We’ve all had to pad that one hard essay with an entire extra paragraph of meaningless words and hackneyed idioms to get to the page minimum. That’s fine. Hell, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s recommended. But what is not okay is using those phrases in everyday language. They make life boring and can cause cancer. Here is a short list of common phrases you may have heard around campus. These are on the no-fly list. If you hear them used and can restrain yourself from punching the speaker in the face, then you must be a zen master.
1. Rhyme and Reason, as in: “What is the rhyme and reason to repeating yourself, you horse’s ass?”
Unless you’re getting paid by the word to talk, there is nothing to be gained from coupling synonyms together. Just don’t do it. Also, note that this is a placeholder for a more general rule: if two words mean the same thing, only use one. Super simple stuff.
2. Mumblemumblemumblemumble “Oh god I can’t speak today” mumblemumblemumble
See, people are compassionate. If you need a moment to stop and compose yourself no one is going to laugh at you for being slow. They will understand because everyone’s experienced a mental block. What can’t be justified, however, is taking a moment to explain to others that you are having difficulty in your Broca or Wernicke‘s areas. A drowning man does not hold up a sign that says “I need air.” He just tries to swim.
3. Awesome, as in: “Your must have an awesome sense of shame every time you use this word.”
A long time ago describing something as “awesome” meant: “Damn! Give that there some awe!” But those days are gone. Your socks cannot be awesome. Climbing Mount Everest is awesome. Looking back at the Earth from the moon is awesome. Unless you are in a situation comparable to space travel, be more creative and use some of these other words: astonishing, breathtaking, stunning, exalted and our personal favorite: whiz-bang!
4. Quote, unquote, as in: “And then she said, quote unquote, I never want to be your friend if you say this.”
In most situations where this comes up, the context is already there. Everyone knows you’re quoting someone. If there is a real need to emphasize the phrase is a quote, and air quotes are not accessible, there are other ways of doing things. Ways in which no one gets hurt. Try this: ‘And then she said, and I shit you not, “I will be your friend if you use this phrase.”‘ or ‘And then she litcherally said “I will be your friend if you use this word.”‘ Yes, litcherally is not a real word. But Rob Lowe is funny and any references to his good work in Parks and Recreation is always appreciated by all.
5. I guess, as in: “I guess you are of no use to anybody if you talk like this.”
Do you have self-esteem issues? Are you so determined to highlight that you don’t know something that you have to resort to adding nothing? Just, just don’t say anything. If the situation calls on you to clarify uncertainty, then take the time to say “I am not certain.” It’s more embarrassing to talk like a spineless baboon than it is to not be sure.
Image sources: alvaro tapia hidalgo under Creative Commons
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