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by Paula LaRocque on April 25th, 2011

SO, WITH NO IDEA I was triggering a discussion thread of more than ninety comments, I posted the following note on my Facebook profile:

“Here’s a word that I’m thoroughly sick of: TOTALLY. Here’s another word I’m thoroughly sick of: AWESOME. Here are two words I’m thoroughly sick of: TOTALLY AWESOME.”

A cascade of responses followed. It was as if my FB friends were just waiting for a chance to air their own language grievances.

Ed offered OMG, Denise countered with are you serious, and Dave weighed in with you know and right.

Donna wrote: “We watch this house-hunter show on cable and actually count the number of times someone says awesome. Last night: 15. Recently saw an edited clip of how many times awesome was used on ‘The Bachelor.’ Incredible number of times. Now, about incredible . . . .”

Henry nominated narrative, Paula added backstory, and copyeditor “Byliner” asked us to take (please!) the word amid.

Stacy asked (with an emoticon grin): “You’re totally sick of such awesome words?”

Sylvia wrote: “What about AMAZING!?! Notice how often it is used in print and especially television. Please put it at the top of your sick list! It tops mine.”

A consensus: What is commonly described as “amazing” is not amazing at all. I thought about my new tee-shirt’s emblazoned front: “HYPERBOLE! THE BEST THING EVER!”

Byliner wrote: “Incredible means ‘not believable.’ It does not mean ‘totally awesome.’ I hear incredible, like, you know, in every other sentence on the Sunday interview shows. ‘And then she goes . . . and then I went . . . .’ ”

Britney: “And they always preface their points by saying: Look.”

Paula: “Going forward. Reach out instead of contact.”

Terry: “I hate going forward and all its variations, especially ‘on a go-forward basis.’ Oy, and don’t get me started on reach out. And literally—I love to hate literally, as in ‘I was so mortified, I literally died.’ One can only wish . . . ”

Byliner: “I should be editing, but the wheels are turning: added an additional. . . unnamed sources. That should be unidentified sources—they have names!”

Britney: “It’s interesting how Google, Wiki, You Tube, Facebook, etc., have become VERBS! ‘I’ll Google it.’ We have a new vocabulary with social media.”

Chuck: “I’m tired of people misusing words. Transition is a noun, not a verb.”

Paula: “Ditto for impact. A friend who hated coining words with the suffixes ‘ize’ and ‘wise’ warned: ‘Don’t verbize a noun.’ ”

Byliner: “Incentivize. ”

Paula: “A news story said the victim would be funeralized Tuesday.”

Terry: “Funeralized? And I thought ambulanced (he was ambulanced to the hospital) was bad.”

Mark: “And to think I was sure I was the only one who hated those words!”

Harry: “This thread beats about 95 percent of what I hear or read. Thanks, guys. I had a student in my public speaking class say like 36 times in a five-minute speech. No, she wasn’t aware of it, but I promise she won’t do it the next time. I’ve got a clicker that I will use every time I hear it. And my contribution to the ‘banned’ list: WTF, MF, or effin’. Who determined that this was clever?”

Donna: “I’m sick of every use of the ‘F’ word—noun, verb, adjective, etc.”

Lois: “I don’t even like the proliferating friggin’.”

Alan: “Far out, like, for sure, dudette.”

Roy: “Cool.”

James: “Gimongus.”

Alan: “You know.”

Greg: “Dude. Sweet.”

Edward: “Dude! I’m totally with you on that . . . and I would find it awesome if I never heard ‘on the ground’ and ‘collateral damage’ again.”

Ed B.: “I’ve always hated feisty and zesty.”

Ellen: “Ever listen to women in a clothing store? What’s the ONE word you hear over and over again? (This is a test.)”

Susan: “I have banned the word countless. Because most of the time what’s being described can actually be numbered . . .”

Ellen: “No guesses? Cute. Cute. Cute. Everything is cute.”

Chuck: “Another word I’m fed up with is ‘arguably.’ So many people parrot this word . . . Another thought—if someone is explaining something, they shouldn’t use words like obviously, naturally, of course. If the person doesn’t know, then it is not obvious, etc.”

Paula: “Arguably is a weasel word—favored by media folk when making claims they can’t support. What does it mean? Maybe/Maybe not. And you make another good point about such words as obviously, naturally, or of course—especially in argumentation, where they condescend or patronize. Other offenders: clearly and everybody knows.”

Janet: “What totally awesome posts!”

Byliner: “I learned something about language; thanks.”

Mark W.: “I think you have a book here! May I suggest a title? How about Weasel Words and How to Avoid Them?”

Paula: “Or maybe: How to Avoid Being a Weasel.” :)

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(Previously published in April 2011 as one of Paula LaRocque’s regular columns on writing and the language in Quill magazine, the magazine for the Society of Professional Journalists.)

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