The Top Ten Most Annoying Phrases in the World

The Top Ten Most Annoying Phrases in the World

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

"Those people at Oxford University sure are smart," said Karl, my friend, literary drinking buddy, and part-time curmudgeon. "Smart and irritating."

What are you talking about? I asked. We were sitting in Van der Weiden's, our favorite Dutch pub. The place was decorated with wooden shoes, replica windmills, and orange soccer jerseys. And a picture of Prince Willem-Alexander, the Netherlands Crown Prince, picking his nose at one of the swimming events at the Beijing Olympics.

"This week they just came out with a list of the top ten most irritating phrases in the entire world," said Karl.

Just ten?

"Well, you've got to draw the line somewhere. At the end of the day, people just don't want to read a lot."

Seriously? I asked, taking a drink.

"Absolutely," said Karl. "I personally have seen most of them used in the last 24 hours."

So what makes them experts on irritating phrases? I asked.

Karl plonked his beer onto the table. "I thought you'd never ask, Kid." Karl calls me Kid, because I'm 20 years younger than he is. "Apparently they've got some sort of database that tracks new words and phrases. They were able to see which ones were used too often or even incorrectly."

So what's on the list? I asked, worried that I was starting something I couldn't stop. He pulled a hastily folded piece of paper out of his pocket, smoothed it out, and slid it across the bar to me. It was the list.
  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
This looks like a call list for Marketing Bingo, I said. I hear business executives and marketing professionals spew this stuff all the time. But Oxford missed some of the best ones, like leverage or synergy.

"With all due respect, Kid, I don't think you know what you're talking about."

Oh yeah? And what makes you an expert on irritating phrases?

"Hell, it's not rocket science. Anyone can come up with annoying phrases. Just the other day, I was taking my niece to a movie, and she's all 'I want to see Role Models,' and I'm like 'No way, José, we're going to see Quantum of Solace.'"

And you were the one with the annoying phrases?

"No way, José. She was."

How is "I want to see Role Models" annoying?

"I don't know. I guess it's the way she said it. Kind of ironic, huh?"

I plonked my beer on the bar. No, Karl, it isn't. It isn't ironic at all. Neither is rain on your wedding day, a free ride when you already paid, or some good advice that you just didn't take. None of that is ironic either.

Karl stared into the dregs of his beer. I knew that look.

Oh jeez, you big baby, are you pouting?


Yes, you are. I ordered a couple more beers for us, and that seemed to brighten his mood a bit. I contemplated the picture of Prince Willem-Alexander going for Olympic gold, while Karl wiped the foam from his lip.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that we don't see enough people trying to fix the English language, or point out the linguistic foibles that people have. It's a real nightmare, hearing some of the verbal garbage people spew. I hear it all day, every day, 24/7/"

I know what you mean. I hate it when people use those annoying phrases. It really grinds my gears.

"Me too, Kid. Me too. That's why, when someone like Oxford University tries to make our language better, I appreciate their efforts. You know, it's just nice to see someone do something that has a value add to our lives."

A what?

"A value add."

What's a value add?

"Something that adds value."

Then why didn't you just say adds value? Or makes better?

"Cut it out. I just got caught up in the moment."

Or improves?

"I knew I shouldn't of—"

Shouldn't have what?


Shouldn't have what?

"See, there you go correcting me again. You're just a kid, Kid. I'm way older than you, and I've been around the block a few times. I think I know a few things about proper English, and the way everyone talks. So, climb off your little high horse there, and join the rest of us here on Planet Earth. You got me?"

Absolutely. My bad.

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