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"Whatever" Is the Most Annoying Word

"Whatever" Is the Most Annoying Word

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

Anyway, at the end of the day, someone found, you know, the most annoying word in the world, and it is what it is.

Surprisingly, I didn't use the offending word at all in that sentence. Just all the others.

Turns out more people hate the word "whatever" than any other word.

According to a survey by Marist College (official motto: "Yeah, we've never heard of you either"), 47 percent of all Americans think the word "whatever" is the most annoying word out there. It beats the second place word by 22 percent.

I actually like "whatever." I wouldn't say it was the most annoying. In fact, there are times that it actually gives me pleasure to use.

If a friend is being snarky with me, I can easily reject their attitude with a derisive "whatever." Throw in a dismissive wave of the hand, and the word takes on a whole new meaning. One that symbolizes paper thin tolerance of a ridiculous idea that I consider to be beneath contempt.

"I think NASA is going to try to blow up the moon to change its orbit," the Internet crazies were screaming on Thursday.

"Whatever," I scoffed, flipping my hand dismissively, and pointing to several websites that show what NASA is actually planning to do.

"Barack Obama's healthcare plan will require death camps for children with developmental disabilities," said Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

"Whatever," said everyone else, including the media and several people in her own party.

Now you try it. Let me give you an example:

"I think Liechtenstein should host the 2016 Olympics."

See, didn't that feel great? Gave you a real boost of confidence and esteem. Made you feel a little smarter, didn't it? Of course, you did it at the expense of another person, but at the end of the day, it is what it is.

At least it would if "at the end of the day" didn't make the list. Surprisingly, it was only annoying to 2 percent of the respondents. That's a phrase I really and truly hate, along with "it is what it is," which garnered 11 percent of the total. Both of them are fingernails on chalkboards to me.

Rounding out the list was "you know" (25 percent) and "anyway" (7 percent).

Since only 11 percent of the people hated the phrase "it is what it is," that makes me wonder if 89 percent of the people actually like it enough to use it. While I doubt it's that high, I still hear it enough to make me cringe and writhe in agony.

I usually hear it from people who also use the phrase "think outside the box" without any sense of irony or humor. They're serious when they use it, and think it somehow makes them sound creative.

No, actually saying something creative makes you sound creative. "Outside the box" has been used so many times, it IS the box. People who say "outside the box" have planted themselves so deeply in the box, no amount of digging will ever get them out of it. Surprisingly, that phrase did not make the list. It's the only phrase I hate more than "it is what it is at the end of the day."

So is using "whatever" psychologically damaging to the other person? Do we lose a little of our confidence and self-worth every time someone utters that cutting word?

Communication experts believe that 93 percent of the meaning in a person's communication comes from our tone of voice and body language, and that only seven percent comes from the words we use.

Does that mean your one word derisive dismissal (and the hand flip. Don't forget the hand flip) be harmful to another person's self-worth and esteem? Does it hurt your feelings or make you defensive when someone "whatevers" you? That may be what people found most annoying. They've been suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous "whatever," and rather than popping someone on the snoot, they stuff their anger until it comes out in the form of a snarky survey answer.

I will admit that I've been on the receiving end of a "whatever" from time to time, and it can be a little painful and awkward. There's really no comeback or response that is as cutting or sharp as a "whatever."

I've been working on one though, but I haven't been able to find the right words to give that sense of dismissal and intellectual contempt. But I need to find one soon.

Because "no, YOU whatever!" just isn't cutting it anymore.


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