You could describe our relationship with words as love-hate. They often make us swoon, but sometimes, they make us cringe. It's not always their fault, though. Word aversion, the phenomenon that makes us physically sick upon hearing things like "yolk" and "slurp," is a visceral reaction. According to Language Log, it's "...bred of the mysterious relationships between language, emotion, memory, sound and ‘mouthfeel.’"
Still, there are some words we literally can't make excuses for, due to their queasy sounds or an unforgivable shift in their meanings.
Linguistic prescriptivists beware: This may give you a literal headache. A non-literal definition of "literally" has been deemed acceptable by Google. It can now be used as an emphasizer, as in, "Miley's VMA performance literally shocked me."
This word ranks among hoist and cloister as one of the most phonetically displeasing components of the English language. Plus, according to Slate, "It’s squishy-seeming, and, to some, specifically evocative of genital regions and undergarments." That sounds about right. It doesn't help that there are few poignant synonyms for this word (unless you like to eat damp cake), so it'll likely be around for a while.
We've called it "the worst word ever," writing, "I think for me (and some other women) who find it hard to hear the word panties, particularly from men, it has to do with a notion that these men are somehow (unintentionally) sexualizing little girls." This has been contested, of course. Actress Christina Hendricks has said, "Panties is a wonderful word. When did you stop saying panties? It's sexy. It's girlie. It's naughty. Say it more."
Foodie is defined as "a person with a particular interest in food." Last time we checked, most people have a particular interest in food. What's next, breathie? Foodie is even worse than its predecessor, gourmet, which refers to "a connoisseur of good food; a person with a discerning palate." While gourmet may sound snootier, at least it's a little more nuanced.
This should absolutely not be a word, but it is. It's a weird, doublespeaky abridgment of all right, a phrase that actually makes sense. We're all for inventing new words (see: doublespeaky), but this one lacks imagination, and looks like a typo.
You probably hate this word simply because it's everywhere. We're not just talking about museums; Nowadays, people curate Twitter feeds, Etsy shops and second-hand clothing stores. Ben Yagoda, a language columnist at The Chronicle of Higher Education, argues that it's a necessary word for the information age, and we agree. With so much stuff floating around, experts with good judgement are a reliable means of sorting through the muck. Still, if everyone fancies themselves curators, that brings us back to square one.
When best-selling novelist Kurt Anderson worked at New York Magazine, he drafted a list of "Words We Don't Use," rounding it out with zeitgeist. It's a German word meaning "spirit of the time," and is often attributed to Hegel, who poetically remarked, "no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit." We think it's overused, and almost always disrupts the flow of a sentence or conversation. It's clunky, it's not intuitive, and its once thoughtful meaning is now vague dinner party fodder.
This word hasn't made it into standard dictionaries just yet, but Chronicle of Higher Education blogger Anne Curzan thinks it's well on its way (it makes regular appearances in The New York Times). We don't mind that it's not a bona fide word (yet!), but we do find it to be irritating business jargon. Plus, describing everything from a politician's haircut to a sartup's 4q earnings as "impactful" blunts the force of the word impact (synonyms: collision, crash, smash, transform, touch, shape).
Another jargonized word, this once-interesting syntactic concept has now become a canned way of saying, "You've gotta change your perspective, man."
Which words do you hate? Let us know in the comments.