According to a poll conducted by Marist College in New York, “Whatever!” has been the most annoying word in America for five years running! A college spokesperson described this word as “dismissive and rude.”  I think its use is symptomatic of the sarcasm that is creeping into our language from TV sitcoms.

I have my own list of annoying words and phrases. “How’s that working out for you?” makes me cringe. It takes the trifecta: sarcastic, condescending and mean-spirited. 

“Do ya’ think?” “Duh?” and “Obviously” are all ways of telling someone they’re slow on the uptake.

The first time I heard someone say, “It is what it is,” I marveled at its meaninglessness. 

“There’s no question about it,” is a sports talk staple. Hosts are constantly making pronouncements that can’t be disputed. “No question about it, Ron Santo was the best third basemen in Chicago history.” Oh yeah, what about my boyhood hero, Pete Ward, who manned the hot corner for the White Sox?

Sports jargon also includes tiresome words like “physical” which means the player commits acts of violence that would otherwise earn him an orange jumpsuit. “Deliberate” means that the guy on the mound is so slow; the grounds crew has to mow the infield between innings.

How about these sentence-starters: “Be that as it may,” “Having said that,” and my favorite, “All things being equal.” The next time all things are equal, please shoot me an e-mail. “To be honest,” is another one. If I try to slip this one past my wife, she’ll ask, “Oh, what are you doing the rest of the time?”

She also has the perfect phrase to answer a child’s urgent request – “We’ll see.” It really means “no” but at least she lets the kid down easy. 

For some reason the word “intentional” drives me crazy. “We’re very intentional about teaching each student at their own level.” Well, I guess it’s better than teaching them by accident.

“Have a good one,” is a bit too vague for me. What if my next stop is the dentist’ office to have two molars yanked?  At least wish me a nice day. I also want to give a warning to anyone who asks me, “How are you?” I take that question seriously and will answer in great detail.

“Nice to meet you,” I guess is OK but I prefer the more exuberant, “It was great to meet you.” 

There are also some placeholder phrases we use, you know, so we don’t get interrupted while we’re trying to construct our next sentence. I’ve actually heard college-educated athletes intersperse these in their interviews. I also remember some phrases a sports radio host used, while he was stalling to think of a way to answer a caller. “Well, let me say this about that,” was one of his favorites.

Full-disclosure, I’ve used many of these empty or insulting phrases in conversation. I’ve also been guilty of using sarcasm. But, what are you going to do?

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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