Monday, October 12, 2009

"Whatever" & other annoying conversational destroyers -- by Sybil Adelman Sage

A recent poll taken by Marist College to determine which words are most annoying in conversation showed that the winner — well, actually, the loser — getting 47% of the vote was "whatever" (pronounced WHAT-ev-err). It beat out "you know," which irritates 25% of the respondents, "it is what it is" (11%), "anyway" (7%) and "at the end of the day" (2%). Conspicuously missing for me was "like," a longtime favored verbal tic in the younger set.

I may be more prickly than the Marist respondents because my list is longer than theirs. I’m agitated by the use of "frankly" and "quite frankly," typically inserted before the third clause of a construction and never introducing anything more revealing or shocking than what preceded it. Even more disturbing to me is the recurring use of "sort of," overwhelmingly a favorite of academics, wroters and pundits on cable news networks or NPR. "Sort of" seems to be the adult version of "like," used to sound more informal and, judging by their frequency of usage, both have an addictive component.

At the risk of sounding Andy Rooneyish, what’s the deal with the nodding response, that repeated bobbing up and down of the head by the listener, followed by, "OK"?

Have these all been introduced by one person with a huge social network? And what causes them to go viral? I

propose we fight the national debt by creating a category known as "communication offenses" and fining the guilty.

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