Ten Most Irritating Phrases

Researchers at Oxford University in the U.K. have compiled and released a list of the ten most irritating phrases in use today and I must say I agree with most of their findings, although I’d rank some a bit differently. “Fairly unique” ranked second on the Oxford list and I’d rather see it recognized as the most irritating phrase of all. It’s number 1 on my list. Considering that unique means “one of a kind,” it’s hard to see how anyone can link unique with “fairly,” or with “very,” “most” or any other comparative word.

Researchers compiled the list using a database called the Oxford University Corpus, which comprises books, papers, magazines, broadcast, the internet and other sources. The database alerts researchers to new words and phrases and tells them which are disappearing and which are being misused.

Here are the ten offending phrases as compiled at Oxford:

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

It’s not often that one encounters “shouldn’t of” on this side of the Atlantic, but others, like 24/7, seem to pop up everywhere, every day. And I’ve never understood why anyone would write “at this moment in time” when the word “now” is available to use. It’s much shorter and is understood by everyone. It’s also more precise.

That said, those at Oxford who compiled the list are due our thanks for coming up with ten phrases we can omit from our writing and in so doing eliminate the “irritating” factor and aid in achieving more precision in our work. Hat’s off to those researchers!

© 2008 Laverne Daley

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5 Comments on “Ten Most Irritating Phrases”

  1. “Irregardless” has irritated me, and same with “unthaw”! And “utilize” instead of “use” gets under my skin…and so does “adventuristic.”

    What’s wrong with “absolutely” — is it just unnecessary?

    I like “at the end of the day”, I must admit, because I use it to point out what a waste of energy it is to get mad about something that really doesn’t matter…at the end of the day.

    I like “it’s not rocket science” too, because it makes me smile for some reason.

    🙂 Great post!

  2. I appreciate your take on why you like “at the end of the day,” Laurie. Makes sense to me. And I agree about “irregardless” and “unthaw” (to my way of thinking, “unthaw” is in the same category as writing “hot water heater” instead of just “water heater”). As for “utilize,” I think I’ve written a whole post on why I dislike that word. One of these day, we’ll have to write about words that we love. Thanks for the comment, Laurie. Great to hear from you.

  3. Peggy says:

    I’ve always hated “It’s not rocket science.” It seems to belittle whatever you’re talking about.

  4. Kathleen Daley says:

    This one really hit home. I work in an office where overblown management jargon is endemic. These remind me of the buzzword bingo boards we all had in our cubicles several years ago.

    One of my former manager’s favorite phrases was “with all due respect”. When you heard it, you knew you were about to be rudely insulted in his very next breath.

    Thanks for a great post!

  5. ldaley says:

    Peggy and Kathleen,
    Thanks so much for your comments. If anyone compiles a list of the next 10 most irritating phrases, I expect “with all due respect” will top that list.
    Have I told you lately how pleased I am that you are reading my blog? I really am. Thank you! LD


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