My latest blog post on language pet peeves was inspired by a recent rant by Today presenter John Humphrys. In a rail against Melvyn Bragg using present tense when talking about the past, Humphrys got on to the subject of the words he hates. He admitted that the word proactive drives him a bit potty, despite using it in one of his reports.
“I couldn’t think of anything else to say at the time,” he said. “That’s the point, isn’t it? These words seep into your consciousness.”
This got me thinking about the words and terms that get my goat. While I’m a big fan of organic produce, if I hear another musician on BBC 6 Music describe the writing of his/her latest album as an ‘organic’ process, then my curly hair will probably stand on end like the woman’s in the picture. It’s not so much the word, it’s the fact that everyone seems to be using it. The term comfort zone is another example of this. It went from never being used at all to being the go-to phrase to describe any activity that doesn’t involve sitting on the sofa and reaching for the remote. And it’s one I’ve used time and time again…I really need to get out of my comfort zone word-wise and find a better expression.
But I’m not knocking the evolving nature of language. The Oxford English Dictionary publishes four updates a year, and recent additions include bezzie, flexitarian, hashtag and selfie. Whether you like those words or not, it’s good to have them in your lexicon; no one under the age of 35 will forgive you for not knowing what a selfie is. But there’s nothing wrong with a good moan from time to time. So last week I conducted a little (wholly unscientific) survey among friends, colleagues and social networkers to find out what their top ten language pet peeves are. So, read on and prepare to cringe/and or experience a bad hair day (which, come to think of it, is probably a phrase that some people can’t stand)…
Top Ten Language Pet Peeves
1. At the end of the day (no explanation needed for this pointless addition to any sentence).
2. Think outside the box (an employment law should be brought in against saying this in the workplace, along with fly the kite, push the envelope, etc.).
3. Going forward (two people complained about this term, one has actually deleted it from all her emails).
4. You know what I mean? (If the person you’re talking to doesn’t, then you need to try harder at being articulate.)
5. People who punctuate their sentences with like (NO NEED, NO NEED, NO NEED).
6. Preloved (what’s wrong with saying that it’s secondhand? If it inspired that much sentiment in its previous owners, it wouldn’t have been dumped.).
7. Delivered (when specifically used in sports commentary. Juliet, who came up with this language pet peeve, said that she’s tired of hearing pundits say that an athlete ‘delivered’ rather than ‘worked hard’ or ‘ran well’. She said: “It’s a bland, meaningless term that lacks any poetry or individualism.” Well put, Ju! I don’t watch much sport, but someone else complained of footballers being praised for “putting in a good shift”. NO NEED, NO NEED, NO NEED.).
8. Sick (this pet peeve has been banned in one contributor’s household, unless the family member is genuinely complaining of illness, of course).
9. Enjoy (when used by waitresses and waiters. The complainer said: “Enjoy what? Too American.”).
10. You’re a star. (It may be a rather lovely sentiment, but it has been banned by one of my editors. Her disdain is such that she is not even able to write it in an email. Instead, she writes s***. It may as well be a swear word.)
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little foray into truly repugnant words and terms…if you have any of your own, I’d love to read them in the comments section. Go on, it’s the one time that you’ll be able to write them without the risk of being deleted!