Actually, I'm getting rather irritated with many of these lists, which seem very arbitrary to me, but here goes with
The top ten most irritating phrases:
1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It's a nightmare
8 - Shouldn't of
9 - 24/7
10 - It's not rocket science
I will get to the annoying or irritating phrases shortly, but easily the most annoying comment on the Telegraph website is this one, following the article:
It's funny that people are dying and being raped in the Congo while Oxford intellectuals "compile" lists of irritating phrases.''
That kind of thing annoys me much more than any hackneyed or overused phrase. The idea behind a comment like that, which is depressingly typical of leftists and liberals, is that we are perpetually supposed to be ''doing something" to stop all the bad things that happen out there in the savage third world. We are supposed to be saving them from themselves, eliminating poverty, war, crime, and apparently death itself, all of which have been with us since the beginning of time, and which will be with us until the end. Liberals, tell your third-world friends to clean their own houses, and just stop their violent and feckless ways. Leave your British brothers and sisters alone, and stop intruding your pharisaical do-goodism into a completely unrelated conversation.
But back to the irritating words: I suppose I agree that the top ten phrases they list are rather overused, here in the U.S. as well as in the UK.
A couple of the phrases, however, are longstanding English idioms that seem innocuous enough to me, such as ''with all due respect''. What's the objection to that one? I use it from time to time, and it has a purpose. I suppose it can be used hypocritically as a preface to attacking somebody verbally or disagreeing rudely with them, but I tend to employ it only when I truly do respect my interlocutor, and when I want to make it clear that I am disagreeing on some issue from a respectful position, not that of an enemy.
A phrase like 'fairly unique' can be condemned strictly from a grammatical perspective; it's absurd because 'unique' is an absolute, meaning ''one of a kind.'' So criticizing that one is not a matter of personal taste or preference, as some of the other choices seem to be.
I plead guilty to using phrases like ''24/7", which may be rather faddish but it conveys the message. It may be overused, but to me, whether or not it's irritating is a matter of preference.
''Absolutely'' is another usage that's been around for some time; it's just one of those one-word exclamations that is used to signal emphatic agreement with someone. At least I am assuming the objection is to its use in that context, rather than as an adverb.
I don't see the objection to it, unless one is just tired of hearing it. What would the Oxford crowd advise we use in its place? ''I agree with you", which is less emphatic and more wordy? I don't see anything wrong with it.
Most of the comments following seem to include peevish complaints about things that the commenter, for whatever arbitrary reason, dislikes, without any grammatical quibbles being involved. Some of the British commenters are fed up with American idioms, without seeming to recognize that they have a longstanding currency in America. For instance, a couple of people mention ''touching base'' as being annoying. So should we complain about British people using old idioms like 'sticky wicket' which derive from the sport of Cricket? Are we not allowed to use baseball metaphors that communicate a meaning among Americans? It seems unfamiliarity is a source of annoyance for many people.
Some on the thread complain of dialect usages; one commenter, apparently a Brit residing in Arkansas, complains of ''fixin' to.'' Well, if you don't like Southron speech, time to head back to your homeland where the language suits you better. I would not have complained of British or Irish dialect usages when I was over there; it's their country, so they can speak and write in their accustomed ways. Why should they accommodate to my preferences, or why should Arkansans accommodate to foreign visitors? Each English-speaking country has its own distinct dialects -- at least for now, in this 'globalizing', homogenizing world.
The comments here represent much the same sort of peevishness about certain phrases that people dislike for apparently undiscernible reasons.
For example, one person complains of the phrase ''coming down the pike", saying that the phrase is stupid and meaningless. Why? I've heard that phrase, or some variant of it, most of my life, and to my knowledge it's an old phrase going back before my lifetime. 'Pike' refers to 'turnpike', and here's what Merriam-Webster online says about 'down the pike":
— down the pike
1: in the course of events
2: in the future
So I think a complainer should have some reason for objecting to certain phrases; say it's overused and you're tired of it, or give some objective reason for disliking it, but not just because you are too ignorant to try to understand its origin or meaning. Personally (am I allowed to say that, since some find that irritating?) I enjoy reading about word and phrase origins; it's fascinating to learn of the origin of certain phrases and to learn some history in the process.
Some of the complaints are pedantic, like the frequent condemnations of the word 'literally.' I understand the grammatical objections to using the word as it is commonly used, but the reality is that the distinction is lost on most people; trying to explain it to the average person is confusing to most, and the present usage is too well-established to eradicate. Just as with the word ''hopefully'', used in place of phrases like "I hope", it's a lost cause. "Hopefully" used to drive me crazy back in the 70s when it became so widespread, but I've now given up on it.
On the word 'literally', I agree with the commenter who says
Also, the "literally" people should literally get off their high horse about this. Your narrow view of the "proper" meaning of that word is a relatively recent development in the English language and certainly isn't ubiquitous enough for you to look down your noses at the rest of us. Check out Jesse Sheidlower's great piece on this on Slate:
Similar to the word 'literally,' the expression "I could care less" is entrenched. I remember my high school English teacher railing against that phrase, and carefully explaining why it says just the opposite of what the speaker probably intends, but it's a lost cause. It's more prevalent today than it was back in the olden days when I was in school.
I agree with the commenters who object to slang like ''my bad'' (which I have probably carelessly used a time or two myself) along with ghetto slang like 'bling', which to my dismay is being used by all ages, little old ladies as well as young people who affect ebonics in their everyday speech. 'Back in the day' is another one.
I blame a great deal of the overused phrases on our ubiquitous mass media; most of the annoying phrases originate among anchor-people and talking heads and politicians, and they then spread like a virus among average people who are glued to the mass media. And it seems that many of those who complain about certain phrases are complaining only on the basis of the novelty and unfamiliarity of certain phrases -- although the phrases shortly become over-familiar. Some people condemn anything that is unknown to them, without trying to ascertain what it means, especially if it originates on the other side of the pond. New phrases and new ways of expressing things come along every so often, and some turns of phrase are colorful and expressive. I am not against all novelty in speech, but I do dislike the vacuous language of the media as well as the ghetto slang that makes its way, via the young, into the speech of those who should know better.
But I don't hate phrases or words just because they are unfamiliar to me; of course, we can all get sick of anything that is repeated too often.
Some new phrases are very apt and very descriptive in some novel or colorful way; some are not. But it's easy to see why new phrases are embraced; if they are apt and fitting, they give vitality to our language. However, I can't see the value of words like 'bling' or 'ho' except to the young who want to indicate their membership among the 'hip' and politically correct.
I hate the tendency to ignorance in our language: misspelling of common words, sloppy grammar and punctuation, although I know we are all fallible. Correct spelling and grammar, and standards generally, are increasingly disparaged as ''anal'', in the terminology of another source of linguistic corruption, pop psychology. I loathe all the incursions psychology and Freudianism have made into our language, and I've blogged about that before in an entry called Shrinking Our Language. For instance, I hate how we use the all-purpose psychological term ''depressed" instead of using more descriptive and nuanced words like 'sad', 'melancholy', 'dispirited', 'blue' dejected', 'mournful', 'grieving.' All those words are nuanced; ''depressed' is a flat word which could be applied to a wide range of feelings. Or many people describe meticulous, organized people as ''anal'', which is a particularly disagreeable adjective, in my book, as well as dismissive of what may be an admirable quality. The fact that we associate a rather unclean part of the body with being tidy or orderly or careful is a sign of our negative attitudes about those tendencies in our sloppy, careless age.
Most of all, though, I hate the Orwellian language of political correctness, which is mainly spread via the leftist/globalist media. I always mention the overuse of the term ''community'', as in ''the gay community", the ''African-American community", the ''LGBT community" (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered community, apparently). The word 'community' seems to have been ''hijacked'' (to use another cliche) to describe only "groups-with-a-grievance", political lobbying groups based on victimhood status. The word 'community' is a perfectly good word that has now been associated with ethnic/racial/political agitating and complaining. That's sad.
Other politically correct words that are overused and abused are words like 'racism', 'sexism' and almost any kind of 'phobia', such as 'homophobia', 'Islamophobia' or 'xenophobia.' Those coinages represent the converging of our pop-psychology/Freudian language with racial/ethnic agitation.
Also vexing are the words that are designated to describe favored groups, such as 'African-American' to replace the formerly PC term 'black', or 'Asian' which replaced the suddenly-taboo 'Oriental' back in the 1970s. Or 'gay' as opposed to homosexual. To slip up and use a formerly accepted, but now taboo, word can have serious consequences.
The sad thing is that among the many complaints by commenters on the linked web pages, few complain about the Orwellian trends in our language; most of the complaints are idiosyncratic nitpicks about phrases the commenter dislikes, seemingly ''just because''.
This comment was a rare expression of common sense in the discussion:
Most phrases that annoy people are simply those that originate in a different region or culture (generation, dialect, etc.) and are misunderstood. Spelling and syntax errors aside (mostly), the flexibility of English is what makes it a great language, and I thumb my nose (I'm sure I just made a few people squirm) at those language Nazis who think their version is the correct one. If you want to sound intelligent, stick to the rules. However, there are great benefits to learning the lingo of another dialect or generation. And at the end of the day you'll find you've communicated in a new way with someone who isn't *you* (with all due respect). How about that.''