Friday, September 10, 2010

Words, Disgusting Words

Everyone hates some words.

There are intellectual reasons to hate words and phrases. For instance, I hate "empower" because it got its contemporary meaning from a decade of ignorant usage. I also feel like its overuse has done a disservice to any women's movement that might have survived the '90s. I also hate, for intellectual reasons, businessy phrases such as "Please advise." Commands like that imply authority over someone, and I find them intellectually insulting. Also, due to my Heideggerian anti-technicity bent, I hate many words having to do with technology and media, such as "buzz" and "gadget."

There are stylistic and aesthetic reasons to hate words and phrases. For instance, a person who poo-poos old fashioned things may dislike archaic words and outmoded turns of phrase. I, on the other hand, dislike a lot of contemporary everything, and therefore dislike new words and phrases such as "sea change," as well as old words that have simply become fashionable, such as "deconstruct." And some words, we can all agree, are just ugly. "Defunct."

There are many sound reasons to eschew the use of a word in one's own writing, and we could make good arguments for any cringes we suffer while reading a magazine or a chick lit novel. However, the words and phrases we find most disgusting, the sight of which causes us to defenestrate the offending book, the sound of which causes us to cover our ears and shriek like King Arthur's men under the sonic influence of the Knights of "Ni," well . . .we have no reasonable explanation for our disgust, our almost bodily rejection of these slimy slovos. Some words are just fucking disgusting.

I will share mine, and then I'll share some friends' disgusting words. I'd like to solicit the reader's as well.

Words that kill me:



Trip the light fantastic

Words that kill Erica:




The list is short but Erica is getting back to me with the others (I angered her just by asking about them!) so I'll add to this soon. I seem to have mentally blocked the rest.

My first two words in the list have similar sounds. Soft sounds. I hate them most when men say them. Perhaps I feel like they can't be soft, so the words are a lie. The second pair of words are both about dancing. I don't dislike dancing. Maybe I dislike epithets for dancing? The "fantastic" epithet here is not how the phrase was originally used. It was reworked and alluded to and ripped off a few times by successive poets and writers, and it is only in this final verbed form of it ("Let's trip the light fantastic, baby.") that makes me barf.

Erica's first two words are both about transients! I know she doesn't dislike transients. Maybe she was a sad hobo in a past life. The third word could even be a child transient.

What causes irrational word hatred? Word phobia even? Is it the sounds? (See Python "Woody and Tinny Words") Is it some repressed association? That seems likely since the words keep having things in common. (It would be easy, then, to put on a play using all of a person's worst words.) All I know is I hates me some words. Some I can explain. Some I can't. And those are the ones that make me want to break things.

Tell us your ugly, hateful words!



  1. I can't say I really hate any particular words. I even like some of the ugly ones. Maybe this is because I love etymology.
    I don't like the way words sound coming from certain people. They take shape depending on inflection and tone. Words can become creepy, ugly and hateful depending on the user and the intent.
    I do have an aversion to certain people's names. They are like nails on a chalkboard to me. Some have bad association to people I knew and some I just don't like the sound.

  2. Mike and I were talking about this on Saturday. He apparently doesn't have any words he hates but I thought of another one I don't like, "Raggamuffin". (How the heck do you spell that?) I have to disagree with you on "softshoe" because Mike uses it a lot and so does Henry. So what I can figure out from my hated words is that they all have hard sounds surrounding a soft "a". I bet if you found some other words that follow this pattern, I would probably hate them too. And how strange that this new word I have just told you I hate could also be a hobo word? Man, thats just weird.

  3. I think I can tolerate softshoe when applied to Mike since he actually does a mean softshoe. It still hurts though.

    A ragamuffin is usually a kid, so I guess you have disdain for child transients too! Poor ragamuffin chimneysweeps...

  4. I take it back. I can't stand the word, fiance. I avoided it at all costs when I was engaged.

  5. I realized I left out a couple of my most hated because they're not real words. The internets has offended me by spewing forth the following:



    Fuck! I can't stand it. The first is from "nomnomnomnom" which was ok when it was just a stupid LOLcat eating a "cheezeburger" or something. but now people say it about the food they're eating, and it's the worst when they just write NOM, or use it as an adjective (GAWD!) as in "this cheesecake is NOM!"

    I'm dying writing this you know.

    Squee should be self-explanatory. It's a fangirl thing, and I'm not a fangirl, so I never squee. I guess I'm a literature fangirl, but still, we do not squee, and we choose not to translate the noises Woolf or Wordsworth might cause us to emit into internet "memes."

    Now I can't stop shuddering.

  6. You grossed me out with that. I've never heard of "squee" but I hate it about as much as I hate people who probably write that word on fan sites about the show "Glee".

    NOM is equally disgusting because it makes me picture fat people taking giant bites out of food and chewing it with their mouths open.

  7. I actually like "om nom". I don't care so much for "nom" all by itself, but I'm not particularly offended by it.

    The word I hate is wonderment. I can't stand it.

  8. Haha, wonderment?

    I just got a flier in the mail telling me to vote to build the new downtown community center because it will be "family orientated."


  9. Also I am starting to hate "delicious," because people over-enunciate the "l" and "c" sounds, so that their mouths sound full of deliciousness-caused saliva. It's especially bad when applied to beverages. I don't want to go to the English grad Halloween party at school because the invitation spoke of "delicious beers."

  10. I need to strike-through "Smoothie." Alec Baldwin tweeted it a few weeks ago and now I love it. I have no explanation for this new fascination with him.

    I'll add this one:


    I don't mind "miles per hour" or anything like that, but when someone says "per your instructions" or "per our conversation" YUCK.


I publish all the comments, the good, the bad and the ugly. Unless I have no idea what you're saying. If you want to email me (with only good I hope), I'm at rbyrd [at] niu [dot] edu.