The most annoying English word of the year

For all of you English students out there wondering which English words you need to spend time on learning, here is small break for you… a few words that you don’t need to learn!

For the second year in a row, a survey of more than 1,000 Americans found that the word ‘whatever‘ is officially the most annoying word for 2010.

The word ‘like’ was voted the second most annoying word.

However, it is not the words themselves that are annoying, it is the way the words have come to be used in everyday speech. The way the words are delivered in popular culture is what makes them annoying.

Let’s have a look at how ‘whatever’ and ‘like’ can be used in an annoying way…

Michael’s mother, Sandra, asks Michael to clean his bedroom. Michael tells his mother that he will clean it next week.  Sandra says “you are going camping next week and you won’t have time to clean it. You are avoiding cleaning your room like you always do!”.  Michael replies “whatever” and walks away.  In this example, Michael is expressing indifference and a lack of interest in what his mother is telling him. His reply shows that he does not care what she is telling him.

The word like has developed several non-traditional uses in informal and slang speech. Here is an example: “I, like, went to the shops to buy a present and, like, none of them had what I was, like, looking for”.  The word does not hold any important meaning in the sentence and is often used to ‘fill in the gap’ while someone is thinking of what they are going to say next.

The word ‘like’, when used in slang, has become so annoying to some people that a facebook page has now been set up called “Don’t sound stupid, stop saying like!”.  The Academy of Linguistics Awareness at the University of California has put up posters with the same slogan around the University campus to try to stop people using this word unnecessarily.


Wondering – thinking or sepeculating curiously e.g. “He was wondering what to buy her for Christmas”.

Break – multiple meanings but in this context it means a brief rest, as from work e.g. “”The actors took a ten-minute break from rehearsal.”

Survey – a sampling, or partial collection, of facts, figures, or opinions taken and used to approximate or indicate what a complete collection and analysis might reveal

Whatever – usually used to mean ‘anything that’ e.g. “Whatever you say is all right with me”, but in the above context it is used to indicate indifference to a state of affairs, situation or a previous statement.

Popular Culture – contemporary lifestyle and items that are well known and generally accepted, cultural patterns that are widespread within a population

Slogan – a distinctive phrase or motto of any party, group, manufacturer, or person; catchword or catch phrase

Unnecessarily – not necessary or essential; needless; unessential


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. helpforyourenglish
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 03:43:36

    A good post, Joe. I suppose ‘Whatever’ is the modern version of ‘So what?’ ‘I don’t care.’ Or “I don’t give a damn.’

    I once saw a TV interview with the sprinter Linford Christie. It was about 3 or 4 minutes long and he said “Like” about a hundred million times! Well, a lot of times, anyway. You know what I mean, like? : )


  2. English with Jo
    Jan 13, 2011 @ 13:16:42

    Hi there, yes it’s annoying isn’t it! 🙂 I think if I was one of the voters in that poll, I would have definitely chosen ‘whatever’ and ‘like’ as the most annoying. The embarassing thing is that as a teenager, I was a very big ‘like’ victim! I used it at least three times in a sentence, and this is how all my peers talked so it was very difficult to get out of the habit. My mother would make me repeat each of my sentences without the word ‘like’ included. It was so frustrating having to repeat everything I said that eventually I got out of the habit! Thank goodness! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: