the most annoying phrases

You’ve likely seen this already.  Last week the folks at Marist Poll released their list of the most annoying phrases.  There were five choices respondents could choose from:

  • “at the end of the day”
  • “it is what it is”
  • “you know”
  • “whatever”
  • “anyway”

If my wife represented the average respondent, than the phrase “it is what it is” would have ranked as the most reviled of phrases.  (Seriously, if you ever want to provoke an audible sigh and possible eye roll from Maggie, just drop the vaguely fatalistic “it is what it is” in conversation with her.)  I’m probably most guilty of the second most annoying phrase, “you know”.  It’s a handy phrase to gauge whether a conversation partner is following a train of thought.  You know?

And the most annoying phrase?  47% of respondents agreed that “whatever” should immediately be dropped from our collective vocabulary.  While I agree and would prefer never again to hear this sarcastic phrase in conversation, what can we actually do about it?  After all, it is what it is.

6 thoughts on “the most annoying phrases

  1. Sadly, I really like ‘it is what it is.’ It often communicates precisely the existential tension that i am feeling…kind of an acknowledgement that life is gritty, the world is fallen, things fall apart and I am not going to try to make more of it than is there. I am aware that it is annoying, though and have tried to use it less…I wonder if Maggie has an idea for succinct language that expresses the same idea.

    1. Stanford- I too find it a hard phrase to avoid. I think Maggie finds it most annoying when used as an excuse to not engage the problem at hand. It’s more the sentiment behind the phrase that most annoys her.

      1. I discussed the phrase ‘It is what it is’ with my reading group and they suggested that it wasn’t eschatological enough. The proposed:

        “It is what it is until it isn’t”
        “It is what it is until the victory of Jesus breaks through fully and renews all things”

        But the first is confusing and the second is cumbersome and social awkward in most situations.

        I have been thinking about replacing it with the simple nod to Achebe:

        “Things fall apart”

  2. I had a conversation with a computer technician the other day. It was an unpleasant experience, even though he finally helped me fix the problem I was having. Today, I got a form letter from his company asking me about my experience. I told them that their employee needed some guidance in customer relations. Later, I got to thinking about what made him so offensive. Well, part of the problem was just his personality, but a correctible part of the problem was some of the phrases he used, phrases that are common enough but are, nevertheless, guaranteed to irritate and even enrage. This is what set me to search for a list of words and phrases to avoid, but the examples
    you show are, forgive me, trivial, at least to me. What about, “I TOLD YOU…,” and here I must stop because I can’t for the moment think of the dozens of similarly irritating phrases and expressions that are commonly used. This is why I came here. I’m looking for a list of those phrases that should be avoided in conversation. Such lists do exist; I’ve seen them. I just can’t remember them now. Maybe it’s because they’re so commonplace that they don’t register, except to the person who is being irritated.

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