Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

A couple of years ago, researchers at Oxford University compiled a list of the top ten most irritating expressions. Their list included overused office lingo, (24/7, synergy), grammatically incorrect constructions (“shouldn’t of”), and adverbs used out of context (literally, ironically).

While everything on their list is certainly irritating, few of the items rise to the level of truly annoying. Perhaps Americans have a particular facility with our shared language because we seem to have a special affinity for creating trite catchphrases. Here are my eleven candidates for most annoying sayings:

1. “I’m not a happy camper.”

If you say, “Oh, I say this all the time” then take a look in the mirror. Are your lips swollen? If not, then you have no real friends. A real friend is someone who cares enough about you to punch you in the mouth when you use this idiotic phrase.

When it’s okay to say this: When you are a ten-year-old away at Summer camp and a counselor asks you about your emotional state.

2. Believe you me.” 

If translated into Latin, or some other language where word order doesn’t matter, then this phrase might make sense. But outside of the King James Bible, the verb-subject-object doesn’t work for English. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this is a way of saying, “It’s really so”—so why not just say “It’s really so.” That’s a much less annoying way to express yourself, believe you me.

When it’s okay to say this: When your name is Yoda.

3. My bad.” 

The way really annoying people say “mea culpa.”

When it’s okay to say this: When someone asks you, “Whose bad is that?” and the bad belongs to you.

4. “I feel you.”

Unless you are really feeling me, then this phrase is inaccurate. And if you are actually feeling me, then (a) I’m probably aware of it, and (b) I want you to please stop that.

When it’s okay to say this: When you are actually feeling me and I am unaware that you are doing so. (Again, really. Please stop that.)

5. “I am not going to lie to you.”

If you need to clarify that what you tell me next is not going to be a lie, then I’m going to wonder if everything you told me before this was a lie. So now that you’ve caused me to question your credibility, how do I know that you aren’t lying now when you say you’re not going to lie to me?

When it’s okay to say this: When someone directly ask you if you are going to lie to them and you have no intention of doing so.

6. We’ve got company.” 

Used in every action movie ever made.

When it’s okay to say this: When you are screenwriter who wants to ensure that your scene is included in clip compilations of trite movie phrases. (See also: Get out of there!)

7. “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

What information could you possess that would require you to murder me? What’s that? You were being sarcastic? Oh. Well, my policy is that is if you use trite sarcasm I have to kill you. (An action considered a justifiable homicide in all fifty states.)

8. “Show me the money”, “I Don’t Think We Are In Kansas Anymore”, “Is that your final answer?” Other phrases that originated on TV or in the movies.

Oh, so you saw that show too? Imagine that.

When it’s okay to say this: When the phrase comes from a Monty Python movie. Those never get old. (“It’s just a little bunny . . . ”)

8. It’s not rocket science”/ “It’s not brain surgery” 

Apparently, the most complicated procedure on earth is performing brain surgery on a rocket scientist.

When it’s okay to say this: When someone asks, “Is that rocket science”?/”Is that brain surgery?” and it isn’t.

9. At the end of the day” 

You mean . . . at night?

When it’s okay to say this: When you are referring to something that will actually happen at the end of the day.

10. Best. ________. Ever.” 

Worst. Meme. Ever.

When it’s okay to say this: Never. Ever. Ever.

What are other phrases that should be included on our list?

More on: Culture, Language

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles