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Top 10 Most Irritating Phrases of the English Language

In his book Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare, Jeremy Butterfield outlined the top 10 most irritating phrases of the English language. (Why damp squid?)

... the book's author Jeremy Butterfield says that many annoyingly over-used expressions actually began as office lingo, such as 24/7 and "synergy".

Other phrases to irritate people are "literally" and "ironically", when they are used out of context.

Mr Butterfield said: "We grow tired of anything that is repeated too often – an anecdote, a joke, a mannerism – and the same seems to happen with some language."

Here 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

Link to Telegraph article | Damp Squid review on The Bookbag

Can you at this moment in time come up with a fairly unique sentence that contains all ten? While it's not rocket science, at the end of the day, I personally can't!


It’s not rocket science understanding that Sarah Palin is fairly unique as an overtly ambitious presidential wannabe (as SNL, CNN and others have been pointing out 24/7), but at this moment in time I personally believe (with all due respect) that her stint on the national stage was a nightmare and that at the end of the day - John McCain now knows - absolutely shouldn’t of been allowed to happen.
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"Shouldn't of" isn't a phrase in the English language... seriously, "should not of" - sounds like a Sarah Palin sentence...

I believe they are looking for "Shouldn't have".....
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Also, "fairly unique" is also not a phrase in the English language. Unique does not have degrees. Something either is, or is not, one of a kind. There is no, "fairly one-of-of-a-kind".
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Spot on with number 10 and its infinite "clever" variations makes me want to go postal when I hear it.

My number one most annoying phrase is when people answer a question with their own long winded question and answer session.

For example let's say you ask someone how they solved a problem at work. Instead of a simple answer, they go into this unnecessarily long and sanctimonious response along the lines of, "was there a better way of resolving this issue, yet, did I have any other option at the time, no.

Just shut the heck up and give us a simple answer lol.
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The Times ran something similar a while ago:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1050928.ece

Different phrases, but the same idea
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These are annoying UK English phrases. I hardly ever hear Americans say "At the end of the day."

Geekazoid's comment of "Spot on" seems to be another popular British English phrase. Americans never say "Spot on." We don't refer to things as "Brilliant" either.

It might be interesting to see how the most annoying American English phrases compare, but ultimately, who cares anyway? It's a ridiculously subjective list, as what annoys one person can pass unnoticed to another.
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Well, at the end of the day this is a fairly unique book but I personally think that, at this moment in time (and with all due respect), that the author absolutely shouldn't of bothered working on this 24/7 when he could have been studying - it’s not rocket science.

My personal bugbear is people who write "It's a mute point" when they mean "moot point" - the phrases have almost opposite implied meaning.
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Re: Oliver and Laroo212 - I agree with Oliver's statement, and I'm not sure if that was an intentional joke on Laroo212's part: "of" should be "have." (Should have, shouldn't have) For reasons unknown, a LOT of people get it wrong! Maybe it's because too many people slur their speech.

Let's see...
"Now then" can be kind of annoying to some people.
I really find "the whole package" to be just too darn silly, especially when someone uses it when earnestly trying to voice their appreciation of someone.
"My bad" was funny ONCE, when I first heard it, in 2001. It very quickly became old, and is now invariably used as an insincere apology by people who need a good boot in the rectum.
These two are just incomprehensible: "Cool beans!" and "built like a brick s---house." Both are meant to be complimentary, but how is it a compliment to say that an attractive-looking woman is constructed in a manner not unlike that of a ceramic defecatorium? Please to explain?
I guess "Please to explain?" could go in there, too, except that I haven't heard it much.
"That's random." Especially when it's actually relevant to the topic at hand, which is the opposite of what "random" seems to imply. (I think it's code for "I'm not listening, but I'm going to try to pass some sort of blame off on you rather than admit that I was being inattentive.")
"Liberal" in the case of "liberal media" and "God-d---ed liberals" that I hear political crackpots bandying about. These people are out to proseletyze, but not one of them has been able to define what they mean by "liberal," which to me is an adjective meaning "generous," "forgiving" or "freedom-loving." Are these attributes bad things to these people, or is it a case of "I don't think that word means what you think it means?"
"Don't go there." If the first person I'd heard say that had simply looked up from her computer (I thought she was talking ineffectually to something on her monitor) and phrased it "I don't wish to hear the rest of your anecdote, even if everyone else in the room is hooked," it would have saved both of us much embarrassment.
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The journalistic buzzword of the year in my opinion is "iconic." Read any article and something will be "iconic" in it.
(It's not used in conversation though.)
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"Shouldn't of" is incredibly irritating, and I hear it all the time, from friends with Ph.D.'s, in, yes, rocket science. The reason it should be descried is that it is, as noted above, ungrammatical, and arises from a fundamental misunderstanding of what one is even trying to say. Like saying "eck-setera" or "I'll axe her about it".

People no longer understand the dative form in combinations. As in, "the importance of the event for Michele and I cannot be overstated". Should be "for Michele and me", because if the other person were not mentioned first, you would of course say "for me". This used to be called a Brooklynism, from its attempt to sound more sophisticated, but now everyone does it.

Finally, don't get me started on "you know". For me, it has become a tell whether the person really has confidence in their assertions. My new rule is that when you say "you know" for the third time, you must stop talking. That would have been great in the debates, don't you think?
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Some one already said it but "what not" bugs me. I even use it sometimes by accident and I would berate myself for it. Another one is "not so much". Also I am stating to hear my peers of 30-40 using internet and texting phrases when I talk to them in person. I lob back to them the everlasting phrase "Seriously?!?!"
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At this moment in time or the end of the day, hell, 24/7, I personally, with all due respect, can absolutely come up with a fairly unique sentence that contains all these phrases because, as you said, it's not rocket science however, the truth is, you shouldn't have asked because, as you can see, it's a nightmare.

I can't stand "it is what it is".
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Add the word "Seriously" to the list. "Seriously?! Seriouslyyyyy." Not only do I hear it every day, but now, picked it up like a 24-hour bug and started using it. To break me of the habit, I've told my top 5 friends that they have orders to shoot me with a water gun when they hear me say it. Seriously. (Hand me a towel.)
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I can't really say I have any phrases I hate. However, I do have a seething amount of hate for people who speak out their Internet words. For instance "LOL" is L Oh L. and "OMG" is Oh M Gee...and so forth. ARGH!!
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oh, NOW you've got me started!

use of myself instead of me.
"if you could return that to myself by the end of the day"

there is only ONE person to use sh instead of s. James Bond.
"Yesh MisH Moneypenny, Bond, Jamesh Bond."

so where does "shtreet" and "shtrength" come from? Probably the same place as aks. "I aksed him a question"

"and she turned around and said..." what's all this turning around stuff all about?

"very dead". you mean worse than dead? or more dead than dead?

football pundits are full of them:

"all credit to them, at the end of the day..."

and the use of the word "again" or the phrase "for me"

is it a sign of old age or just language evolving?
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I don't like the use of the phrase "beg the question" to mean "brings up the question" rather than a "logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself."

I also don't like it when people say "different than" instead of "different from."
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I'm fairly certain when people think someone says "shouldn't of" they are really saying "shouldn't have" but because they are speaking fast and slurring the words together it just sounds like "shouldn't of". At least that happens to me.
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Actually
As in, when someone asks you what you do, where you go to school, or how many of anything you have, they only want an answer. They do not want a “Whoa! Here it comes, you are going to be so surprised, impressed, even flabbergasted! When your answer is … “Actually, I work at Denny’s.” “Actually, I go to West Podnuk Community College.” “Actually, I have 16 pairs of socks.”
Really you actually do?
Wow, I am impressed, it is unbelievable, amazing!
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In answer to the question why DAMP SQUID.

It is one of those phrases that people always seem to get wrong, like the use of PACIFIC where they mean SPECIFIC.

A Squib, with a B, is a small firework, so if something has failed to live up to expectation it is said to have gone off like a damp squib. Basically a fizzer in the US.

Most people seem to not know what a squib is so thoughtlessly use squiD instead making nonsense of the phrase.
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The worst part about "Literally" or "Seriously" is that you can almost guarantee that the phrase following that word should not be taken literally or seriously.
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"No worries" I seem to have been guilty of that one,
"Cheers" for goodbye.. But the worst to me, is signing an email with a letter for your name, as though you don't respect the person enough to even properly sign out..dunno it bugs me..
Oh and "Dig it" is also dead and gone and should stay that way.
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"Ya know" after every thought.
Saying "I don't know" in mid sentence as a filler until his/her brain starts working again.
Saying "literally" after every 3-4 words.
The word is not "anyways" it is "anyway".
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Let's add;

"That's how I roll"

"How's that working for you ?"

"Good luck with that"

And the most annoying cry of the ignorant and self-absorbed;

"Whatever"
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'Basically'...talk with any Indian and he'll start Basically I'm from Punjab...blah blah blah...basically till he basically drops dead. Hate it.
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"Be proactive", "be proactive"!

Means: Work a lot, when your boss doesn't ask
you so, so he doesn't get troubles and doesn't
even remark that there was a problem and then
he ask you: What you did the whole damn day?
:-)
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