Annoying phrases that have crept into our language


November 16, 2008|By dave rosenthal and nancy johnston | dave rosenthal and nancy johnston, and

Lately on the Read Street blog, we've been ranting about annoying phrases that clutter our speech and writing.

The discussion was sparked by a recent Oxford University research project on the 10 Most Annoying Phrases, a list culled from books, papers, magazines, broadcast, the Internet and other sources. Researchers fingered the inane business phrase "at the end of the day," noted the oxymoron "fairly unique," and highlighted redundancies such as "I personally" and "at this moment in time."

We'd add "exact same" to the list.

Read Street readers, not to be outdone, had a number of other suggestions. And the phrases they targeted fall mainly into a few concise categories - damning evidence of the forces that shape the way we talk and write these days.

Here's a summary of their suggestions, with each Read Street contributor noted:

From business: "It is what it is" (Dave T), "low-hanging fruit" (matt), "on the radar" (Thomas), and "going forward" (Lauretta). The commenter Gorelick had a tidy list of his own, including "what happens in ... stays in ..."; variations on "priceless"; and "this is not your grandfather's or mother's or father's bingo hall, knitting class, driving range, etc."

From sports: "He gave 110 percent" and "one game at a time" (Jenn), "take it to the next level" (Dave T), and "athleticism" (Sarah).

From politics: "my friend" and "truth be told" (Sunni), and "Joe the plumber" (J).

Syllable- and word-creep: "Synergize" and "incentivize" (Corinne), "actionable" (Thomas), "in order to" (Baltoreader), and "wide variety" (Erika); we'd add "gifted" and "tasked."

But the funniest suggestions from readers included annoying phrases that are completely mangled or misused. Some examples: "It just doesn't pass mustard" (Corinne), "massive Christian burial" (Jennifer), "I could care less" (Heather) and "for all intensive purposes" (aeb).

Have others to add to the list? Let us know via an e-mail or a comment on Read Street.

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