Editor's Note: Words to set my teeth on edge – literally

The first time I saw it, I thought it was a typing error, or – shudder – a reflection on the education system.

In a Facebook post by my teenage nephew was the word “prolly.”


Clearly he meant “probably.” But I have heard him say “probably.” He pronounces the “b”s. This affectation of spelling, I found, was some trendy text-speak abbreviation.


We all have words and idioms that irritate us. Sometimes, when it is an especially trendy turn of phrase, it begins benignly enough, but its overuse eventually wears on me.

Take “epic.” I actually like “epic.” It’s a good word. It’s short yet powerful – at least, it used to be.

As an adjective, “epic” means “heroic, grand, majestic, imposing, dealing with events of historical or legendary importance.” But the poor word is being sapped of its impact by overuse. No, that time your coworker slipped on the ice and everyone laughed was not “epic.” It was funny, amusing, maybe even hilarious – but no one is going to write a long narrative poem about it.

On that same note is “ridiculous.” That means something taken to such an extreme as to invite ridicule. How, then, can a woman be “ridiculously pretty” or a sandwich “ridiculously good?” Are people mocking pretty women and tasty foods now? I have to admit, I am, perhaps, ridiculously annoyed, since I have been guilty of this misuse myself.

One of my brother’s pet peeves is the misuse of “literally,” as in, “I literally screamed my head off.” Unless your skull had to be surgically reattached to your neck, no, you figuratively screamed your head off. It’s an important difference.

When I asked people what words or phrases annoy them, one of the top contenders was “back in the day,” a trendy way of saying, “I remember when.” It is particularly amusing (or annoying) when it refers to things that happened recently (was January really back in the day?) or when it is used by children who are still in the first era of their lives (I know society is moving at a rapid pace, but I don’t think 2006 was back in the day, either).

There are also the abbreviations that have somehow escaped from the 140-character universe of Twitter and seeped into everyday conversation. When something adorable is “adorbs” or a brush-off is expressed with “whatevs,” I can’t help thinking of all those girls in high school with the loopy handwriting, dotting their I’s with little hearts. Once, I overheard a boy in a coffee shop tell his companion a joke, to which she replied, “LOL.” She didn’t actually laugh, she just said what she would have typed had this conversation been digital.

But it wasn’t. It was face to face. No lie. (There’s another one.)

Whatevs. (Once you get going, it’s kind of hard to stop.)

If there is a good thing about annoying trends, it is, at least, that they are short-lived. This too shall pass; or, in the words of an overused slogan that irritates a coworker of mine:

“It is what it is.”

Loading more