Saturday, November 8, 2008

Everybody Likes A List

Researchers at Oxford University, having run out of anything to do involving academia, apparently, have spent their time compiling a list of the Top Ten Irritating Expressions. ("Researchers at Oxford University" surprisingly absent from list.) The purpose? Well, their claim is that they "...monitor the use of phrases in a database called the Oxford University Corpus...The database alerts them to new words and phrases and can tell them which expressions are disappearing. It also shows how words are being misused. " My claim is that it's a list and everybody loves a good list. That's all it is. It's trivial drivel presented in list form in order to draw attention from those who like lists. And who doesn't like lists? No one. Everyone likes a list. If you don't like a nice list every now and then, there might be something seriously wrong with you.

But back to Oxford's list. According to the folks over there at The Telegraph, a one Jeremy Butterfield has written a book called Damp Squid, which the article says was "named after the mistake of confusing a squid with a squib, a type of firework." Great. Now not only do I have no idea what the title of the book means, I have no idea what the explanation of the title means as well. (A squib is a firework? Like those little ground bloomers? Roman candles? What's a squib?) All of the Top Ten Irritating Expressions appear in the book. It's unclear to me if anything else also appears in the book.


So, starting from ten and working up to one, the Top Ten Irritating Expressions as deemed so by the guys over at Oxford with nothing else to do. Ahem....
  • Number Ten: It's not rocket science I'm going to add that its cousin phrase, It doesn't take a rocket scientist can be interchanged and also makes the list. I think it's so annoying because people that use it are clearly not rocket scientists (not to mention that 3 out of 5 of them think the phrase is actually 'pocket science', which is even more annoying).

  • Number Nine: 24/7 Irritating, indeed; mainly because no one is ever going 24/7 unless they're high on crack or have a meth lab in their basement.

  • Number Eight: Shouldn't of Yes, this is one that makes me insane. What happens is people get a little bit too hooked on phonics and instead of saying "shouldn't have" the "have' becomes "huv" and then, eventually just "of". What's worse is when people start writing it that way as well. That makes me even more crazy.

  • Number Seven: It's a nightmare Rarely is the situation being described actually a nightmare, true. If it were, you could just wake up and all would be good! But it's not. You might think it is, but look around you. Are you being chased by two-headed demons? Are you giving a speech naked? No? Then it's not a nightmare.

  • Number Six: Absolutely Probably would not be as irritating if it weren't overused. Rarely is anything 'absolute' except for the vodka and even then it's only 'Absolut'.

  • Number Five: With all due respect This is one of those phrases that is meant to excuse what you are about to say which is in direct contradiction with the phrase itself. If you're saying, "With all due respect..." and then you're following that with "....you acted like a cheap slut at the office party..." that's not "with all due respect", you know? Similar phrases would include "No offense, but..." and "Not to be rude, but...."

  • Number Four: At this moment in time I don't hear this one all that often, but it is irritating. I think probably because it's redundant and it's also stating the obvious. "At this moment", well, which other moment would it be? No one ever says "At that moment in time" or "At no time in time". Why do you need the "in time"? What else is there? "In space"? "Within the continuum"? Irritating. Definitely.

  • Number Three: I personally I find this one hilarious, only because it reminds me of poor Miss Teen South Carolina at the Miss Teen USA Pageant 2007 when she answered the question posed to her about why she thought 1 in 5 Americans could not identify the United States on a map. Her answer was nonsensical, rambling and absolutely hysterical. And she started it off with, "I personally believe..." and continued with "...that some, uh, US Americans are unable to do so because, um, some people out there in our nation don't...HAVE maps." And it only got more funny from there until the very welcome 'time's up' bell mercifully sounded to end her blathering diatribe.




  • Number Two: Fairly unique This phrase, along with its cousin, very unique, turns my uncle into a crazy man. When he hears either one, he must nearly shout that if something is 'unique' it means that it is 'one of a kind'. Therefore, something can't be 'very one of a kind'. The 'very' is already implied by the 'one of a kind' designation to begin with. (Yes, how many times do you think I've heard that? I'm not really sure, but I know that I can say the speech under my breath along with him whenever it comes up.)

  • And the Number One Most Irritating Expression is........At the end of the day Used in excess, that does get annoying. (Few who use it realize that 'at the end of the day' another day that's likely to be just as crappy as the one that's ending and being turned into a parable. And that's really not useful or helpful at the time when it's being said. For the fifth time in the same conversation.)


Up for what would equate to an Honorable Mention would be other phrases that irritate people such as "literally" and "ironically", especially when those words are misused or used out of context. Ironically would be the one that I'd guess most people misuse. If you said to ten different people, "Define irony" I would guess that at least half (and that's a very low underestimate because, as we know, people are morons) would respond with "It's what you do to your clothes so that they're not so wrinkled." No, that's ironing, you idiot! But nice try. Thank you for playing.

The irritation that people have with these expressions was explained by the author of the squid book (or is it squib book?) Butterfield said: "We grow tired of anything that is repeated too often – an anecdote, a joke, a mannerism." Yes! Things such as three synonyms for the same expression, perhaps.

Oh, the ironing.

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