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Commentary: 2011's Most Hated Words

Paula LaRocque
Paula LaRocque

By Paula LaRocque

Dallas, TX –

Let's face it - some words and phrases are just plain annoying. In this commentary Paula LaRocque weighs in on the words we hated most in 2011.

Every year spawns its annual list of words the public hates the most. One well-known such list is the annual collection called "Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness." That list, compiled by Lake Superior State University, is in its 36th year.

What are 2011's winners that is to say losers? The expression "at the end of the day" has ranked high on the hated list for years, and 2011 was no exception.

But the most hated word this year was actually a non-word coined by Sarah Palin. That word was "refudiate," a blend of "refute" and "repudiate," and although the practice of making up words was defended by Palin herself as "Shakespearean," she apparently stood alone in her admiration of this coinage.

The LSSU respondents also hated two other "Palinesque" usages: "mama grizzly" and "man up." Regarding "man up," one woman commented, and I quote: "A stupid phrase when directed at men and even more stupid when directed at a woman." And a male respondent added: "We had to endure lawyer up.' And now comes man up" a chest-thumping cultural regression fit for frat boys stacking beer glasses."

Politicians generally contribute heavily to the public's linguistic pet peeves. This year, the expression the public most loved to hate was The American People. They preferred, simply, Americans. One respondent wrote: "Aren't all Americans people?" And another wrote: "No one in Washington can pontificate for more than two sentences without using it. Beyond overuse, these speakers imply that all The American People want/expect/demand the same things. But they don't. Worse, these politicians have the audacity to pretend they speak for The American People. But they don't. They sure as heck don't speak for me."

Next to political-speak, the public apparently most dislikes Internet or social media speak. Near the top of the most-hated list, for example, is the expression "going viral," of which one respondent wrote: "This linguistic disease of a term must be quarantined." They also disliked "BFF," for best friends forever, and the ubiquitous copycat expression, "just sayin'." They gave a thumbs-down to Facebook and Google as verbs that is, as facebooking and googling.

Also on the list of "Words Banished from the Queen's English" were "wow factor," "aha moment," and "back story." Of "wow factor," one respondent wrote: "This buzzword is served up with a heap of clich and a side order of irritation." And another wrote that we don't need the expression back story because, quote, "we've had a perfectly good word for this meaning for centuries. That word is history, or, for those who must be weaned, story."

Another pet hate was using epic, which means heroic, majestic, or awe-inspiring, in such constructions as epic problem, epic storm, or epic win. One clever respondent wrote: "The standards for using epic are so low that even awesome is embarrassed."

My conclusion, after studying the list? At the end of the day, we can't refudiate that language is in an epic fail, and that The American People are hungry for fresh expression. Just sayin'.

Paula LaRocque is an Arlington author and writing coach whose latest book, "Chalk Line," is a mystery set in Texas.