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So annoying, like

Blog | By Gyles Brandreth | Jun 17, 2019


I have been sitting by the telephone waiting for the people from Love Island to call, but, so far, nothing. Not a peep. It can’t be that I’m not buff. I think it’s my vocabulary.

To be a Love Island star you’ve not simply got to be gorgeous to look at: you also need a certain way with words - like “like” has got to be on the tip of your tongue every time you say anything, like. Last week on Love Island, luscious Amy was being a tad critical of marvellous Molly. Said Amy: “Molly was like ‘oh he’s my type’ and I’m like ‘no, sorry, you’ve already got two’. It’s like three out of seven boys.”

Those who study these things looked at last year’s Love Island, like, and in one episode counted the word ’like’ being used 76 times in under five minutes. Among the young, ‘like’ is the go-to word of choice. I was on the bus the other day and overheard a teenage schoolboy tell his friend: ‘I was like a bit late like, not like a lot late like, just a bit like late, but he like just went like ballistic, you know like, really like totally mad. It was terrible like.’

Like it or not, ‘like’ has become to the lazy linguistic filler of our times. It’s not the only one, of course. There’s ‘um’ and ‘er’ and ‘I mean’, as well: sounds, words and phrases that serve no useful purpose, get in the way of what you want to say, and can be very, very irritating.

Listening to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 not long ago, every one of eight consecutive interviewees began their first answer with either the word ‘Well’ or the word ‘So’. It’s so annoying – and, well, unnecessary. I didn’t watch last night’s Channel 4 ‘debate’ between some of the Conservative leadership candidates (I was working - someone’s got to), but I understand the delightful Rory Stewart irritated some viewers with his overuse of the word ‘So…’ at the start of his answers.

I am currently watching a bit more TV than usual because I’m taking part in the C4 series, Celebrity Gogglebox. I’m loving it because I’m doing it with my friend Sheila Hancock, who is highly intelligent, very funny and just the best company. Together we are watching programmes we wouldn’t normally watch. (I’m now hooked on Naked Attraction.) One of the things we are both marvelling at is the profusion of bad language on TV in 2019. Never mind ‘like’ and ‘so’: every other word seems to be ‘fuck’. (Go to Catch-up and catch up with last Friday’s Celebrity Gogglebox and you’ll even hear Sheila talking about ‘cocks’!)

In my book, bad language includes not only the traditional swear words, but also the words we use all the time, but don’t need to – like ‘like’ and ‘I mean’ between every other word, and ‘well’ and ‘so’ at the start of every sentence, as well as ‘fucking’ as a relentless adjective - eg ‘fucking brilliant, mate!’. I am also tired of the fashionable words that, while useful when apposite, have become debased through overuse: ‘iconic’, ‘nuanced’, ‘stakeholders’, ‘authentic’, and ‘passionate’ are five of my particular bugbears. These days, maintaining the current ‘discourse’ (another horror) appears impossible without them.

Different over-used words and phrases annoy different people. On the Channel 4 words-and-number game Countdown, contestants have to ask one of the presenters, Rachel Riley, to select their letters and numbers for them. Before the recording the contestants are given written guidance which states: ‘When requesting letters or numbers from Rachel please avoid using the expression “Can I get” as it generates a large number of complaints from viewers.’ Of course, it does. It drives them mad. It drives me mad. My children do it in restaurants. ‘Can I get the chorizo?’ they say. I suppose they could go out to the kitchen to get it, but that’s generally not the way the system works. ‘Can I have?’ or ‘May I have?’ is correct. ‘Can I get?’ is wrong, wrong, WRONG.

To get you going, here is my catalogue of the most annoying words and turns of phrase in current usage. These are mine. Basically (yes, that’s another one), I’ve had enough of them. (You’ll have your own: feel free to share them with me on Twitter. I’m @GylesB1. I think, too, we ought to have a discussion about all this on the wordy podcast I do with my friend, lexicographer Susie Dent. It’s called Something Rhymes With Purple.)

Okay, here goes with my pet hates. I’ve listed them in no particular order - and allowed myself a brief comment after each one in italic, like.

I’m good

Really?

That’s so random

Is it?

Whatever

Go away

Have a nice day

You said that without thinking, didn’t you?

Do you know what?

I’m about to find out, aren’t I?

Back in the day

What’s wrong with ‘Once’ or ‘In the past’?

Going forward

What’s wrong with ‘From now on’ or ‘In future’?

Upcoming

What’s wrong with ‘Forthcoming’?

Tick all the boxes

Must you?

Speaking personally

Must you?

I, personally

Who else is there?

I have to say

Do you?

Gutted

I hope not

I was sat

Don’t you mean, ‘I was sitting’?

I was stood

Don’t you mean, ‘I was standing’?

Absolutely

What’s wrong with ‘Yes’?

Met with

What’s wrong with ‘Met’?

Cook down / Boil off

What’s wrong with ‘Cook’ and ‘Boil’?

Oftentimes

What’s wrong with ‘Often’?

Ahead of

I think you mean ‘Before’

Go figure

No thank you

Comfortable in their own skins

Who else’s skins were they going to be in?

Keep calm and . . .

Stop! It was fun to start with: now it’s just another overused cliché

Kickstart

What’s wrong with ‘Start’?

Cray, cray

I think the word is ‘crazy’

Filling forms out

You fill them in, don’t you?

HR

Are humans really ‘resources’? What was wrong with ‘personnel’?

Safe haven

If it’s a haven, it’s safe

Blue-sky thinking

Oh dear

Don’t go there

Now I really want to

Let’s be absolutely clear

I’m about to muddy the waters

To be absolutely honest with you

I don’t believe you!

Forward planning

As opposed to ‘backward planning’?

Step up to the plate

What’s all that about?

Park up

What’s wrong with ‘park’?

Pre-planned

I think you mean ‘planned’

Pushback

Do you miss ‘resist’?

Fashionista

Not in vogue

Factor in

What’s wrong with ‘include’?

From the get-go

What’s wrong with ‘the start’?

Outside of

We don’t need that ‘of’, thank you

Off of

As in ‘I got off of the table’ – we don’t need that ‘of’ either, thanks

Are you all right there?

Did you mean, ‘May I help you?’

We need to call them out

What exactly do you mean?

No offence, but . . .

Warning: I’m about to be offensive

See you later

But you’re never going to see me again

Specialty

The word is ‘Speciality’

It is what it is

Is it really?

With all due respect

I have none for you, that’s a given

Irregardless

I think you mean ‘Regardless’, but perhaps you mean ‘Irrespective’?

Pacifically

I think you mean ‘Specifically’

Partially

I think you mean ‘Partly’

(‘Partially’ means taking sides, as opposed to ‘impartially’)

Referencing

Do you mean ‘referring to’?

Just saying

Do you have to?

Ballpark figure

Where or what’s a ‘ballpark’?

Lockdown

Where’s that come from?

Bang on trend

So last year

Completely unique

‘Unique’ is all you need

What’s not to like?

A great deal

Where it’s at

Where’s that exactly?

Aficianado

What do you know really?

I’ve a window in my diary

I’m looking out onto the garden through mine

My bad

Not good

I have to say . . .

Oh no, you don’t

I hear what you’re saying

But I’m not really listening

Totes

Don’t you mean ‘Totally’?

Listen up

Do you mean ‘Listen’ or ‘Pay attention’?

Free gift

Yup, it’s free: it’s a gift: it doesn’t need to be both

Pre-order

If you’ve paid for it, you’ve ordered it

Political grandee

Ah, either someone you’ve never heard of or someone who’s past it

Celebrity

Someone you’ve never heard of

Should of

I think you mean ‘Should have’

For free

It’s either ‘free’ or it isn’t

At this moment in time

Now

At the end of the day

When’s that exactly?

Take it to the next level

Do we have to?

Sorry, not sorry

Please – spare me!

No-brainer

You said it

Awesomesauce

That’s even worse than ‘Amazeballs’

Wow! Just wow!

Enough already

You owned it

Oh no!

You nailed it

No! No!

Literally

No! No! No!

To die for

Really?

Your call is important to us

Fuck off

Via Twitter, Bernard Pearson has reached out to me and come up with these extra suggestions for our list. I’d say he’s smashed it, wouldn’t you?

I'm loving it

challenging environment

Win Win - (it's what horses do)

Passionate about my job in stationery

You’re alright (How the Dickens do you know)

Death of Democracy (it's an ideal, not your pet cat)

Top Priority (What's your bottom priority)

I'm cool about it. aaaaargh !!!

For more from Gyles's brilliant blog, click here.