The Most Annoying Word


In a survey of over 1,000 people conducted at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, 39% of people age 60 or over rated “whatever” as the most annoying word or phrase used in conversation, coming in as the clear front-runner over second-place “like.”  Whatever.

Actually, maybe because I am not quite yet over 60, I don’t find “whatever” disturbing.  In fact, I actually like it.  And “like” doesn’t bother me much either.  To me, “whatever” has a lilting, poetic quality, and while some may find it dismissive, I find it a charming way to remind the listener of what is important in life.    Maybe that’s because being dismissive is not something to be dismissive of.    Saying “whatever” at just the right moment reminds the listener that life is too precious to spend it worrying about the corporatization of the world, the subjugation of particular groups of people, or the price of tea in China.   “Whatever” can be thought of as a vocal cue to detach from one’s ego, perhaps a quick and dirty form of meditation that can save us from having to spend 20 minutes twice a day doing the real thing.

I might actually consider silently repeating the word “whatever” as a method of reducing blood pressure.  Now there’s a study for you.

That is not to say that there aren’t words that get me really tweaked.   At the top of my list is the word “issue.”  I don’t mind the word when it is used to describe the location of a particular magazine article, or even the result of two people spending some happy time together, but I have a real issue with using it because people are somehow afraid of saying they have a problem with something, or God forbid may actually have a conflict.   For some reason, it is now more acceptable for people to have “issues” than problems, worries or concerns.

Try these two next sentences:  There are several other words with which I also have issues.  Or:  There are several other words that irritate me (or get my goat, bother me, annoy me, etc.)   Which do you prefer?   And yes, I am also bothered when people say “oftentimes,” a totally useless expenditure of syllables (they could just as well have said “often”).   It is one of those words that I think people say because they want to sound more intelligent but backfires on them.   The more often they use the word the less intelligent they sound.

Now, please don’t get the impression that I am holding myself out in any way to be a verbal virtuoso.   I frequently (oftentimes!) use words incorrectly, partly because I want to learn and hope those better-educated people around me will correct me, which they sometimes do.   A good friend is someone who will tell you when you are screwing up.

Undoubtedly, there are many intelligent people who will oftentimes have issues with what I am saying.   It is fine; my judgment of you will be wrong and it will be fleeting.   Whatever.



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