Crutch Words

We all have crutch words, and they probably say something beyond what they say:

Crutch words are those expressions we pepper throughout our language as verbal pauses, and sometimes as written ones, to give us time to think, to accentuate our meaning (even when we do so mistakenly), or just because these are the words that have somehow lodged in our brains and come out on our tongues the most, for whatever reason. Quite often, they do little to add meaning, though. Sometimes we even use them incorrectly. Almost always, we don’t need them at all, which doesn’t mean we won’t persist in using them. Here’s our list of frequently used crutches, and what your crutch of choice has to reveal about you.

Like… actually… as it were…basically… in a weird way … um… for what it’s worth…seriously…honestly… literally.

What are your pet peeve crutch words?

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  • Derek

    “you know” It is so insidious that I’ve been known to use it and I can”t stand it…. You know.

  • Josh Rowley

    “To be completely honest…obviously…needless to say…and so…it is what it is….”

  • Dennis

    this is one reason why i am “old school” about sermons — writing out my thoughts instead of relying on crutch words.

  • Jeff Palmberg

    How about “prayer crutch words”?

    just… Father God… Lord…

  • Wyatt Roberts

    “What amazed me was what happened after Christianity Today published the article. Literally.” ~ Scot McKnight :)

  • Keith Irwin

    My biggest pet peeve crutch word is “in essence.” I had a teacher in high school who overused this. In essence, it made up about 50% of her vocabulary.

  • scotmcknight

    Wyatt, ????

  • Larry S

    I work in Community Corrections supervising offenders.

    I hate it when I hear “to be completely honest ….” or “honestly….” Hearing that always makes me wonder about all the other things that were said …. was all that less than honest?

  • Sam Ochstein

    Lord, we just ask you to be with us today, Lord, because, Lord, you are such a great and awesome God, Lord, who loves us, Lord, and we ask for your blessing, Lord, and to help us worship you, Lord, in Spirit and and in truth, Lord, just as you said, Lord . . . Lord … LORD ….. LORD …. I can’t stand it when “Lord” becomes the comma in people’s prayers!!!!!!

  • DRT

    Mine all center around the same concept

    in essence….essentially….in the end….

    Keith Irwin would not like me…in essence.

  • John W Frye

    …other than that…

  • Ron Newberry

    In a prayer when every other word is “Father”. Drives me insane.

  • Ron Newberry

    Or, in a sermon when the end of every sentence is “Amen?”

  • Wyatt Roberts

    I’m sorry, Scot. I was trying to be clever. Please delete my comment.

  • DAK

    I teach ESL and supervise ESL teaching assistants (TAs) at a Big 10 university. One of my duties is observing TAs teach, and “ok” punctuates many of their verbal exchanges. “Ok, this is the subject in the sentence, ok? And this is the verb, ok? So, if this is the verb, this must be the object, ok? So we have a subject-verb-object word order, ok?…” I realize this starts out as some feeble form of comprehension check with the students, but it basically becomes a tag at the end of almost every sentence. And it is not isolated to TAs. I have observed several faculty doing the same thing, and if I don’t attend to my speech while teaching, I can fall into the pattern too. So, that is one of the major crutch words I encounter on a daily basis, ok?

  • Pat

    Low-hanging fruit

  • Brad Boydston

    Excited by the storm cell that was dumping its load, someone exclaimed to me as he got inside the building, “It’s literally raining cats and dogs out there!”

  • Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

    I once car pooled with a young woman who ended every sentence with “so…”

    Does that count? It drove me crazy.

  • Jerrine Regan

    I find it really annoying when people begin an interview with, “I mean…” They haven’t even said anything yet, so they don’t have anything to clarify…

  • Mike M

    Heard a newly graduated AG pastor who used “can I get an Amen?” so frequently it finally dawned on me that he was using the 3 second pause to regather his thoughts and remember what came next. I assume he learned the technique in seminary school.

  • MikeK

    “Sorry” is such a sorry word…

  • phil_style

    Everything is now a simile apparently, given the excessive reliance on the word “like”. (i.e. I was like, “no way”).

    Everything that’s not a simile (as above) is literal, even when it should only be metaphoric. “I literally died from laughing”.

    And everyone seems to feel the need “to be fair” – even when they are about to be unfair. Or “to be honest” when they are about to offer up some unsubstantiated opinion.

  • Paul W

    Larry S

    I work in human services with adult men experiencing homelessness. It drives me crazy when I hear “I wouldn’t lie about . . . [fill in the blank]” to which I typically ask if they would like to elaborate on what things they would lie to me about.

  • Greg Jeffers

    “Essentially”, “more or less”, and “you know” seem to be my most common ones. I really HATE “you know” though and get mad at myself every time I use it.

  • Jerry Sather

    In prayer . . . “Father Wejus”, just

  • GEW

    My boss has always used “from that standpoint” as a crutch phrase. When I interviewed for my job, she was tagging the ends of all of her questions with that crutch phrase, and I sat there doing mental gymnastics during the interview trying to figure out the “standpoint” she was referring to in her question so I could answer “from” it. When she gave me my tour of the building on my first day on the job, she said something like, “…And this is the dock where all of our shipments come in and leave the building, from that standpoint,” and it finally dawned on me that she was using the phrase as verbal filler. Had I realized it sooner, I think my interview would have been a lot less stressful.

  • Anna

    “Any way, any way….”

  • Brian B.

    What Not

    my comment was initially too short and got rejected, you know, so I had to, like, come up with some other stuff, but, uh, i literally didn’t know what else to write.