was two and a half years ago. Plus, no one in the Tea Party has said it since then; they dropped it like, well, a heavy sack. Can we let it go? Now it’s just childish, and when I hear someone use it to refer to everyone in the Tea Party, that someone automatically loses most of their credibility for any remaining conversation time that I care to share with them. Not because I’m defending the Tea Party; rather, just because it tells me the person speaking is beneath the standard level of acceptable adult conversational skills, and has resorted to silly name-calling. It’s like referring to a group of people as “Doo-doo faces.” Would you really say that in a serious debate? Really? Seriously?
  9. Class warfare. I don’t even know what this means. Nor, I think, do the people using the phrase.
  10. Lady Gaga. Because if we stop talking about her, maybe she’ll go away.

You’re welcome. Happy New Year, right?

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About Dan Bain

Dan is an award-winning humorist, features writer, emcee and entertainer from Raleigh, NC. His collection of humor essays, A Nay for Effort, has earned him fans from one end of his couch to the other. Why not join them and buy one? (You won't have to sit on his couch.) Dan will donate 10 percent of the book's proceeds to education. You can check it out at www.danbain.net; thanks!
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10 Responses to Words miffing

  1. So, I tend to use 1, 2 and 4 a lot. Colloquially. As in, I’m aware I’m doing it, it’s not verbal (or written) mindlessness like “like” is for my 21-year-old sister, who actually twitches if she has to try not to use the word “like” in a sentence if it’s not meant to mean “akin to.” But I recall a time, literally half my life ago (no, really, it was half my life ago) when I first heard the phrase, “I know, right?” and I couldn’t parse the etymology. I was 17 and thinking, “What does that mean?” I was just remembering that the other day. Still, I say it, and I probably will continue. That’s a warning. 🙂

    I suppose I should never hold a conversation with VP Biden in your presence. He says “literally” a LOT. The two of us together might make your head explode. Also, lots of people who are interviewed in NPR start the answer to every question with “So.” I find.

    • Dan Bain says:

      I still use 4 a lot, and am willing to overlook it in anyone except my kids. It takes on a more disrespectful tone when spoken by a child to an adult. I’m likely to spring 1 on somebody and take myself by surprise. But 2? Nope, never, no way. I believe it’s caught on because it sounds trendy and hip, but once a person starts using it, it becomes a habit — my theory only, not an accusation of you. It’s a tiny time-waster, too. And downright annoying if someone says it all the dayum time — like listening to a presenter say “umm” a lot. Things like that get to me like water drip torture.

      Thanks for the warning, though. Are you likely to hold a conversation with VP Biden?

      Like, Happy New Year!

      • I’m as likely to chat up the veep as the next person. That guy will talk to anybody! “Hey, Mr. Vice-President! I’m from Pennsylvania! And I’m Irish!” On like Donkey Kong.

        • Dan Bain says:

          Yes. Yes, he will. True story — during a recent motorcade in Raleigh, his limo stopped and he got out to talk to a young boy, who happens to go to school with my sons, so we got the lowdown later. He asked the boy for his name and when the boy replied, “Joey” of course the veep got all excited and said something like, “Cool! That’s my name, too!” The story ends there, but I like to think then they traded Pokemon cards and pinky swore to be pen pals for life.

  2. So, this is literally the greatest truth, right? Seriously, just gaga over it (uh, not the performer meaning – that would be like costumed while saying this, right?). Wow, this is SO not how I wanted this to sound. I’ll just stand over here…with the naive, but thoughtful sheep. (a bit of eye rolling OK here). Any one for a spot of tea before lemming into 2012? (It would be SO not fair to leverage that comment into a class warfare thing.) Seriously, have a great new year, really.

  3. Jj Jorgensen says:

    As IF! Talk to the hand. WHAT ev…..

  4. critters and crayons says:

    So, I’m kind of guilty of the “So…” and I also start a lot of things with “Uh, so….” haha! Great write- up. Loved it-

  5. I’m REALLY guilty of SO. And really. 🙂 Very entertaining.

    I am working my way through the We Blog group. I look forward to getting to know you this year.

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