Anglican Samizdat

September 2, 2009

Irritating English

Filed under: English — David Jenkins @ 12:07 am

The most irritating phrases in the English language:

There are those who wince and curse whenever a TV pundit or sports spieler speaks the familiar words, “at the end of the day.” This usually announces that what follows will be empty of meaning. Even when the pundit has something of consequence to say, those six words anaesthetize the listener, encouraging them to miss the point. No wonder Jeremy Butterfield’s book, Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare (Oxford University Press), places “at the end of the day” right at the head of the “Top 10 Most Irritating Expressions in the English Language.”

Here is a selection of phrases that irritate me; large companies are fecund breeding grounds for such stinkers:

On a daily basis – what’s wrong with “every day”?

In a timely manner – pretentious way of saying “on time”

Failure is not an option – oh dear, I was going to choose it

Mission statement – cue for meaningless drivel

Vision statement – cue for more meaningless drivel

Think outside the box – cue for mental vacuity

Proactive – an energetic lady of the night

Go forward position – head pointing in same direction as feet

Audit ready posture – bent over

Executive summary – a series of clichés intended to pacify illiterate Vice Presidents

Pursuit of excellence – thank you, Michael Bird



  1. Audit ready posture – bent over

    Now, now, we all know that “Audit ready posture” means that they’ve shredded any documents that the auditor might want to see.

    Comment by Kate — September 2, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  2. It think that we all have used these phrases, and obviously without regard for the ‘proper’ English. We hear someone use a term, a phrase, it sounds cool, so we log that in to our linguist memory for future use, indeed so we too can be: smooth talking.
    I enjoy reading C.S. Lewis, but I still need a dictionary to understand all that is said. He was an English Prof and a prolific one, much like Paul. I too have used these terms, because even at a not so nifty fifty, I like to be cool too!

    Comment by Rob Cheshire — September 2, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  3. How about- “with specificity”.

    Comment by Jim Muirhead — September 2, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

  4. Jim – extremely irritating.

    Comment by David — September 2, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

  5. ‘Birthed’ instead of ‘given birth’ or ‘born’, ‘gifted’ instead of ‘given’, ‘conflicted’ instead of ‘confused’ — grrr.

    Comment by churchmouse — September 11, 2009 @ 8:10 am

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