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  • Writer's pictureRusty Pencil

10 annoying words and phrases that get on my nerves. And probably everyone else's.

Updated: Jan 20

Thought leader phrase - a young boy in Y-Front pants wants to be taken seriously.

There are new kids on the block and they’re really annoying. You know the sort: brash, making out they’re cool and bigger than they are.

They whizz about doing verbal wheelies, disturbing the peace and making a mess of meetings and seminars. And what are the grammar police doing about it? Nothing. They’re too busy wasting their time chasing split infinitives.

Yes. I’m talking about annoying words and phrases. I’ve come across some new ones that really get my goat.

This annoying world has its roots in business. Business jargon, as we know, is what those folks in business think they ought to say to feel more important and vital. Or for even worse reasons, to sugarcoat shit.

Call them what you like: business buzzwords, corporate speak, management speak, they’re all annoying.

So here goes. My list, in order of annoyance.

1. Thought leader

This is precisely the sort of word that makes the people who are trying to look really clever and important, look really dumb and unimportant.

It seems that the word expert is too mundane and not sexy enough, so some business person ­– perhaps one who didn’t quite make it to Harvard and with a chip on their shoulder – has made up this nonsense phrase.

It’s a fancy-pants way of saying you’re an expert. If you’ve demonstrated your experience and expertise in a particular field, you’re an expert. There’s no embarrassment in calling yourself one, so instead, you embarrass yourself by calling yourself a thought leader.

2. Pain points

The only pain points I know of are the ones I get after digging up the weeds at the allotment.

When I first came across this phrase I thought I strayed onto the Boots pharmacy website for vitamins and supplements by mistake. But no. It was some marketing blog spouting off about a customer’s journey.

Apparently, pain points are the persistent and recurring problems a customer experiences with a product or service. I have a persistent and recurring problem every time I read it in some marketing article: it’s called frothing at the mouth.

The phrase pain points disguise the fact that your service or product isn’t up to scratch and is a lot worse than you’re letting on. Don’t try to hide it behind some flaky phrase.

3. Ideation/Ideate

‘Let’s have an ideation meeting!’ How about we didn’t? Instead, let’s get together to come up with some ideas. See? How simple was that? Clearer too.

4. Curate

‘We’ve specially curated gifts in our shop.’ No, you haven’t. You’ve selected or picked out those gifts.

A curator of a museum has a complex and skilled job and doesn’t pick out nice things to put on a shelf. You don’t curate a range of socks. Give it a rest.

5. Super

‘It’s super important,’ or ‘You’ve got to be super careful.’ This use of super is super annoying. Trying to heighten the importance of something by prefixing it with this adverb always sounds puerile to me.

Whenever I hear an adult use this, which is usually on a YouTube instruction video, I wince. And get super annoyed.

It’s the sort of thing a five-year-old girl would say about getting a jolly nice sparkly T-shirt. ‘It’s super cool mummy!’

And when someone says, ‘That’s super classy,’ you know it isn’t. Dear adults, please don’t use it.

6. Giving 110%

As if you’re not working hard enough, you get the boss trying to pick up the pace with this pointless, and physically, impossible request. You can’t give more than 100%.

It’s a real downer. But that doesn’t stop the over-enthusiastic boss from cracking the whip. People will give their all if they work in a happy place, enjoy their job and have a nice boss. That’s 110% true.

7. It is what it is

I had a girlfriend who said this frequently. Well, she was American. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to mean, but it has always grated with me.

Is it a conversation filler? Is it a substitute for ‘whatever’ or ‘don’t ask me?’ I have no idea, which makes it all the more annoying. Ah, well. It is what it is.

8. Reach out

Depending upon what mood I’m in when I receive an email, this phrase throws up two visions:

Someone crawling on all fours in the Sahara, in tattered clothing, dying of thirst, pleading for help with an outstretched arm. Poor thing. F*ck off.

And the Four Tops singing Reach Out (I’ll Be There). That’ll stick with you forever now.

Instead of reaching out to someone, how about contacting, messaging, emailing them?

Reaching out sounds too impersonal and a touch sneaky. There’s this underlying hint that they’re after something.

It’s another one of the round-the-houses phrases. Why can’t people come out with it straight and in plain English? Any ideas? Please, help! I’m reaching out to you!

9. New Normal

This is one of those get-out clauses that neatly blames the recent pandemic when things go wrong or don’t go as expected, and you’d better get used to it. There’s this sense of a lack of responsibility and a laissez-faire attitude attached to it that gets me.

‘Sorry, sir. Your broadband will be down for two weeks. It’s the new normal.’

Or ‘A month until delivery? You’re kidding!’ you scream.

‘It’s the new normal, sir.’

The list goes on.

10. Preneur on the end of a noun, or any daft word for that matter

The word entrepreneur has a lot to answer for. It seems that any person who sells something is suddenly an entrepreneur.

Start selling scented candles online, and you’re an entrepreneur. Knit crochet toilet holders and sell them at your local market, and you’re an entrepreneur. Sell second-hand underpants on eBay, you’re an entrepreneur. WTF.

It sounds such a grand word for something so simple. Its origin is most likely from the French word entreprendre which roughly translates as ‘undertaker’ or ‘adventurer’, and that sounds all very wonderful.

And being French gives it that appealing flourish, like when you read a French menu. ‘Le meilleur de la tomate assaisonnée de persil et d’oignons frais’ sounds absolutely fabulous until you discover it’s only tomato salad with onions.

The business geeks have latched onto this so any word with preneur stuck on the end is bound to sound adventurous, energetic and thrusting. Right?

Again, it’s the art of trying to upgrade oneself into something you’re not.

‘I’m a solopreneur!’ Really? I think you’ll find you’re a single person running a business, so you’re a sole trader. Get over it.

These folks stick to this suffix and hope it makes all the difference in how they’re perceived. Except it doesn’t.

You can do it with anything: womanpreneur, thoughtpreneur, blogpreneur, candlepreneur…The list goes on. It doesn’t fool me, and I’m sure it doesn’t fool you.

Well, that’s it. My choice of the 10 most annoying words and phrases – so far. I’m sure there are going to be more of these business buzzwords, and you’ve probably got some which get on your nerves.

As a quick supplement here are other annoying words and phrases that have just popped up:

Fake news

You say this when you don’t like or agree with anything. Presidents of dodgy countries say this a lot.

Influencer (reminds me of influenza)

As far as I can make out the only positive influence they have is on their bank balance. Usually applied to someone who is not famous in any way whatsoever.

Just saying

Er, why? F*ck off.


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