With New Year’s Eve at hand, the timing seems right for the annual big reveal of the year-end 2017 most annoying word or phrase, along with a separate more-satirical list of banished words heading into 2018.
From the Marist Poll compiled by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, the most annoying word (or phrase) in casual conversation is the resilient “whatever,” which takes top honors for the ninth consecutive year in the survey. While it obviously has staying power because it seems like a very dismissive, if not rude, way to end a discussion, respondents find “whatever” somewhat less disagreeable than previously, however, because only 33 percent selected it as compared to 38 percent last year.
“Whatever” may have entered the popular lexicon after the 1995 comedy film Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash.
There seems to be a demographic divide about the 2017 winner, Marist observed.
“A plurality of U.S. residents 45 and older, 40%, believe ‘whatever’ is the most annoying spoken word. In contrast, 28% of Americans under 45 years old say ‘no offense, but’ is the most bothersome. A similar 26% of these residents consider ‘whatever’ to be the most grating word or phrase used in casual conversation.”
Clocking in at second place is the now-ubiquitous newcomer “fake news” with 23 percent, followed by the above-mentioned “no offense, but” with 20 percent. Rounding out the list of annoyances are “literally” (11 percent), and “you know what I mean” (10 percent).
The pollster determined which words America finds most annoying through live, random landline or mobile phone interviews with about 1,000 adults conducted in November, 2017. The data has about a three-point margin of error.
Separately, Lake Superior State University in Michigan has issued its 43rd annual list of words/phrases that should theoretically be banished moving forward into 2018 because of misuse, overuse, or what it deems general uselessness. The school bases its list on input received from around the world throughout the year.
The banished words list appears to contain no carryovers from 2016, and perhaps as no surprise to anyone following current events, it now also includes “fake news” as a well as a famous President Trump tweet typo.
- let that sink in
- let me ask you this
- drill down
- fake news
- hot water heater
- gig economy
“We’ve drilled down and unpacked tons of pre-owned words and phrases deemed impactful by hundreds of nominators during 2017. Let that sink in,” a LSSU spokesperson quipped about the banned words list.
At times, certain familiar sayings do appropriately match the situation. That said, as we again transition to a new year, some additional repetitive, cliche-ridden words/phrases (in no particular order) listed below that have entered everyday conversation seem to have outlived their “shelf life” or “sell-by date,” although your mileage may vary, as it were.
- so [when used as the first word of a sentence]
- honestly [a big red flag, usually a subtext for the opposite, and is sometimes referred to as a perception qualifier]
- literally [as flagged in the 2017 Marist poll, when the speaker actually means “figuratively”]
- I get it
- ceiling [as in, “Trump can’t win/has a ceiling of voters”]
- binary choice
- absolutely [instead of “yes”]
- disruptive [in the context of start-up-venture hype]
- to be honest with you [see “honestly” above]
- no problem [instead of “you’re welcome”]
- throwing [someone] under the bus
- I mean [dropped in constantly at the beginning of a sentence]
- my bad
- it’s all good
- you know what I’m saying
- how ya’ doin’
- check all the boxes
- it is what it is
- thank you [when signifying agreement with what the other person is talking about]
- game on
- singing Kumbaya
- I have your back/you have my back
- step up my/your game
- I don’t have a dog in this fight
- skin in the game
- at the end of the day
- bring it
- safe space
- first-time caller/long-time listener or “thank you for taking my call” [on talk radio]
- you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts
[Related: See “the most overused cliche in the movies”]
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Wayne State University’s annual Word Warriors series draws attention to words that it contends should be used more often and rescued from going obsolete. Also a school located in Michigan, Wayne State’s top-10 list (get your dictionary ready) derived via suggestions from its website administrators and the general public is as follows.
“Bringing these words back into everyday conversation is just another way of broadening our horizons,” a Wayne State dean remarked.
Getting back to annoying conversational techniques, you may very well have noticed the rampant speaking pattern called “uptalk” (officially known to linguists as “high rising terminal”). This describes the tendency for a speaker to end a declarative sentence as if it is a question — in other words, finishing a statement with an imaginary question mark, perhaps to get a response or affirmation from a listener. It also makes the speaker appear uncertain, indecisive, or equivocating even about mundane matters. See videos below.
This way of conversing supposedly started with the San Fernando “Valley Girls,” but has spread like a virus across the country, if not the world, and to all genders and demographic groups. Perhaps minimizing uptalk would be a good new year’s resolution.
In other year-end vocabulary news, according to Merriam-Webster, “feminism” is the online dictionary’s word of the year, based on a 70 percent increase in searches year over year, followed by “complicit,” and others including “recuse,” “empathy,” “dotard” (North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s description of President Trump), “syzygy” (solar eclipse-related), “gyro,” “federalism,” “hurricane,” and “gaffe,” UPI reported. “Complicit” turned out to be Dictionary.com’s word of the year, given that lookups spiked 300 percent from 2016.
For the Oxford Dictionary, “youthquake” is the word of the year, AP noted.
In its 28th annual vote, the prestigious American Dialect Society will select its word of the year on or about January 5, 2018, so please check back for updates. “Dumpster fire” was its winner in 2016.
Update: The American Dialect Society selected “fake news” as its word (or actually vocabulary item) of the year, receiving 196 votes in the meeting of the organization in Salt Lake City. “Take a Knee” was its political word of the year, and “sh*tpost” was its digital word of the word, among other categories. Ben Zimmer, chair of the American Dialect Society’s New Words Committee language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, provided this background.
“When President Trump latched on to fake news early in 2017, he often used it as a rhetorical bludgeon to disparage any news report that he happened to disagree with, That obscured the earlier use of fake news for misinformation or disinformation spread online, as was seen on social media during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump’s version of fake news became a catchphrase among the president’s supporters, seeking to expose biases in mainstream media. But it also developed more ironic uses, and it spread to speakers of all ages as a sarcastic putdown.”
#MeToo is the organization’s hashtag of the year, while its “WTF” word of the year is “covfefe,” President Trump’s famous tweet typo.