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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