10 Words/Phrases I Never Want to Hear or See Again

Without preamble, here we go.

Woke. This one is particularly irksome. High on the irony scale. “Woke” may have multiple origins, but the most contemporary one appears to be from early 20th century Black consciousness raising–”stay woke” appeared in a narrative about a Lead Belly recording of the song “Statesboro Blues”, according to Vox. To me it reeks of irony because its adopted in rhetoric mostly used by groups whose allegiances include bigotry and racism.

Culture wars. This phrase, used to describe social conflicts, was first used in mid-19th century Germany in reference to a conflict between “cultural and religious groups.” (Wiki) The phrase owes its current popularity—talk about over-exposure—to deep-seated conflict between social groups in the U.S. over societal issues. Second Amendment rights, abortion rights, immigration rights, LGBT etc rights. the word “War” signifies a more hopeless situation than the words “conflict” or “disagreement”, but likely those participating in culture wars are allergic to euphemism.

Othering. This is a portmanteau word I wish had never been invented. In looking for origins, I traveled a confusing road from Hegel to feminist theory. But it seems the rampant use of this word stems from the realization of culturally (that word again) disadvantaged groups that they can call out discrimination and disrespect by using “othering” to describe their state. “You are othering me” has a hint of whinging, to use one of my favorite Britishisms. Not to disrespect these struggles, but please come up with another word.

Critical race theory (CRT). Ah, misinterpretation of this idea has become a favorite catch-phrase of the ultra right who would like to pull us back into their idea of comfortable racism. The September 20, 2021 issue of The New Yorker features a profile of Derrick Bell, who described how our deeply rooted racism undermines every step forward toward true civil rights. Irony scale ranking very high. The right wing is busily digging the dirt out from under our feet.

Unpack. Joins circle back, out of the box, utilize (substituted for the more than useful word “use”) and piggybacking in the box of time-worn vocabulary.

Cancel culture. (Circling back to “culture”.) Despise this phrase. Just. Simply. Despise. Another example of “cultural appropriation”, largely pulled out on Twitter by the right, again, to describe being deleted from Twitter for trolling and spreading theories about nanobots in vaccines. A popular song is given the prize for its origin in what is called “African-American Vernacular English” (Wiki). Sound familiar? (See “woke” above).

Red pill, Blue pill. Matrix (1999) is one of my favorite films. In it, Neo is given a choice between remaining in blissful virtual reality, or being shown a horrifying truth about human existence. He chooses the red pill–the one of truth. Not truthiness, or alternative facts–that’s the blue pill.

Bae. Every time this one shows up in crossword puzzles, I feel nauseous. Also bro. And nae nae.

Peoples. I don’t know why this word makes me cringe. Pretentious at the same time descriptive when scientists need to talk about anthropology and the history of humans. But I just don’t like it. Just that. I don’t think Galadriel would have ever used it to describe Middle Earth inhabitants. (See intro to Peter Gordon’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.)

The problem with my list is that technically I only came up with 9 words. What is number 10? I couldn’t think of one in time to get this blog scheduled.

So, what words would you add?



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


10 Words/Phrases I Never Want to Hear or See Again — 9 Comments

    • (4) Woke – the song is “Scottsboro Boys,” not “Statesboro Blues”
      Othering – it is not a portmanteau word
      Peoples – it’s Peter Jackson, not Peter Gordon

  1. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 9/19/21 File Me To The Moon, Let Me Play Among The Scrolls | File 770

  2. Good grief. How does everyone think we got from ye olde Anglo Saxon to modern English? And which modern English, for that matter, given the innumerable versions of it now spoken the world over. As ubiquitous as English is today, it wasn’t even considered a language—just a loose conglomeration of peasant dialects—until some time after the fourteenth century or so. Some might reasonably argue it still is.

    Language use inevitably changes as different concepts and attitudes take hold or fall by the wayside. One form of expression is no more valid than any other. Some do become hackneyed with repetition, but they often just tend to fade away. Check out the etymology of “quaint.” Gives new meaning to descriptions of those proverbial rose-bedecked cottages so prevalent in period literature…

    Some of the above-listed words are very much in use amongst very specific cultural groups—attempts at outsider appropriation (mostly for the purposes of denigration) aside. Dismissing them is also tantamount to dismissing the validity of said groups, simply based on their creative adaptation of language (much of which, interestingly, tends to find its way into the mainstream in any case).

  3. I find myself annoyed at the use of the word “onboarding” as a substitute for the perfectly good concept of “orienting” someone to a new job.

    Guess you could say I’m not “onboard” with the new term…

  4. I’d add “baby daddy”, which makes my back teeth hurt. What ever happened to “father”, which doesn’t sound like the participants are pre-teen?

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