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#sowhoknew: Everyday phrases we ‘literally’ love to hate

“You know what, I’m not going to lie, to be totally honest, I just have to say, come on guys, we are literally like unpacking the fact that these phrases drive us crazy!” A recent poll in the Mail Online questioned which everyday words, phrases and idioms drive us insane and the list of suggestions was gargantuan…

Now I’ve had a thing about business buzzwords and corporate bulls**t for some time. I’ve written several articles about it and even co-authored a book with my cohort Mike Adams about a fictitious character who only ever speaks in BS phrases (cheap and gratuitous plug – it’s out later this year from all good bookstores and even a few rubbish ones). It seems that many of the same inane phrases from the business World are now beginning to pervade our everyday language as well. So I’ve compiled a list of some of my ‘favourites’ (aka most reviled) from the ones suggested for the Mail Online article with my own take on why we despise them so much:

1. Literally, is like quite literally, the most annoying and overused word. Literally. And the truth is, rarely is it literally literal. For example when someone says something like: “wow that movie quite literally blew my mind”. Well clearly it didn’t blow your mind or else we would be picking up bits of grey matter from all over the cinema auditorium floor

2. Like, is like, you know, like the best friend of literally. Like, it’s literally always used in the same, like, sentence. Like, wow, that movie quite literally blew my mind. Me no like like.

3. At this moment in time – you mean ‘now’ then?

4. Do you know what – always used at the beginning of a sentence and always irrelevant because of course I don’t know what you’re about to say because I can’t actually read peoples minds

5. I’m not gonna lie or its very close friend To be honest – why do you feel the need to tell me that you are not going to lie? It just makes me think that when you don’t use that phrase that you were probably lying about everything else you said previously or are going to say in future (if I’m being honest).

6. At the end of the day – you mean in the evening then?

7. Let’s do this! – always used quite excitedly when you are about to do something which is most likely tediously dull, such as going to the gym or start decorating the back bedroom

8. So – a totally unnecessary sentence opener which is often followed by a deep pause which builds expectation that you are going to say something profoundly interesting but invariably is desperately dull – “so…………… what did you do this weekend?”

9. Like I said – why is it that whenever I hear anyone use this expression at the beginning of what they are about to say it soon becomes clear that they have never said anything like it previously which pretty much negates the use of the expression does it not?

10. Is it just me or – always a sure fire guarantee that the opinion of the person saying it is indeed in a minority of one

11. Forward planning – as opposed to what? Backward planning? Sideways planning? A little wiggle to the left and then a sharp turn to the right planning?

12. Basically – it’s meant to convey that the person saying it has a grasp of the situation or concept and is dumbing it down so that the people who didn’t get it will now miraculously understand it now that they have explained it. Mansplaining often incorporates copious usage of the word basically or, its close cousin, fundamentally.

13. Ticks all the boxes – I hadn’t realised that there was a questionnaire that went with this discussion. Where do I get the form? Is it online? And what were the questions raised? Is it multiple choice? Hmm, it turns out to be none of the above.

14. Speaking personally – I don’t know about you but I always speak personally. Mainly because it’s me saying it and it doesn’t get much more personal than that. And the alternative? Not speaking personally? So you are pretending to be someone else? I’d increase the dosage of your psych meds if I were you.

15. To die for – as in “that sticky toffee pudding was to die for”. Hmm, now I’m pretty partial to an STP but I can honestly say that I have never eaten one that I thought was worth shuffling off my mortal coil for.

16. I’d give my right arm for that – but what if you want to be a basketball player?

17. No worries – a delightful Aussie term which has been bastardised by the World to imply that they have no problem with what you just did or said. The chances are though that they really did have a problem with what you just did or said.

18. Very unique – look it’s either unique or it’s not. The are no grades of uniqueness. It’s the same with being pregnant. You can’t be very pregnant. Which reminds me, why do some couples say “we’re pregnant”. Unless I missed something in biology I’m fairly certain that only the female part of the union can actually be pregnant.

19. Think outside the box – where is this box? And why is it more important to think outside this box rather than inside it, on top of it or even underneath it?

20.  I’m good – all that I asked was if you wanted a drink and you then tell you, somewhat conceitedly I might add, that you are good. A simple, “no thanks” would be sufficient with no requirement to let me know if you are good, bad or indeed ugly.

21. Free gift – aren’t gifts always free? If you have to pay for it then surely it isn’t a gift any more? At best it’s a discounted purchase. Unless the gift has strings attached. Which reminds me, why should it have strings attached unless it’s a puppet or a kite? Am I reading too much into this? Maybe it’s time for me to stop this now…

So there is my little listicle of the everyday words and phrases that we simply love to hate. So do you have any to add to the list?

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.