Thursday, September 20, 2012

They're Only Words...

"A word is dead when it's been said, some say.  I say it just begins to live that day."--Emily Dickinson

Oh, Miss Emily!  How grateful I am that you sleep in kind Death's arms, for today, the Dept. of Nance is about to wish for the demise of some common, innocent little words which, through no real fault of their own, are irksome to not only me, but also to Jared, who is teaming up with me today, just like we used to do over at our partner blog, Stuff On Our List.

Today's post was inspired by two things:  one, this article which stated that the Worst Word Ever is "panties"; and two, my reaction to a song Jared wanted me to listen to, sung by his friend Brandon "Blizz Moneybagz" Pride, a rapper.  I sent Jared the article because he, too, detests the word "panties," but he felt my objection to Blizz's liberal use of the word "bitch" in his song was evidence of my "unhealthy relationship" to said word.  We had a brief, civil discourse regarding the matter, closed it, and ultimately decided to do a post about Our Most Irksome Common Words.

These words are not grammatical concerns (irregardless); nor are they words that have obvious sexual or negative connotations rendering them horrid (slut, cancer); nor are they words that have become overused by The American Youth (awesome! amazing! like...).  These are just words that, for whatever reason, we have an aversion to. 

Here's Jared:

Sorry, Emily.  Some words have no business existing. And worse, I hate the way that they feel when I say them. Or they don’t make any sense. The following are words that I have made a conscious effort to not only remove from my own operational vernacular, but also to make an exhausting effort to avoid even having to hear. Since “panties” was already taken, and I happen to echo the sentiment that it is the worst word in the world, I will give you my second through sixth most hated words.

2. Eternity – Eternity? It isn’t any fun to say, it is cliché, and it also isn’t any fun to type. Just say forever.  And end it. We all know that’s what you meant anyhow. You only said eternity because you heard it during a Harry Potter marathon, and now you think that because it was in a movie and some plays or some shit, that it’s the best way to go. It isn’t. I have stopped saying “eternity”. And it is a decision I will stick with forever. See?

3. Sketchy – My friends say this for anything that is suspect in nature. People, food, bridges, bars, anything. And I don’t think it makes sense. Also, we have a word for that. Ready? I know it's difficult but here we go…SUSPECT! Hipsters made the word “sketchy” into a part of everyone’s everyday life. And for that, they are a suspect set of the population. My one buddy, who shall remain nameless despite my desire to expose him, describes his beard as “sketchy”. No. That isn’t what’s happening. You aren’t intentionally “growing a sketchy beard”. You just can’t grow adult facial hair and are too lazy to grab a razor.

4. Fattoush – This is an actual thing. Fattoush is, from what I understand, some sort of Lebanese crouton/salad thing. There isn’t anything else to call it. It is simply “fattoush”. But that doesn’t mean I have to be OK with it everytime someone in the office orders a fattoush salad from the Greek spot we like. It sounds like a noise that a child makes while he is pretend fighting. Or telling a story about doing a cannonball at a pool party. “I just jumped right in! FATTOUSH! I soaked everyone sitting poolside.” Someone told me recently, “Don’t worry about what you cannot control.” And I think that’s bullshit. That’s the only stuff worth worrying about. I can’t control that the Greek place calls it fattoush. Which is exactly why it stresses me out.

5.  Succulent – This word makes my skin crawl. “How is your steak?” It’s juicy. It is not succulent. Ask someone to define succulent for you. Go on. I bet they say “You know, like really tasty and juicy and stuff.” Then just say that, homey. Say you had a really well cooked chicken breast that was juicy. Anyone ever looks at me and says, “Good job on dinner. It was succulent,” and there’s an 80% chance I never talk to him again if he was serious. Only way to make this word worse? Put it next to “morsel.” “Succulent morsel.” Has to be the worst phrase ever.

6. Supper- This one makes no sense. When you eat DINNER, you are supping. That would make you the one that sups. And thus you are the supper. Not the food. What sort of sustenance does the meal get by being masticated around hastily and swallowed? "Absolutely zero" is the answer. Does that make the meal the “suppee”? I don’t know. Far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter. Because all that’s happening is someone is having dinner.

Take it, Nance:

1.  Squat--This word is ugly.  It's serviceable, but it sounds terrible and looks worse.  It reminds me of when my mother used to make me pee outside at night rather than walk all the way to the outhouse at Grandma's cabin.  It is graceless, and my underwear always got wet.

2.  Nude--I prefer "naked."  Nude sounds cold, aloof, and unseemly.  Nude sounds like business.  Naked sounds warmer and less clinical.  Nude sounds like a police report is involved.  Naked sounds like cuddling might be.

3.  Underpants--These are what elderly men wear or cruel mothers with terrible Bronxy accents yell after their children who finally get invited to a slumber party (now their last):  "Mona! Did you remember to pack a clean pair of underpants?!" Underpants sound dingy, and like what get left on a floor to be found when new tenants get the keys to a rundown apartment.

4.  Community--This poor, overworked word just reeks of poverty, causes, charity organizations, strident women with petitions, and teeshirts with slogans.  It sounds like big long tables stocked with literature and clicky pens. I hate it.

5.  Pocketbook--What a terrible, dated, dumb word!  Worse is when someone pronounces it POCKABOOK.  How this is still used to identify a purse is beyond me.  Purses are not FOR your Pocket, they are NOT BOOKS, and rarely does one use one's purse expressly FOR A BOOK.  This word really does set my teeth on edge.

Jared and I will celebrate words in our next post by selecting some of our Favourite Words!  In the meantime, do share your Cringeworthy Words in comments, or commiserate with us about some of ours.


  1. Mikey G.6:55 PM

    Whenever I hear the word "underpants," I think about what Mormons wear.

    I don't like the word "moist." Nobody has ever used the word "moist" in a positive way. Go ahead and try. I'll wait. Give up? Good. It's not something I hate, but I've just never really cared for it.

    What I absolutely cannot stand, though, are people who queue up for something and say that they are waiting "on line." You are not waiting on a line; you are waiting IN a line! You are waiting IN LINE! Unless you're also on your iPhone and waiting for Safari to load a website, this "on line" shit is nonsense.

    And do you know who the worst people in the world are? They're the people who try to defend their horrid use of "on line." I would happily draw a line on the ground that they could wait on so I could walk past them one at a time and smack each and every one of them on the face.

  2. Anonymous11:17 PM

    I HATE the phrase "gone missing". It implies that the person made a clear choice to go, which as often reported on the nightly news, is not the case. We go swimming, dancing,fishing and golfing, but most people do not choose to "go missing". ARRRRGH!

  3. Wow Nance – your son is as hilarious as you are. Good job!

    Here are some random responses:

    Jared – your disdain of the word “supper” sounds suspiciously anti-Southern. It’s sketchy is what it is, and if I hadn’t been living in Ohio for the last 15 years I might have to be offended.

    Nance – I prefer the word “nekkid.” It has just the right amount of fun. “Pocketbook” reminds me of a story about my great-grandmother. She NEVER set her pocketbook down – ever. It was always in her lap, and if people talked to her she would say, “Yes, this is my pocketbook,” whether they were talking about that or not. She was tetched as we might say back home.

    Ooh - & I totally agree with Mikey about moist & on line (although I could go for a nice moist brownie right now).

  4. Bug--Okay, "nekkid" is not a word. I had to say that.

    I used to have a terrible bias against Southern-flavoured speech. Then there was President Clinton. He single-handedly cured the stereotype for me that all individuals with a Southern drawl were dozens of IQ points down from those without a Southern drawl. I'm sorry; I know that's a terrible presumption to have had. It's like the people who assume that a British accent means the person is automatically smarter. I know from experience that that is not the case.

    Anyway--My family (when I was little IN NE OHIO) always said "supper." None of us was from the South. And my grandparents called the afternoon meal "dinner." WTF?

    Anonymous--Yes, that phrase IS odd. I never recall hearing it, except from Europeans or Brits. All of a sudden, in the last 10-12 years, it seems, it has cropped up here. Curious.

    Mikey--Oh certainly those of us who cook want our chicken to be moist, our poundcakes to be moist, and our brownies (BUG!) to be moist. Do I hate that word, even how it looks? YES! So does Jared. It's icky.

    NYers wait "on line at the store", I know. It sounds silly. But, since they are FROM NEW YORK, THE MOST WONDERFULLEST PLACE ON EARTH, it must be the best thing to say, ever. Sigh.

    Am I the only one in the Universe who is Unimpressed by NYC? Someday, I will write a post about THAT.

  5. Mikey G.7:34 PM

    I'm sure a lot of people are unimpressed by NYC, but I try to get people to ask themselves if it's really NYC's fault. Some people go in with the wrong expectations. Others focus on the wrong types of activities. And most people don't have great guides showing them around (*cough* ME *cough*).

    When you were in New York did you see Amy Poehler do improv comedy for free? Did you go to a taping of The Daily Show and enjoy being in on some of the inside jokes that make it to air? Did you enjoy the gorgeous views as you walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, before eating really delicious pizza in Brooklyn? Did you ride a row boat on the lake in Central Park, then watch the group of people who dance in roller skates, then go to FAO Schwartz and check out some of the ridiculous toys (like the giant keyboard from Big)? Did you take a tour of the United Nations building and see the general assembly and security council rooms? Did you have dim sum at one of the big banquet hall restaurants?

    Perhaps these aren't all activities you'd be interested in, which is fine, but they're all things I've enjoyed in New York, and most of them are fairly unique experiences. Certainly not things you could do in Northeast Ohio. And for each of these, there are hundreds more fun, unique things to choose from. There's certainly something for everybody, but only if you know where to look. Oh, and avoid Times Square like the plague.

  6. The other night my family thought I had gone missing but I was only in New York waiting on line for some succulent Fattoush for Supper.

    I don't want to be sketchy about this so here is the whole story. It took an Eternity to get waited on and my underpants got moist so I put them in my pockabook and felt naked, nude and nekkid even without them.

    Since I don't know squat about the Big Apple I had to go to the Community Center for a map. It was full of long tables stocked with Literature and clicky pens. I loved it,and,like Mikey G.


  7. Oh Nancy, that is just about the best comment EVER. Ha!

  8. Nancy--Hee hee. As another friend of mine likes to say, "You are too clever by half." Now come on back and admit to some words you don't like! LOL.

    Mikey--My point is, all of those things you mentioned are, for sure, fun things that you experienced in NYC. But...with the exception of the Brooklyn Bridge, UN, and Central Park, which are specific geographical entities, the rest are things that can happen anywhere. For example, I really love visiting Chicago. I took the architectural boat ride on the Chicago River, walked in Grant Park, had a 'cheezborger' in Billygoat Tavern, went to FAO Schwartz, had the original Frango mints, etc. etc. etc.

    Chicago is home to Second City and Steppenwolf theater, so the chances of seeing really great actors and shows there exists. They have incredible venues for other cultural and entertainment interests as well.

    Cleveland does, too, admittedly not as many.

    I've been to NYC and I just found it dirty, smelly, crowded, and not that impressive. I get that it has become a sort of Mecca for Everything On Earth, but I think in many ways it's like the Apple iPhone: people are so sold on the fact that IT'S NYC!!!, that they just overlook a lot of the other crap (lousy battery life, heavy, etc.) It's like camping: If you were at home, would you put up with the heat, the bugs, the discomfort, the idiotic people so close? NO? Then why pay for the privilege AND haul all your stuff thirty miles to do it? A one-bedroom studio apt. in NYC with NOTHING, cramped, tiny--that would go for thousands. Here, in NEO, it would be a slum property.

    I know that I'm just a small-town girl from NEO whose travelling has been largely domestic. Also true is that this is a matter of personal preference and experiences. I'd rather skip NYC and go back to Chicago or Toronto or...oh, almost any other city. But I'm sure you miss NY.

  9. Pocketbook! I was just discussing how ridiculous that word is a few days ago.

    @ Mikey G.: Standing on line! Agree with you completely: Where's the line? And why are people standing ON it?

    Panties doesn't get my panties in a wad. But a lot of other words and/or expressions get my knickers in a twist. When I moved back to the US several years ago, I had to learn a lot of new vocabulary, much of which I found very irksome, to wit:

    1. Two words that have been in the vernacular for so long that they are no longer even considered contenders for anybody's bad word hit list, but they continue to annoy me no end: People no longer discuss problems. They "address issues." If it's a big problem, it's a MAJOR issue, e.g., "So-and-so has some major issues." A lot of my students have major issues, but I prefer the less euphemistic approach: "Gertrude is a psychopath."

    2. Exclamations that make adults look as foolish (and childish) as the people they mock: Duh!

    3. And more recently: The ubiquitous addition of the suffix -tastic to just about any word. Is that dumbtastic, or what?

    4. Back to pretentious words nobody would ever use if the news media did not overuse it:
    Heinous. On the positive side of this negative word, it sounds like what it is. That, however, is the problem: it is an ugly-sounding word which is made even more heinous by overuse.

    But I digress. Above and beyond what is ignorant, immature, over-used and pretentious, my least favorite word right now is "attitude." As in, "Josh needs to lose that attitude he's got going on." I'm not even sure why I hate this word so much, but probably because most people who use it in that context have MAJOR ATTITUDE ISSUES.


  10. Ortizzle! How lovely to see you again! Was it Jared who drew you out?

    I have to confess that I've not seen/heard the mutations of ___tastic as often as you have. Certainly if I would have, it would be annoying to me as well, but I can't even think of a single example at present of its use.

    Word to the Wise: Stay away from that Gertrude.

    Both "issues" and "attitude" are big in the Education Field, I think, and that is why I am not finding them as prevalent as you are. They are also used often among more Youthful People--again, a crowd I no longer hang with like I used to.

    Curious to me now is just when the emergence of "Duh" occurred. I'm trying now to think back to when I first remember it being used in that awful, eye-rolling, mocking, open-mouthed charade of being completely dismayed by someone's obvious stupidity. The 90s? The early 2000s? I'm no big fan, either. It's petulant and insulting. Probably I've used it--maybe even here at the Dept.--but I'm hoping for stylistic effect only.

    When I was a kid at home, my father was HUGE on "attitude" as one of the topics of his tirades when disciplining us. We were never, ever, even once struck growing up, but his lectures were legendary. I got lots and lots of Attitude Lectures. Do you think they had the desired benefit?

  11. fauxprof8:40 PM

    How about the word "random"used...well, randomly. I hear it often from my students, and wonder if they are using it in a mathematical sense. I'm a historian with a specialty in popular culture, so I'm a mathematical illiterate.

  12. The Hubs and I were just talking about the word "panties". He hates it too. It's too early for me to try to remember my most hated words, but I can tell you that I really like the word "evening".

  13. Rainbow Motel--I'll chalk those up for you.

    fauxprof--Welcome to the Dept.! How nice to see you here, and thanks for commenting. My students used "random" often as well, as in, "She's so random!" after a classmate made an odd remark or funny observation unrelated to discussion. I think it was a way to soften the blow of a more appropriate word such as "dizzy" or "airheaded" or "stupid" or "clueless." "Random" sounds more like the offending student is just being himself, that part of his persona is offering oddly-timed and off-topic comments and, oh well, there he goes again, ha ha. Sigh.

    I got very tired of it, too. That, and the word "cute" being used to describe anything from kittens to the sight of Francis Nurse in a crowd of Puritans, crying at the sight of his wife about to be hanged for witchcraft in the film version of The Crucible. And no, I'm not kidding.

  14. fauxprof11:20 AM

    Hi, Nance. I 'm happy to find another forum full of interesting people. Can I contribute a most-hated phrase? "Some say". It's generally code for "I'm about to make a totally spurious and/or scurrilous statement disguised as informed reporting." It's common usage on Fox News, and I don't let people get away with it on class. I counter with the historian's mantra: "What's your evidence?"

  15. fauxprof11:30 AM

    Oops! I meant IN class, not ON. Can't get used to typing one-fingered on an iPad.

  16. fauxprof--When my regular commenters get going here, it is quite an erudite and witty forum, which I'm happy to have you join. Blogger's word ver has become so irritating that I'm considering turning it off for a time and relying upon its spam filter alone in order to try and rejuvenate participation. We'll see.

    Don't worry about typos here. I understand that many are using mobiles and iPads and, in my case, laptops with compact keyboards and the assistance of pets. I don't judge.

    Finally, to speak to your comment:
    "Some say" is WritingSpeak. I used to let my tenth-graders use it in expository essays for their introductions. It's nicely non-inflammatory and general, and they could introduce information that led to their thesis. You are absolutely right, I think, that in discussion, it's a crutch. FauxNews has perfected it and the Outrageous Question (Hillary Sells State Secrets? Obama Courts Muslim Extremists With Drug Deals?) as a way to be sensational and skirt the edges of ethical "journalism." I applaud your tenacity at not letting your students lean on it.

  17. There are probably many words that I hate, but usually it's because of their improper usage, which is not the discussion. My number one hated word is 'ginormous'. Apparently it's been around awhile, but it just sounds like a Harry Potter word to me. Ugh.

    The word 'placenta' can creep me out. Not so much the word as the mental image that comes with it.

    I have only been to NYC a few times. I really like it...I'd like to go and let MikeyG show us around! Sounds like he knows the good places to go. I like Washington, D.C. better, and San Francisco is my favorite U.S. City, but then again, I am biased.

    Perhaps someday I'll make it to Chicago, and you can show us around. :)

  18. The word "massage" creeps me out. Always has. I also hate the phrase "me thinks". Don't go all Shakespeare on our ass...just say "I think...."

  19. No, it wasn't Jared's contribution that drew me out, although that was certainly a nice bonus! I've just been in workathon mode since mid-July when I got hit with programming online courses on 3 different websites, subbing for a teacher who was ill, finding replacements for 2 other teachers, and the usual admin stuff for the fall semester.

    Don't get me wrong about the word "attitude." I am very big on the CONCEPT. It's when people use it to automatically imply a negative response to something that it bugs me so much. But I discuss it often in my classes, and even have my own very hokey version of it, to wit: Lose the Bad-itude and get a Glad-itude! (Yes, I can hear the groaning.) And as far as your father's lectures: my dad did the same thing. I reckon we both came out more or less unscathed. :-)

    It's funny you should mention wondering about when certain expressions came into vogue. I am very sensitive to that because I have no earthly idea how to pinpoint the emergence of any expressions coined between 1975 and 1998. What I CAN tell you, however, is whether something was NOT used before 1975. People think I'm weird when I see a movie that's set in the 60s or early 70s and I say, "NOBODY said that IN THOSE DAYS." The reaction is usually "What's the big deal?" For me, it is a big deal because I rely on movies that take place in later decades to catch me up on when certain stuff became popular, and it bothers me that this generation would think that people said "Chill out" in 1970 because they didn't. At least, not in my neck of the woods. For me that's as jarring as a teenager in the 21C saying "Gee, that's swell! (And, no, I'm not THAT old, tee hee. But my parents used that word.)

  20. Ortizzle--As an English teacher, whether retired or not, I cannot simply watch a film for mere enjoyment, having picked them apart for years and years. Any anachronism, any exposition dump, any obvious symbolism, any bad dialogue, I am on it. So I get you, albeit in a different way.

    Ironic that your "baditude/gladitude" mantra is so similar to what annoys you about the "___tastic" word hybridizing. Hmmm.

    j@jj--Oh, if there were anyone to show us anyplace for a good time, it would be Mikey. He doesn't travel, he Has An Adventure. I'll bet even his commute to work has had a good time or two tossed in. he might be the one person to get me to like NYC. I mean it. You'd love him.

    Yes, I also really dislike the term "ginormous" which is in the online dictionary as an informal word. It sounds stupid to me. I have never used it, ever, and will keep that record intact with very little effort. It's not even creative enough to be a Dr. Seuss word.

    For some really remarkable usage of Placenta, may I recommend the site ? You're welcome.

    TeacherPatti--Oh, hello! Welcome to the Dept! To really be creeped out by the word "massage," have a Brit say it to you. He or she will emphasize the first syllable. MAS-sage. Or maybe that will make it better for you, I don't know.

    I just want to have one, please.

    Now, as far as anyone saying "methinks" in this day and age, I have to agree that it's just goofy. Have you been hanging out with English teachers/professors? ;)

  21. The Bad-Glad is my way of annoying them right back. Meant to be a parody, but apparently not clever enough to work, lol, so it's back to just saying, "What is THE MATTER with you?" :-)

  22. P.S. I enjoy hybridizing if it is unique and not overdone. Certain things should be frabjous.

    WordVer: ledburd 14
    I love how we get numbers now, too. Sounds like names being hollered out at jailhouse roll call:
    Ledburd 14!
    Grundlehouse 63!

  23. Sorry I'm late to the discussion, I've been otherwise occupied...

    If "panties" don't float your boat, howz about the more general term "dainties" that I use when doing the family laundry... It looks so similar, but has a much different feel...


  24. Dean--Hmmm. I don't use the term "panties" usually. I just say "underwear," and I don't cringe at the term anyway, so it's not too much of an issue for me as it is for Jared. And mine are not so delicate as to call them "dainty"--strictly machine wash & tumble dry. But I suppose calling them "dainties" as a general term is as good as any.

    Wow. That was an awful lot of discussion about my underwear. On the Interwebs, no less. Yikes.

  25. LOL! I've never understood using the word supper either. It is annoying. Now the word eternity doesn't bother me, but when I say it in my head, I do usually hear it in that weird whispery voice from the Calvin Klein commercial many moons ago.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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