Thursday, November 13, 2008


Taking a break from presumably more enlightening research, Oxford University has compiled a list of the top ten most irritating phrases.

They 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

I can't help but wonder if these phrases are more irritating in Britain than in the States. For instance, while I'm tired of "24/7", I rely on the phrase "with all due respect" to communicate politely to others that they don't know what they're talking about. I can't say I've ever heard anyone say "fairly unique" or "it's a nightmare."

I personally would absolutely have added other words and phrases to the list. One of the most abused words in American English is "impact". While it literally means "collision" or "violent contact", it is most often used to indicate merely an "effect". With all due respect, the compilers of this list shouldn't of omitted it.

And then there are the abbreviations. It took me an hour to figure out that "GSE" is "government sponsored enterprise". I'm still trying to figure out NGO and MP3.

With the end of the election we have had a break from the phrase "Wall Street and Main Street" contrasting the investment class from the entrepreneurial class. At this moment in time, I've had just about enough of that. Hopefully, the economy can progress enough to bury that phrase for good.

Speaking of streets, whatever happened to the phrase "the Arab Street"? Remember how the media used to warn us that the invasion of Iraq would inflame "the Arab Street." It's not rocket science to figure out that there is no such thing as the "Arab Street" anymore than there is a "Catholic vote".

Such lists of irritating phrases should not escape the attention of preachers who frequently rely on them to fill in their sermonizing. At the top of any list of irritating phrases from the pulpit would have to be "It's not WHO you are but WHOSE you are." Add to that any sentence beginning with "let us" or "may we."

At the end of the day, we live in such a verbose society that fairly unique phrases cannot but suffer abuse and grow tired to the ear. The tintinnabulation of television transmissions, news crawls and popular music wears our language out. It is up to us wordsmiths to come up with new turns of phrase successful enough to become tomorrow's "MIP's", that is, "most irritating phrases".

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