The 11 Most Annoying Catchphrases

A couple of years ago, researchers at Oxford University compiled a list of the top ten most irritating expressions. Their list included overused office lingo, (24/7, synergy), grammatically incorrect constructions (“shouldn’t of”), and adverbs used out of context (literally, ironically).

While everything on their list is certainly irritating, few of the items rise to the level of truly annoying. Perhaps Americans have a particular facility with our shared language because we seem to have a special affinity for creating trite catchphrases. Here are my eleven candidates for most annoying sayings:

1. “I’m not a happy camper.”

If you say, “Oh, I say this all the time” then take a look in the mirror. Are your lips swollen? If not, then you have no real friends. A real friend is someone who cares enough about you to punch you in the mouth when you use this idiotic phrase.

When it’s okay to say this: When you are a ten-year-old away at summer camp and a counselor asks you about your emotional state.

2. “Believe you me.”

If translated into Latin, or some other language where word order doesn’t matter, then this phrase might make sense. But outside of the King James Bible, the verb-subject-object doesn’t work for English. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this is a way of saying, “It’s really so”—so why not just say “It’s really so.” That’s a much less annoying way to express yourself, believe you me.

When it’s okay to say this: When your name is Yoda.

3. My bad.”

The way really annoying people say “mea culpa.”

When it’s okay to say this: When someone asks you, “Whose bad is that?” and the bad belongs to you.

4. “I feel you.”

Unless you are really feeling me, then this phrase is inaccurate. And if you are actually feeling me, then (a) I’m probably aware of it, and (b) I want you to please stop that.

When it’s okay to say this: When you are actually feeling me and I am unaware that you are doing so. (Again, really. Please stop that.)

5. “I am not going to lie to you.”

If you need to clarify that what you tell me next is not going to be a lie, then I’m going to wonder if everything you told me before this was a lie. So now that you’ve caused me to question your credibility, how do I know that you aren’t lying now when you say you’re not going to lie to me?

When it’s okay to say this: When someone directly ask you if you are going to lie to them and you have no intention of doing so.

6. “We’ve got company.”

Used in every action movie ever made.

When it’s okay to say this: When you are screenwriter who wants to ensure that your scene is included in clip compilations of trite movie phrases. (See also: Get out of there!)

7. “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

What information could you possess that would require you to murder me? What’s that? You were being sarcastic? Oh. Well, my policy is that is if you use trite sarcasm I have to kill you. (An action considered a justifiable homicide in all fifty states.)

When it’s okay to say this: When you work for MI6.

8. “Show me the money”, “I Don’t Think We Are In Kansas Anymore”, “Is that your final answer?” Other phrases that originated on TV or in the movies.

Oh, so you saw that show too? Imagine that.

When it’s okay to say this: When the phrase comes from a Monty Python movie. Those never get old. (“It’s just a little bunny. . .”)

8. “It’s not rocket science”/ “It’s not brain surgery”

Apparently, the most complicated procedure on earth is performing brain surgery on a rocket scientist.

When it’s okay to say this: When someone asks, “Is that rocket science”?/”Is that brain surgery?” and it isn’t.

9. “At the end of the day”

You mean . . . at night?

When it’s okay to say this: When you are referring to something that will actually happen at the end of the day.

10. “Best. ________. Ever.”

Worst. Meme. Ever.

When it’s okay to say this: Never. Ever. Ever.

What are other phrases that should be included on our list?

  • http://www.twitter.com/johncfarrier John Farrier

    I prefer the expression “it ain’t nuclear rocket brain surgery.” I think that The Manalo coined it.

  • Chuck Donovan

    “It is what it is.” This, from the generation with a leader who was dubious about what the meaning of “is” is.

    • http://www.CatholicTV.com Bonnie

      I’m from Boston, and Coach Belichik says “it is what it is” all the time so we are obligated to like and overuse this phrase. it’s a team thing.

  • http://rustylopez.typepad.com/ Rusty Lopez

    Whoa! Guilty as charged. Sorry about that, like, it was my bad but I’m not going to lie to you because, like, I’m simply inundated with information 24/7, so believe you me, it wasn’t intentional. Yet, what you say makes so much sense, after all, it’s not rocket science. And, at the end of the day, this has to be the Best.Post.Ever.

  • Brian

    Just came to find out if we’re having fun yet. Are we having fun yet?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

      Oh man, I can’t believe I forgot to add that one to the list. That is the all-time worst catchphrase.

      • Brian

        I can’t blame you for suppressing it.

  • Tiff

    I think you need to add a couple of movies other than “Monty Python” that it’s okay to quote from; including (but not limited to): Mel Brooks movies, any collaboration by the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams, and “The Princess Bride”.

    • Yvonne

      Inconceivable!

  • http://singlecatholicgirl.com/ singleCatholigirl

    “Was up” said in a raspy, James Earl Jones sort of way.

    Fail.

  • Barry Arrington

    Most Coen Bros movies too (Raising Arizona and Oh Brother espeically)

  • Jim

    So… you’d have a problem when Jesus said; “I tell you the truth…”?

    Yeah. Ok. I stop taking your pet peeves much credibility after that.

    • Jim

      Ugh. I hate it when I do that… combined two ways of saying things and now it hardly makes any sense…

  • Gradivus

    “At the end of the day” (introduced in Europe, where I first heard it in 1991) is the one I hate most. Some others include:
    “At this point in time” (what’s wrong with “now”?)
    “At this juncture” (again, practice this word: “now”)
    “As per” (redundant for “per”)
    “Decimated” (mistakenly used to mean “devastated”). “Decimated” literally means killing one of every 10, or a 10% reduction.
    “In point of fact” (do you mean “actually”?)
    “Push the envelope”
    Here’s a relatively new one, usually used when referring to politicians who are modifying or moderating something they said previously:
    “Walking it back” (what was wrong with backing off, backtracking, or backpedaling?)

  • Maggie

    So I suppose if you ever wanted to murder Joe Carter via catchphrase-induced brain aneurysm, you’d just force him to browse fandom tags on Tumblr for a few hours …

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

      That would probably do it, which is why I avoid reading YouTube comments.

  • Gradivus

    Not all hackneyed phrases are bad, though. For instance, the rather ubiquitous “with all due respect” is rather useful as a polite, shorter way to say “I have no respect for your opinion whatsoever,” which is what it almost always really means.

  • http://www.biblejunkies.com John W. Martens

    You could have “thought outside the box” a bit more in making this list.

  • Joelius

    Please, no more “Wow. Just wow.”

  • Caleb

    There are so many, but you’re sure to hear one a whole lot tomorrow….”it’s Friday”.

  • http://jnthreethree.Blogspot.com Robert Warren

    “Reach out to” must be stopped.

  • Kristen inDallas

    Times when it’s ok to use “I’m not going to lie to you” — dirrectly after being asked a question that begs an unearned compliment. ie
    – What do you think of this hat?
    - How did you like my band’s new album?
    - Isn’t my child just SO CUTE when he runs through the store like that?
    - Do you think I’m funny?
    etc…

  • Woodstock Churchlady

    If it makes someone happy to use a catchphrase and maybe have a small chuckle, why begrudge it to him or her? To paraphrase Raj on The Bang Theory: You think it makes you sound cool, but you just come across as bitter. Seriously.

  • Dianne Axlund

    Whatever!

  • Jim

    Lately, one of my coworkers has been saying “It’s all good” whenever I have to explain that I do not have something finished yet or that I my project is not coming along well. It is a real conversation stopper. I started hearing it the last few years by the 20 somethings.

  • Chuck

    So glad you and other self-appointed conversation monitors never use hackneyed phrases, and are so creatively original. It is also important to mention that you are indeed responsible for your own actions, and cannot, for a moment be considered “the boss of me.” Thank you for sharing your dislikes and conditional willingness to converse on your own terms, with your own terms. Perhaps the silence you receive will allow you the opportunity to only entertain your own perfect communication.

  • Caleb

    It’s so great when people complain about someone complaining. Don’t have your own blog? Well, just comment on someone else’s! It requires only a fraction of the effort, and nobody has to know who you really are. What could possibly give one more anonymous-public pleasure?

  • Stephanie

    “I’m not here to make friends.”

  • glenna

    Not for nothing but it is what it is.

  • Just Sayin

    “is it cold/hot enough for ya?” Used on day in the northeast when it is either extreemly cold or extreemly hot….. just sayin (add that too please, mostly because I’VE overused it!)


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