Ten Most Overused, Irritating & Abused Words and Phrases
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Ten Most Overused, Irritating & Abused Words and Phrases

The most irritating and overused words and phrases include dude, man up, it's all good, get a life, taxpayer, a concerned citizen, get a job, it's not rocket science, with all due respect and whatever.

Certain words and phrases have been overused and abused by society today. Many have overstayed their welcome while others were never welcome in the first place. Here are ten words/phrases that have been used ad nauseum in recent years and should be consigned to the dustbin of history – or at the very least employed with some kind of restraint.

1. Dude

This rather offensive four-letter word was first seen in print in 1870 in Putnam's Magazine. A pot-smoking Peter Fonda and an equally spaced-out Sean Penn both use the word "dude" in Easy Rider (1969) and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), respectively. In recent years, "dude" has permeated our society like the bubonic plague, seemingly used and abused by a vast segment of our society. It's most common among youth – as in "Hey dude, you goin' to class today?" – but has been adopted by many older people as well who erroneously believe that its use somehow makes them look and sound younger and/or hipper. "Dude" is no fountain of youth, but merely a barren, overworked piece of refuse whose true home rests in the linguistics garbage disposal.

Sean Penn as surfing dude Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) - Universal Pictures

2. Man Up

This quaint, macho phrase has collared a lot of use recently, mainly in the political arena. Former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is one of its chief practitioners, but other politicos, business types, authors and even academics have voiced it from time to time. "He needs to man up and accept responsibility," is a popular refrain these days, oftentimes regurgitated with fury at some unfortunate male who failed to measure up. "Man up" – what's next, "woman up," "child up," etc.? – may have its place, but it better be big John Wayne doing the talking in one of his western movies, pilgrim.

3. It's All Good  

This particular phrase defies all logic. It's usually voiced by some cretin who's downed too many Keystone beers on the steps of his dilapidated house. "Hey buddy, it's all good," he declares, wiping the foam from his mouth. What's all good? Tornadoes, hurricanes, disease, child abuse, corruption, fraud, the Great Recession, war, famine, poverty? It ain't all good!

4. Get a Life

The putdown phrase "Get a life" has been floating around for decades now, seeing a lot of usage on the so-called reality TV shows. "Get a life! Get a life!" the audience yells on Jerry Springer. Actually, it's not a bad term, but the word "life" needs a modifier. How about "Get a meaningful life" or "Get a wonderful life" or even "Get a crappy life," something with a little more spirit, eh? I actually heard the term at a funeral home one time. "Donny should get a life," one woman declared. Well, if Donny was a no-show, I'm sure the old guy resting in the casket would be a willing substitute.

5. Taxpayer

This catch-all word is a favorite of those courageous folks who write anonymous letters to the editor. Rather than sign their names – and thus take responsibility for their own ravings – they opt to use the moniker "Taxpayer," as if that term affords them some kind of unique, vaunted status. Seriously, we all pay taxes in some form – General Electric and other big corporations excluded of course – so it's hardly a cult of the chosen few. Even a two-year-old who buys a bag of Gummy Bears at a convenience store is a taxpayer for cryin' out loud, having just shelled out a few cents in sales tax.

6. A Concerned Citizen 

"A Concerned Citizen" is the alter ego of "Taxpayer." Like the latter, it gets a lot of usage from anonymous letter writers to newspapers. "I think we should go to the Mideast and take all their damn oil - (signed) A Concerned Citizen." And perhaps "A Concerned Citizen" would like to lead the banzai charge? In reality, the term is an oxymoron, as anyone who takes the time to write is obviously "concerned" about something.

7. Get a Job

The doo-wop group the Silhouettes made their signature song "Get a Job" a number one hit in February 1958. But the putdown phrase "Get a job" has probably been around since Roman times. "Quit fiddling around with that chariot and get a job," some Roman mom or dad probably told their wayward son in 44 B.C. Win the lottery some time – say, a $250 million jackpot – and then you will own the ultimate putdown reply to this irritating, authoritative line. "Hey, I don't need a damn job!"

8. It's Not Rocket Science

"Anyone can do this, it's not rocket science" is a popular refrain today. That expression or putdown, of course, should be made by only those who can claim an expertise in rocket science, for in order to make an accurate comparison one has to be schooled in the latter. Thus, the next time you hear the old "rocket science" analogy, politely ask to see the speaker's credentials, which better include a Ph.D in astrophysics from MIT, Stanford or some other institution of higher learning. 

9. With All Due Respect

Anyone on the receiving end of this overworked phrase is probably getting precious little of what Aretha Franklin so eloquently spelled out in her 1967 hit, namely R-E-S-P-E-C-T. "With all due respect" is one of the major putdowns out there, a double-edged sword intended to insult and decapitate – with all due respect, of course.

10. Whatever 

Do you want to go the beach? Whatever. How about a pizza? Whatever. Aren't you kids supposed to be in school? Whatever. The world will end in two minutes! Whatever. The term "whatever" – a synonym for "I don't care" – actually won a contest of sorts in 2009. In a Marist poll 47% of Americans chose "whatever" as the most annoying phrase in the English language. "You know" garnered 25%, followed by "it is what it is" at 11%, "anyway" at 7% and "at the end of the day" at 2%.

So there you have it, dudes. Man up, get a life, get a job – it's not rocket science for crissakes! – because it's all good - With all due respect, A Concerned Citizen, Taxpayer or Whatever...

Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

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Comments (3)

An interesting article William. I have heard all of these many time but had never given much thought as to how they got started. The truth is that I have used many of them myself. I have never found them especially offensive but now you have me reevaluating some of them.

I like this... and I am printing this out to keep... Thanks!

I'd like to add another overused couple of words: "Ten most". Just sayin'.