The Irish Times published this piece yesterday about some of the most irritating words and expressions people use on a day-to-day basis, such as "whatever", "I, personally" and "basically". It's a good piece, though the sight of all these irritating phrases was enough to make me swear loudly to myself when I first read it.
Nevertheless, in the spirit of whining curmudgeonliness, I've decided to compile my own list of things people say that rub me up the wrong way.
Seminal: 'Seminal' comes from a Greek word meaning seed, the same root from which we get the word 'semen'. It is often used by music and film critics to denote how influential something is or was, e.g. "The Beatles were a seminal band", meaning that they sowed the seeds that led to many other bands. It does not simply mean that they are important. Sports broadcasters regularly fail to realise this. When Bill O'Herlihy excitedly welcomes viewers to "this seminal match for Ireland" he is eschewing much more suitable words like 'crucial', 'critical', or y'know, 'very important' because he thinks this one makes him sound clever. Only if you want to cover Kevin Kilbane in spunk, Billo.
Enjoy: How often are you in a shop or restaurant now where someone hands you what you've asked for and instructs you to "enjoy"? It's a pretty harmless statement, but it feels as unnecessary and platitudinal as "have a nice day". I mean, chances are I wil enjoy my lemon meringue tart and cappuccino, but I don't need your fucking permission, thanks. I could swear it only crept into common usage here about five years ago, but it's ubiquitous now. I could probably develop something of a dough-based crush on the young lady who works in the bakery near my house, were it not for the fact that she concludes every single one of our transactions with "enjoy". It's batch loaf, love, it's as much about staying alive as it is enjoyment.
-sies: "Wantsies!" "Ooh, you've bought your engagement ring, showsies!" "That's a big Mars bar, sharesies?"
It was probably cute when this one started, but it's dancing all over my metaphorical tits by now. I imagine it's only going to keep growing, too. This one should never, fucking ever, be attempted by any straight male over the age of three and a half. Try responding to the next 'sies' you get with a swift "piss offsies".
Enormity: Do you know what enormity actually means? It means 'outrageousness' or 'extreme wickedness'. Honestly. Somewhere along the way someone noticed that it sounds an awful lot like 'enormous' and started using it that way. It's perhaps due to sentences such as "the enormity of the Holocaust", where people assumed it referred to the scale of it, rather than the evilness. Kingsley Amis once wrote something to the effect that we "must battle against the enormity of using enormity to mean enormous." He lost.
"John, we can't underestimate the enormity of this match, can we?"
"No, we can't, Bill."
Genius: Probably the most misused word in the English language. Geniuses of our time include Wayne Rooney, Brian O'Driscoll, Peter Jackson, Robert de Niro and my postman. They're just very good at what they do, is all.* A fellow blogger once referred to Lampsy, the guy who puts pictures of lamps with the caption "I love lamp" all over Dublin as a genius. I had to be restrained from leaving a snotty comment. he's just a guy who likes Anchorman and has too much time on his hands, is all.
The death of the adverb: "The lad's done brilliant to get his shot in from there." Sports broadcasters can, once again, take a bow. Apparently you sound snobby if you tack 'ly' onto the end of adjectives, as the decline in their usage appears to be quite wilful at this stage. It's spreading elsewhere, too. The only instance where it's acceptable to forego the 'ly' is 'shite', as "he's playing shitely tonight" sounds stupid.
Readers, do feel free to wade in with your own pet peeves. 'Pet peeves' should probably be amongst them, disgusting phrase that it is.
*Except my postie, who regularly fails to deliver post to our flat because he's afraid he might slip on the steps. The pizza flyer guys don't seem to mind, the beautiful little geniuses.