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10 Words/Phrases You Cannot Use. Ever.
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
I'm usually very tolerant when a kid loses it in public — being a parent, I recognize that even the best behaved child will have at least one major meltdown at dinner, in the theatre, at the grocery store. While nobody likes to hear the squalling and shrieking, there is a social contract that dictates that everybody needs to bear the outburst with civility and equanimity and cut the kid a little slack.
That is, unless the numbskull parent doesn't recognize that after a minute or so of ungodly screaming it's incumbent upon the caretaker to get the brat the hell out of there. If the tantrum escalates and the parent insists on disciplining right there, in front of dozens of on-lookers, well, all bets are off. Social graces can only extend so far.
Last week, at a trendy Indy breakfast joint, I saw a kid go nuts and the thirtyish-mother took forever to make it right. A full three minutes of crying and pouting carried on before the mother finally snapped. She grabbed the kid by the coat, bent down, got right in his face, and instead of saying "Knock it off!" or "Stop it!," she said, "You are making such Bad Choices!"
Good Lord, I thought, she's playing the "choices" card. Nobody likes to have their parenting skills called into question, but anybody who tells a two-year old that he needs "to make better choices" needs to have her head examined. Obviously the mother subscribes to the new-age theory of parenting that believes that telling a brat to quit acting like a brat is psychologically damaging and harmful and will cause years of expensive therapy down the road. Which is, of course, of zero concern to the 30 patrons who merely wanted to have a pleasant brunch without having a toddler's trauma dominate the atmosphere. Instantly my desire to smack the kid was replaced by a desire to smack the mother.
It was the phrase that got to me, more than the outburst. There are some words that trigger such instant disgust on my part that I'm susceptible to the blackest and most murderous of thoughts. "Choices" is a big one — whenever I hear that word used, I immediately think the worst of the person who speaks it.
There are dozens of popular catch-phrases that achieve the same result — as soon as I hear them, I think: I hate you. Thank God, "You go, girl!" and "Talk to the hand" have been rendered all but obsolete, yet there are still a number of 2010 expressions that cause the same fury from me. Here then, is a list of the ten most hackneyed and annoying phrases/words currently in common usage.
1) "Get your drink/dance/freak/whatever ON."
There are few things more excruciating that ultra-white people who use popular rap/street language for supposed ironic or comical effect. After Missy Elliott's metallic groove "Get Ur Freak On" broke in 2001, the "on" thing wafted its way from its hip hop origins and into the suburbs. The phrase is used to describe virtually any activity or current status — "I'm getting drunk" becomes "I'm gettin my drink on," "I'm at the car wash" becomes "I'm getting my car wash on," etc. If you have been diagnosed with lupus, apparently you're "getting your lupus on."
2) "He just doesn't get it."
This casual, mildly exasperated dismissal seems inoffensive at first glance until you recognize the inherent condescension and self-centeredness. To a pure narcissist, any form of disagreement is immediately labeled "incomprehension" and further debate is summarily dismissed. The rigidity of thought paralyzes judgment and shows a real blindness to intellectual rigor. Whenever I get this phrase thrown at me, I always respond the same: "Actually, I do 'get' it. I just reject it."
3) "Bucket List."
Besides being the title of a piece-o'-crap 2007 Rob Reiner movie, this phrase identifies a bewildering social phenomenon--the "before you die" scoresheet. Apparently your life isn't complete unless you skydive, climb K2, go to Lambeau Field, sleep with a supermodel. After you've checked off the experiences, you're ready for your final reward. This is a philosophy I can't abide. Most great memories in life come from the unpredictable, usually while you're doing the boring, day-to-day stuff. Trying to schedule a transcendent moment into your life is the height of folly — you never realize the truly important events in your life until much later.
A good rule of thumb: if George W. Bush uses a rap/hip hop phrase in a TV interview, it's probably a good idea to never allow the word to pass your lips. (GWB on Kanye West, for those of you keeping score.) People who habitually use "hater" to describe the vast armies of personal enemies out there are delusional — nobody cares about your life that much. It's high school, narcissistic thinking--any tiny bit of negativity or disagreement is perceived as a "hater" attack. The truth is, the world is more full of "Who gives a shiters?" than "haters."
5) "Moving forward."
The go-to phrase for anybody who's been busted for bad behavior in a very public way — rather than focus on the salacious and prurient misdeeds, put a bow on it and talk about "moving forward" and the future. The problem is, nobody else wants to "move forward" — we want to hear the salacious and prurient misdeeds.
Not to be overly cynical here, but why is it that the groups that champion the concept of "empowerment" are not-for-profits that have absolutely no real-world power to affect any change themselves? If I were more conspiratorily minded, I'd swear that "empowering" initiatives were designed by fat cats to further enslave the disaffiliated — have your little seminar/workshops, girls, and get out of the way.
7) "Just sayin'."
A tag-line used to back off from a confrontational statement in case somebody's feelings get hurt. It's total passive-aggressive stuff, and cowardly — you want to rip into somebody, yet you don't want anybody to think you're a prick. It's like people who preface a character assassination with "Bless his heart" — "Bless his heart, but he's the stupidest SOB I've ever met." Just say it, for heaven's sakes.
8) "A sexy match-up."
This is a sports euphemism that further proves that sportscasters are at heart dorkwads of the highest order. "The Oregon-Auburn game is the sexiest match-up of the bowl season," etc. Sporting events can be compelling, exciting, newsworthy. Sexy? Please shop for another adjective.
9) "Man up," or "Cowboy up."
I have no problem with masculinity per se, but macho posturing and drill-sergeant exhortations make me cringe. And the cowboy thing? Are there any cowboys still in existence? What century is it, anyway? (On a side note, I would like to say that I think the much-derided "Man down!" cop thing is always funny out of context.)
10) "What's the takeaway?"
A business cliche that has moved into the popular lexicon, sort of a post-modern "What's the big picture?" Not truly offensive in it's natural state, but when it gets used to describe a kid's soccer game, the grocery list, predicted weather forecasts, it becomes ridiculous. There is no takeaway from a music lesson or last night's dinner.