November 8, 2008

Linguistic Irritants

Research from Oxford reveals what expressions most irritate Brits. The results are also included in a new book, Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare by Jeremy Butterfield. The title stems from the mistake people make using the word “squid” when they mean “squib” (firecracker). I suppose all squids are damp, while only duds are damp squibs.

The squid/squib error must be much more common in the U.K. than the U.S.

As reported in the Daily Telegraph, the expressions are:

10. “It's not rocket science” (A NASA scientist related that when he and his colleagues got stuck on a problem, someone would invariably say, “It’s not rocket science.” After a beat, someone else would say, “Actually, it is.” Then they would all laugh.)
9. “24/7”
8. “Shouldn't of”
7. “It's a nightmare”
6. “Absolutely” (I plead guilty.)
5. “With all due respect” (While I don’t hear this much, I do use the phrase, “With all due disrespect” at every opportunity.)
4. “At this moment in time”
3. “I personally” (Reminiscent of “I was thinking to myself.”)
2. “Fairly unique”
1. “At the end of the day”

Telegraph readers then responded with their leastest favorite expressions. Lowlights include:

9. “Neither here not there”
7.3 "Unexpectedly Bart!"
3. “I'm gutted”
2. “A safe pair of hands” (Huh?)
1. “Literally” (My family —me included— abuses this ruthlessly.)

Not annoying are the instances when someone (purposely or not) mangles a trope. For example, a certain someone I know has a variety of takes on “six of one, a half-dozen of another.” These include “six from one, then another dozen” and “six plus one... not another baker’s dozen?”

Egg photo by Darcy Babers


gonzalez gonzalez said...

Many of the words and expressions mentioned in this blog have been bugging me for years. I also have my personal collection of usage phobias. You mentioned the one that tops my list: "at this time and place" ("now"), but didn't mention "hopefullys'" or the "due tos', or "crispies" ("crisp') for the weather, and the insidious, nauseating "persona" instead of calling a fault or a merritt by it's name (example:"He is a poor teacher," easily becomes "as for his teaching persona etc."
I don't know why any of the many splendor-ed word- processing programs now available cannot be made to key the proper usage form when the ubiquitous bad usage is entered. Most people which use many of this irritating expressions think they are being clever and erudite

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I just wanted to let you know that a "certain someone" has noticed your reference to her.

Bart King said...