Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School


An older version of Grand Theft Auto

In the previous post, I asked you to reply in the comments with your favorite words and phrases. This post will be a bit more negative, because we are considering the language that we hate—examples of logomisia, if you will. Like linguaphilia, logomisia is created from two roots: logos, Greek for “word,” and misia, Greek for “hatred” or “disgust for.” After reading Orwell, Nunberg, and Wallace, you should have a sense of the way language mutates, shifts, and sometimes declines; now it’s your turn to chime in, although the chime might be more of a clarion (or perhaps the bell that this guy is ringing). After the jump, a few ways to situate yourself before replying.

You might begin with the January 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, for which Christopher Hitchens took arms against the placeholder “like”; the comments are interesting, as they are more refined than the usual YouTube detritus. (That last link, by the way, has something to do with our purpose here: Agger classifies and divides YouTube commentary, with hilarious and disturbing results.)  As you might expect, however, not all diatribes are as measured as those in Vanity Fair. Most anger is expressed in the kinds of profanity I could not casually link my students to, even if we are studying language.  I will invite you to seek out those dark corners of the Internet on your own time, with all due precautions. In the rest of this post, I’ll offer you more innocuous waters to travel as you search for the language you love to hate.

Start with this post at Books Blog, a subsection of The Guardian, a British newspaper. The way Philip Wells tears into pulchritude is inspiring invective, indeed (my favorite phrase is “stuffed to the brim with a brutally latinate cudgel of barbaric consonants”), but you’ll gain a lot from the whole article—and even some of the comments that follow.

If poetry isn’t where you wish to fight this battle, you might turn to the Internet, the electronic whipping boy for most contemporary grammatical laments. This post on attacks some of the neologisms from 2007; this NPR story from 2006 tracks the spread of IM slang into everyday English; and this 2007 article in The Wall Street Journal explores the LOLcats meme, including its idiosyncratic butchering of the English language.

Politics offers another source of irritation for linguistics. The junior Bush might have a reputation for misspeaking (and with very, very good reason), but he is certainly not alone. During the presidential campaigns in 2008, The Washington Post ran this story on John McCain’s “rhetorical tic”; not to play favorites, I might also point you toward this Huffington Post dissection of Obama’s rhetorical crutches.

Now it’s your turn. What words or phrases can’t you stand?  As I did before, I’ll offer a list of the links embedded in the preceding paragraphs. Don’t forget to revisit our main authors—Orwell, Nunberg, and Wallace—as well as the previous post’s other texts, many of which offer measured ambivalence about the state of contemporary English.

Let the language-bashing begin!


61 responses to “Logomisia

  1. Chris Smith May 14, 2013 at 10:23 am

    “Fine” – Because you can never be.

  2. Catherine Caputo May 14, 2013 at 11:00 am

    “Moist” There’s no scientific or clever answer for this. I just don’t like the way it rolls off the tongue.

    “Caress” I mean, who says that? That’s another one that makes me cringe.

    • Jess Eminizer May 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      I have always been made uncomfortable by the word moist and I will never understand why. I feel like this is not an unpopular opinion.

    • Chris Smith May 15, 2013 at 10:08 am

      I think that the words might make you uncomfortable because they are associated with sexual predators and uncomfortable situations. The word moist most frequently associates food or the human mouth, which is frequently used for uncomfortable sexual motions. “Caress” is an infrequently used word for gently holding, but it is rarely used by today’s youth frequently, which may subconsciously imply that it is said by a younger person. I think the words may make you uncomfortable due to their sexual connections, but that it is not an uncommon phenomena; Jess Eminizer also pointed this out in her response to your comment. I believe that moist will always have more negative connotations for women, while holding more positive connotations for sexually active participants or the perverse. But that’s just what I’m taking out of it. What do you think?

      • Catherine Caputo May 16, 2013 at 10:14 am

        The fact that you went very in depth with your analysis is commendable, but I really just don’t like that combination of syllables.

  3. Kyle Riccardi May 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    belch- Emit gas noisily from the stomach through the mouth

  4. Colin Cavanagh May 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    I can’t really think of a specific word at the moment, but I do hate when people use “text talk” in real life, like saying “lol” or “lul” when they hear something funny.

  5. Abigail Verille May 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    “Yo” -Do I really need to explain? This word, if you could even call it that, has no meaning.

  6. Victoria Simpri May 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Groggy- dazed, weak, or unsteady, from illness. This word is simply a pet peeve for me.

  7. Tomi Alade May 14, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    “Soump”. This word means nothing and is supposed to be a come-back to an insult. It’s just annoying.

  8. Jessica Lau May 14, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Even though it’s an acronym, “YOLO”. People use it as an excuse to do stupid things. Besides, I was told that “You Only Live Once” is also grammatically incorrect. I also hate words that offend people of a certain race, religion, mental disability, or sexuality. People offend people of those categories everyday in such a casual manner, it angers me inside.

    • Ashleigh Titre-Barnor May 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      I agree with you Jessica that “YOLO” can be very annoying. There are so many new catch phrases or acronyms that will appear out of the blue. “Soump” – “right back at you”, “Pause” – stop, “Swag” – dressed nicely/or good looking. “Ratchet” – (honestly has way too many definitions) “insults to a female”. These words are all over.

  9. Gabriella Maresca May 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    “bro” “(that’s so) clutch” “yo” “(that’s my) ish” “Oh dee”
    Why is it necessary to use these words? Why don’t people use words that actually connect and mean something in a sentence…. I find it very obnoxious.

  10. Ashleigh Titre-Barnor May 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I truly hate the word “armpit”. Armpit, armpit, armpit. No matter how much you say it, you cannot change the sound of armpit. It’ just armpit. It’s an awkward word. As well as “armpit”, any word that pertains to defining a race, labeling or putting someone in a category, I despise.

  11. Marissa Milazzo May 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I’m not going to even supply the definition of this word because it freaks me out.
    No matter what context the word “ooze” is involved in, it will always sound gross or be associated to disgusting substances.

  12. Kait Donohue May 14, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    “Swag”- This word began as a meaning of “cool,” but due to over usage and possibly misusage, it has become one of the most annoying words to me. I hate hearing swag, swaggy, or any swag-related reference. Hearing the word and even watching myself type it makes me cringe.

  13. Jess Eminizer May 14, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    The word ‘puke’ upsets me. The sound of it, the shape of it, the connotations every kid has with it, the nonspecific vulgarity… ugh.

    As for phrases, I cannot for the life of me stand when someone says “I could care less.” if you could care less, it means you care at least a little! It’s so funny the way these word-of-mouth phrases transform beyond repair because no one actually thinks about what they’re saying. The whole concept of phrases and words like that (“for all intensive purposes”, etc.) distresses me a little. More often than not, it’s an honest mistake (much like how I very frequently mispronounce words because I read them but never hear them out loud; I was that guy who said ‘ep-ih-tome’ for years until corrected) but it’s slowly becoming worse and worse among everyone and allowing the insidious apathy that should stay very far away from language to seep in.

    • Bridget Stapleton May 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      “For all intensive purposes.”

      • Kristen Safford May 20, 2013 at 11:56 am

        Jess, I completely agree that phrases like “I could care less” constantly bother me. I think the reason why isn’t necessarily(which is also happens to be a word I despise just because I never seem to spell it right) because of the existence of the phrase but the misuse of it. If someone were to say “I couldn’t care less” then well good for you, but when they say” I could care less” it always slows down the conversation because then I’m thinking about whether they really care or whether they just messed up the saying.

  14. Andrés Jacobs May 14, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    After a bit of thought I would have to say my least favorite word is “impossible.”

    Some things are impossible like growing wings and flying into the setting sun (sorry LaMarck) but impossible used far too often in my opinion. With enough determination and repetition eventually any goal can be achieved. If this isn’t true then I’ve been reading too much One Piece.

    • Chris Smith May 15, 2013 at 10:17 am

      I’m sorry Andres, but I haven’t heard impossible used that frequently. I don’t associate impossible with negative connotations as much as safety; “Surviving that fall would be impossible!” “Nonsense!” A similar word that I despise would be improbable – since there is a chance that your desired outcome could come true, but at a less than optimal chance. “Surviving that fall would be improbable.” “Nonsense!” And then he falls and breaks his legs and spends his days in a wheelchair. But he had a chance, and that chance of success tends to stress m out; I don’t know about anyone else.

    • Will Eckner May 15, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      I don’t know if I dislike the word on its own, but I do mind when people say “you’re impossible” or “he’s impossible.” My favorite response to this is in the “big bang theory” when someone says “You know what, I give up. He’s impossible.” To this Sheldon replies, “I can’t be impossible. I exist. I believe what you meant to say is, ‘I give up, he’s improbable.'”

  15. Andrew Genussa May 15, 2013 at 7:03 am

    I despise the word “khaki” because it descries a color as disgusting as the word. It is a repulsive tan-brownish color. The word itself doesn’t roll of the tounge; it is a sentence stopper. It is harsh and I feel dirty saying it.

    • Chris Smith May 15, 2013 at 10:13 am

      I didn’t even know what this word was, but now I hate it. I loathe racial slurs, but I didn’t think about it when I was choosing my least and most favorite words. I guess I was too absorbed in my own life and vocabulary, and thinking about what words that I heard on a regular basis. But this word is definitely more harmful than the word I thought was my worst. Good choice, and very good reasoning.

      • Chris Smith May 15, 2013 at 10:31 am

        I didn’t know you were talking about the pants and not a racial slur. My bad. I completely misinterpreted that comment; I am sorry. Wow, I’m stupid. Sorry about that.

  16. Jamie DiBella May 15, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Ain’t- Contradiction to am not, is not, are not, etc…
    I hate this word simply because it is not proper English and (in my opinion) it sounds quite irritating. I personally feel that anybody who uses this term frequently needs to go back to basic grammar school.

  17. McKenzie Callahan May 15, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Naughty- The word is creepy and makes me feel so uncomfortable

  18. Briana Beach May 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

    I despise the word “nigg*r.” I hate the word for what it means, and how it sounds also. It just sounds wrong, and when I think of the word, a disgusted look comes to my face. I can’t help it.

    “Hock a loogy” also thoroughly repulses me. How it sounds coming out of someone’s mouth and the actual action of spitting out the mucus in the back of your throat.

  19. Autumn Martin May 15, 2013 at 10:41 am

    “Sketch”- Aside from the meanings of this word pertaining to a type of art medium, the word sketch holds a few slang denotations as well. Our generation often uses this word to describe a situation or person that makes them uncomfortable. Sometimes, people use this word to describe a person who they feel are “dirty” or not intellectual. In essence, I feel like this word has been given a bad reputation because it is most commonly used to put others down by creating a superficial state of inferiority disguised under the word “sketch”.

  20. Georgia West May 15, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Viscous- I hate the definition (having a thick, sticky consistency between solid and liquid), and I hate the images it brings to mind. I picture the iridescent sludge left behind by a traveling snail. Blegh. Also, I can never spell it correctly on the first try.

  21. Jessica Jackson May 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    “kerfuffle” meaning a commotion of fuss
    “Phlegm” meaning the thick viscous substance secreted from the mucus membrane.
    Phlegm is just gross because of it describes and it even sounds like it is, and kerfuffle makes my throat feel weird and it sounds like something you would call a cat.

  22. Conor Mitts May 15, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Soon. To most people this may seem weird but I despise this word, probably for the connotations that I associate with it. Soon is supposed to me whatever is being talked about takes place or is happening in a short amount of time. However I have come to know it to mean I don’t know when we get there. All my friends always say there gonna be there soon. I always find myself waiting for hours and hours for soon to come. I need an exact amount of time don’t tell me soon.

  23. Amanda Rizzotti May 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Pus. The definition itself repulses me ( A thick yellowish or greenish liquid produced in infected tissue). The way that the word itself is formed and the connotations associated with it are too much for me to bear.

    The other word that I truly can’t stand is “panties.” The way it rolls off the tongue is awkward and uncomfortable. I just couldn’t picture myself/ anyone using this in real conversation. It makes me cringe just thinking about it.

  24. Lindsey Ragan May 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Ointment. Not sure what’s worse; the way it rolls off the tongue or the images it implies. Just the way your mouth has to form to sound it out makes me uncomfortable. Not to mention if you’re using ointment I’m going to assume you have a repulsive rash, infection, defect, etc.

  25. Avery Pan May 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Specifically, there are no words that I genuinely dislike. It’s often not the word itself or the sound of the word that annoys me, but the way it’s used. It’s common, especially among teenagers, to misuse words, or use them out of context. This is what pushes my buttons. The word ‘literally’ is used hundreds of times throughout the day, but most likely used correctly only half of the time. More often than not, the person does not ‘literally’ mean what he/she is saying. “I literally want to kill myself right now,” is a perfect example of a commonly used phrase that is usually incorrect. The majority of time, most of us are not seriously, or literally (or hopefully) debating killing ourselves.

  26. Danielle O'Brien May 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    My least favorite word is “fickle”-changing frequently with regards to one’s loyalty and interests. I don’t like this word because of its definition, its definition implies a person is not trustworthy and lacks core values because they keep on changing based on what is popular.

  27. Daniel DePaoli May 15, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    I hate it when people use the word, “can’t.” I know that’s a cheesy thing to say, but if a person isn’t willing to do something, then there is always someone out there who is.

    My least favorite phrase ever is, “Don’t yes me to death.” My dad says it to me all the time when he’s talking to me about improvement and I say, “okay.” I don’t know what else a person is supposed to say besides that. It drives me crazy. There’s no way to win. Remain silent and you’re being weird, and say yes and you get in trouble.

  28. Sara Lavelle May 16, 2013 at 10:17 am

    I very much dislike the word “show”. The word is equivalent to calling something good. To me, it’s a below simple word which can be replaced by something better. Also, in Middle School, I was repeatedly told that using the word show was unacceptable in writing (along with starting a sentence with the word “this”).

  29. Joseph Oliveri May 16, 2013 at 11:39 am

    I can’t really think of a word I actually dislike, but I’d like to draw attention to the overuse of the word “literally”; think about how many times a day people use it, in the completely wrong context, and how, most of the time, isn’t even intended as hyperbole. After realizing this, I’ve made an effort to use it only in instances in which its completely appropriate.

  30. Colin Cavanagh May 16, 2013 at 11:40 am

    One word which I really dislike is “fake,” but only when it is being used to describe a person i.e “She’s so fake.” You can call a person a liar, you can say they are misleading, but regardless of how they act they are still a real person. Maybe it’s just because of the connotations that go along with it, especially in a high school environment, but I hate the designation of anyone as “fake.”

  31. Liam Lonegan May 16, 2013 at 11:43 am

    “Hubby,” used to reference the subject’s husband, really makes me cringe. It is one pet name that I don’t think should ever be used. Ever. Maybe because it is too “cutesy” of a word to represent such a serious union? I’m not sure.

  32. Conor Mitts May 16, 2013 at 11:48 am

    “We need to talk” or “I have a question” are probably two of the worst phrases you can hear. It always worries me and a million thoughts pop into my mind of what this could possible be about. The worst part of it is the anticipation those phrases bring. Its the worst thing your significant other can say.

  33. Colin Cavanagh May 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I also hate the term “finna.” It’s stupid and it doesn’t make any sense and I just hate the way it sounds. Also, it doesn’t help that it’s usually used by people who are about to do stupid things, like “finna get arrested tonight!”

  34. Will Kelmenson May 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Apparently, “um” is considered an actual word as it is defined in dictionaries. It rarely serves any purpose in speech or writing, however.

  35. Darren Daughtry Jr. May 17, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I don’t like the word “normal” because every person has a different definition of what something “normal” is. If everyone has their own definition of “normal” then is anything “normal”?

  36. Briana Beach May 17, 2013 at 10:19 am

    “Literally” “Legit” “Like”
    I would say I don’t like these words because I use them too much. When explaining anything I can’t get around these words without talking slower. Also, many people, including myself, don’t realize how much they use these words daily, in every explanation and every sentence.

    • Nick Santamaria May 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      I completely agree with you on the word “like” I think we are all guilty of using it way too much and I hate it when people use it as a crutch with almost every other word being “like”

      • Kristen Safford May 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm

        I often times find myself using ‘like’ in random places when I’m talking and it’s a major pet peeve of mine. I also don’t like ‘literally”, but only because people often misuse it. For example, when someone is exaggerating a story they will say “they literally ____” but usually what they are saying didn’t actually happen.

  37. Colin Cavanagh May 17, 2013 at 11:51 am

    “Why are you in a bad mood?”
    I hate when people ask me this, because I’m usually not in a bad mood when they ask me and the fact that they did ask me actually puts me in a bad mood. Some people seem to think that if a person isn’t bouncing-off-the-walls happy then they are in a bad mood, which is most certainly not the case, and there’s nothing that annoys me more when I’m not in a bad mood than being asked “Why are you in a bad mood?”

  38. Nick Santamaria May 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    I find when people mispronounce words such as “ask” (as axe), library (as libary) or especially (with an “x”) it is really annoying. You cannot “axe a question” and you’re not going to the “libary.” Also when the phrase “for all intents and purposes” is said as “intensive purposes.” Intensive means “of, relating to, or characterized by intensity” so are these purposes you’re referring to particularly intense? These are all common mistakes that really bother me.

  39. Joey Blasco May 21, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I find the word “like” very bothersome whenever it is used as a crutch or filler in normal conversation similar to “um” or “uh.”

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