Phrases/terms that aggravate the hell out of you

Occasionally there are phrases and/or terms that make their way into conversational vogue among journalists and others that just rub me the wrong way.

Sometimes it’s because they’re pretentious, others because they’re factually wrong, and others because they’re just ignorant.

The one that’s been getting me lately is the use of “countless” as a shorthand for a large number. I usually grind my teeth because some dipshit will say “and countless people suffered X” or whatever, and I think “No, we can count that. I bet I could get an exact number in 5 minutes on Google.” Just because something is a large number doesn’t mean it’s countless. Countless literally means uncountable, because the number is unfathomably huge and/or it’s unable to be quantified. Saying that countless people have died of malaria is proper. Saying that countless people died because of the pandemic is NOT.

So what phrases/terms that people use grind your gears?

“Thanking you.”
Just say thank you, for goodness’ sake! You’re not making it any more dynamic or whatever!

Since none of us are actual robots, we don’t have gears to grind. That also implies that robots would have manual transmissions.


As a veteran, ‘Thank you for your service.’ A meaningless phrase. Bitch, you don’t know me or what I did or didn’t do during my service. It’s all subjective anyway (contrast spitting on returning Vietnam soldiers vs the frickin’ yellow ribbons everywhere for the first Gulf war). You wanna feel good, buy a kitten. You wanna show appreciation for my service, tell your representatives to take better care of the veterans they voted to put in harm’s way for dubious purposes.

FWIW, mostly what I do is forward any cool Veteran’s Day/Memorial Day coupons or free food offers to my buddies who served in the military. I figure they’ll appreciate knowing about a free chocolate shake more than me saying “Thanks for your service.”.

Yeah, that does something besides grind my gears because Peter Griffin ground that into … the ground.

And what’s up with using a slash between two words when you can’t decide which one to use, or maybe both? Like “phrases/terms”…

My actual contribution? Verbs turned into nouns. Like “ask”.

“What’s the ask on this project? Can you ping the client and clamp that down?”

For me, the thing that gets my goat (and yet I have no goat to get) is the combination of jangled tenses.

“Needs fixed,” is awful. “Needs fixing” or “needs to be fixed” is acceptable. It hasn’t become a thing in the local dialect so I can be a prescriptivist tyrant about it. However, I see it typed on occasion and it rankles.

The other is, “Come with,” as in, “Can I come with?”
Come with WHO?! It takes effort not to launch into a George Carlin-style tirade. “Come with chocolate?” “Come with love?” “Come with the Easter Bunny? Does the Easter Bunny even exist? And what would he come with?”

I’m not opposed to “countless” if you accept it as linguistic hyperbole. “Countless,” can carry impact in the right situation. “Over two hundred thousand people have died from COVID-19 in the States, and countless more have been infected.” It’s sort of the opposite of Neal Stephenson’s “More than twice the limit,” figure of speech, which I deeply like.

When written “Couple things” “I just need a couple things from the store”: No you need a “couple of” things or “a coupla things”

Also possessives on store names that don’t belong: You do go to Sainsbury’s or Trader Joe’s because that’s the name of the store. You DON’T go to Tesco’s or Aldi’s.

I’m irritated by introductory phrases like “Hate to break it to you,” “Sorry to burst your bubble,” or “Fun fact.” They all mean the same thing: I’m about to lay a righteous truth bomb on you. It will be something you’ve never considered, and it will blow your freaking mind. Get ready for a showstopper. What follows is usually (a) a wholly unsupported assertion, and (b) not even close to a showstopper.

Oh, yes. “Fail,” used as a noun, also bugs the hell out of me.

Another one I’m seeing more lately is “downfall” used instead of “flaw.” Amazon reviewers love to describe the “downfalls” of a product.

Can I give you my mom’s email? She’s always “going to Nordstrom’s, or Burlington’s, or Rubenstein’s”

(Now, some stores are always given an apostrophe by everyone: Bergdorf’s, Gimbel’s (it’s Gimbels), Penney’s.)

And she’ll defend herself with “But I grew up going to Macy’s and Field’s and Bloomingdale’s.”

But her most annoying one?
“So my friend Weezie needs surgery. She’s going to Mayo’s…”
“You mean The Mayo clinic, mom?”
“Well, I’m just saying it must be serious if she’s going to Mayo’s!”

“I’m ________, and I approve this message”

At the end of the day…

This is for your own good…

Just between you and I…

From a certain poster who shall not be named -


Which may be the entire post…

My wife talks like this and from what I can tell it is a regionalism since I’ve heard it from many native Coloradans particularly is the southwest portion of the state and down into North West New Mexico. The dropped to be verb drives me nuts and I’m working to make sure my kids don’t pick it up.

My girlfriend in HS used “needs fixed” and the like back in the mid '70s. It irked me a bit, but not to the level of a rankling.

The one that puts me on edge is "the ". Fortunately, I do not live in southern California, so my exposure to that heresy is minimal.

Everything being ‘curated’ nowadays. And ‘hand-curated’ makes me doubly stabby.

Also, To be honest

“Is such-and-such worth it?” without any explanation of what your values in this area are, what you like and don’t like, and so we’re supposed to figure out what “it” the thing might be worth. My answer is always No to this question.

'The thing is, is that…" which is just carelessness and not listening to what you’re saying. “The thing is” is bad enough but at least use it in a way that isn’t repetitively annoying. For those without a program, you might say “The thing is that I have another appointment” or “The thing is, I have another appointment.” Only one “is” is ever appropriate.

Or its pseudo-chummy cousin, “I’m going to level with you…” I always hear it as “Okay, I’ve been lying to you, but now I’m totally not lying.” (Marcus Aurelius was complaining about this one about 2,000 years ago.)

“Just sayin’…” It’s supercilious and obnoxious.

“Wait for it…” when a punchline is coming. The longer it takes, the less funny it always is.