Saturday, November 22, 2008

Clauses to Give You Pauses

According to a study conducted at Oxford University and published in the book Damp Squid, the 10 most irritating phrases in the English language are (in order of most to least aggregious) are:

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

Heading the list was the way-overused expression and very annoying 'at the end of the day'. I know an attorney that concludes every sentence he says with 'at the end of the day.' It's amazingly possible to end much of what with say with that phrase. Try it.

And for the 'fairly unique' talkers out there, I say make up your mind and take a stand!  It's either a fairly good approximation or actually is unique. Not both. Stop it! 

The absurdly redundant statement 'I personally' made third place. I think this is a favorite of Tom Cruz.  Personally who else could you be?  Following closely is the ubiquitous and really precise 'at this moment in time' phrase. What other dimension would a moment occur in?

It's followed in lessened annoyance order by the ingratiating and rather insulting 'with all due respect.' This one is in the Passive Aggressive Hall of Fame and is one you can brandish at work. However, overuse of it will certainly aggravate the target.

One of my own personal demons is 'absolutely' which I say WAY too much. Absolutely. And how many times can we hear and say 'It's a nightmare'? Time to wake up and lose that old chestnut before someone takes exception in a nightmarish way.

At number 8 we find the grammatically incorrect "shouldn't of", instead of "shouldn't have". To me, this seems put of place in this list of well worn offending cliched phrases. It's really just a grammatical error that is repeated over and over.

Bringing up the rear of the top 10 funky phrases are the fairly modern '24/7' and 'it's not rocket science'. The former still has some meaning -- as an way overused generalization while the later ought to be launched into deep space forever. Irritating for sure.

Perhaps the most disturbing element of this study is that anyone -- much less Oxford people -- would dedicate time and resources researching and publishing this stuff. To what end can studies like this lead to? You think someone might actually want to talk or write about this silly research anywhere? :-)

A few of my personal favorite overused cliches did not make the list and I would be remiss if I exclude them. So here goes.

Love you. Mean it. (said very quickly and insincerely of course)

Perfect storm. (Used anytime two or more variables can explain a stupid decision you made)

That 's amazing! (especially if we are easily amazed -- hyperbole at its finest)

Let's get together soon! (Soon as hell freezes over)

Not for nothing, but... (trying to figure out what this means makes my head hurt)

Got any overused phrases you care to share?


  1. One that is way overused and usually said by people who don't have this ability...

    "Thinking outside the box"

  2. I agree. "thinking outside the box" hasalways implied some ":out of body" experience to me. Not something I want to do until I die.