Oxford Scholars Name Top Ten Irritating Phrases

What are some of the most annoying phrases in the English language? In a new forthcoming book, A Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare, Oxford researchers list the common phrases that we use incorrectly or just all too excessively. Here’s the list (and if you have your own disliked expressions, list them below in the comments).

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

via The Telegraph


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Comments (27)
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  • Carol A says:

    I heard a discussion about this on my local radio station and the term “closure” was mentioned – the scenario was that a family loses a child by some violent crime, they catch the criminal, now the family can have “closure”. A trite way of saying they are perhaps no longer news-worthy?

  • Joshua B says:

    “Could” care less (instead of “couldn’t”)

    Drives me nuts

  • Stephen says:

    Like, I think, like, that the word “like” is kinda like overused as well… like.

  • Paul Milne says:

    “Scientific fact” … as opposed to what other kinds of facts?

  • Ian says:

    A word that tries to be pleasant, but is somehow pathetically wimpish; a word that covers too many areas:
    Pleasing; amiable; skill; a degree of accuracy; refinement; respectability; delicate; fastidious…

    Why not be more descriptive:
    accurate, admirable, amiable, attractive, becoming, befitting, charming, commendable, considerate, cordial, correct, courteous, decorous, delicate, delightful, discerning, exact, fair, favorable, fine, friendly, genial, genteel, gentle, good, gracious, helpful, ingratiating, inviting, kind, kindly, lovely, meticulous, minute, obliging, pleasant, pleasurable, polite, prepossessing, proper, respectable, seemly, simpatico, superior, swell, trim, unpresumptuous, virtuous, welcome, well-mannered, winning, winsome…

  • Alistair says:

    “Going forward”

  • Ian says:

    @Stephen: “Like” drives me bonkers, too. It ends up in rampant use because we are speaking faster and lack either the energy or the education to phrase our recollections properly when speaking.

  • EZG says:

    Phrase: a sequence of two or more words arranged in a grammatical construction and acting as a unit in a sentence.

    “Absolutely”: Absolutely not a phrase.

    “Absolutely not”: Absolutely a phrase.

    Can’t say why this bothers me so much. But Oxford scholars? They should know better.

  • JT says:

    “Grow the economy” (or as my local newspaper put it one day: We need to grow more school administrators.)

    “The people on the ground”

    “There’s two”

    And a tangential irritation: emphasizing the prepositions, as in “a supporter of and an advocate for” where ‘of’ and ‘for’ are heralded as the important words instead of ‘supporter’ and ‘advocate’.

  • Boza says:

    How about “whatnot”? Does that even mean anything? Ugh. Makes me want to stick my head in a bowl of oatmeal all day so I don’t have to hear it.

  • Jenn says:

    -“interface” as a verb

  • cody says:

    i believe a whatnot is a shelf for knick-knacks.

  • Gale says:

    Sport analogies like “Step up to the plate”

  • Ricky Barnes says:

    I suppose we all have our pet peeves when it comes to language – I detest the overuse of the word “utilize” these days, as I like to say, I never use the word “utilize”, I instead utilize the word “use”. At any rate, language is nothing more than a tool for conveying meaning. The point to all communication is the faithful passing of meaning from one to another. Certainly, there are phrases that get used repeatedly and, as much as one hates this one or that one, one’s prejudices against some bits of language are a deterrent to one’s receptiveness to meaning. As much as we’d all like others to use language in the style we ourselves prefer, the greater responsibility is to be open to the meaning the communicator is so desperately attempting to convey. We must let our childish prejudices against language patterns different from our own subside. This includes the silly and unwarranted expectation that all of those you encounter must speak your language and speak it well. Without these prejudices, I believe we’ll find meaning much more easily discovered, conveyed, and appreciated. Genuine meaning is what we’re after.

    In other words, grow up, criticize much less and listen a good deal more. Utilize whatever phrases you wish and, in spite of the snobbery surrounding you, never stop communicating.

  • Claire Southpaw says:

    “The fact of the matter is…”

  • Silvia Vilches says:

    dialogue… when used as a verb. As in…”lets dialogue about that…” or, in class, “Let’s dialogue about current events…”

  • Kim says:

    “To be quite honest…”

    Whenever anyone says this to me I always want to ask, “Have you been lying about everything else you’ve said up until this point?”

    Also, I know it’s not a phrase as it’s only one word, but “irregardless.” I have to fight the urge to smack people when they use it. The fact that it is in the dictionary makes me cringe.

  • Michele says:

    When people say un-thaw. “Please take the steak out to un-thaw” literally saying please freeze. I always want to point it out but have learned my lesson over the years, it just leads to blank stares and confusion.

  • kione says:

    flammable and inflammable

  • Jaigin says:

    Here are some of the main irritations for me:

    “My aunt she did this; those people they know better” (which ungrammatical statements are always quoted verbatim in the media, thus searing the mistake into the language.)

    “Grow the economy”

    “There’s two”

    “The people on the ground”

  • bwgunia says:

    Having said that, or that said, basically, it’s boots on the ground.

  • william f. jones says:

    .. body of work
    .. at the end of the day
    .. moving forward
    .. brings to the table
    .. work ethic
    .. striker of the ball
    .. having said that
    .. thank my Lord and Savior

  • Tony says:

    OMG I’ve just realized that I personally use most of these hackneyed phrases 24/7. With due respect to the Oxford scholars, at the end of the day how bad is that? It’s a nightmare of which I am absolutely aware and I will reforming my ways post haste. That can’t be rocket science.

  • Paul McDonald says:

    “…it was surreal…”

  • Suzanne Ihrig says:

    “ideation” (THE WORST)
    “spends” (when used as a noun)
    “dude” (over used)
    “dialogue” (when used as a verb)

  • cliff lenz says:

    “good to go”

  • aj says:


    not a phrase, not annoying, just the echo behind my eyes as I read the fabulously arrogant comments of the prescriptive grammarites–for you, I will even use “good” instead of “well” on purpose–to be quite honest

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