First, let it be said that words are not terrible. Often, word-hate is not the fault of the word itself; it's due to the meanings humans have attributed to the poor word. It's us, not them. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's just say that the public has many opinions about which of our frequently or occasionally used English words are "bad" or "good." On Friday I'd argued, in response to Sarah Miller's nomination of literally as the worst word on the planet, that the dubious achievement actually belongs to actually. As it turns out this is a topic a lot of people have feelings about, so many feelings that we could practically create an entire dictionary of words you hate. So we did. The following A to Z list is culled from your comments, emails, tweets, and occasionally from our own strong opinions.
arguably. "What, actually, does arguably mean? Indisputable? Able to be argued about? It is a non-word. Another filler, actually."
artisanal. Of course.
awesome. "The worst word on the planet is awesome. It appears to be the only surviving adjective denoting approval or admiration. Beautiful, good, admirable, excellent, amazing—all dead as a doornail. Of course, it's even more dreadful when preceded by the word like, as in 'I saw that movie last night. It was, like, AWESOME!!'"
basically. "We don't need basically if we can take a beat to think and state what we're meaning more clearly. If you have a Master's degree or better and have this habit you upgrade basically to essentially."
best. I got backlash about best as an email signoff (I use it) because, I was told, "1. It's false. That really isn't your best...the best you can do is an email? 2. It's like the faux stand-in for sincerely, like you think you're giving me a better word than what your third grade teacher taught you, but really, all you've given me is best. 3. You would never say best in person."
curate. Especially to refer to "food or vintage fashion."
damp. No one likes to be damp.
emoticons. In symbol, if not in word, but in word, too. "A friend of mine goes MENTAL at the sight of emoticons ;-)" said one contributor.
epic. "You mean to tell me epic wasn't even considered?" Our epic mistake, man.
essentially. See above, basically.
firstly. Why the ly? Simplify.
foodie. See hipster.
got. "I try, as a matter of principle, to never use the verb got. I have never found an instance where a different verb is not more descriptive or stronger in meaning."
hate. For reasons having to do with the definition. Especially "when used in a manner such as 'You are just so full of hate.'"
hipster. See above.
honey. "There might be nothing more annoying than an awful sales attendant or arguing significant other calling you honey." Tone is everything.
honestly. "Actually, I think honestly is literally the worst. On the rare occasions when [one] doesn't say honestly, is [one] actually being dishonest? Of course, all of these unnecessary words pale in comparison to the ultimate space-wasting, no-crap expressions: 'at the end of the day' and 'it is what it is.'"
hunk. "to refer to a piece of food," presumably because the word hunk is rather unappealing.
ideation. One cannot love a zombie noun.
interesting. "Because it means nothing."
just. "If I am around someone I know is sensitive to being directed, using the word just could be a nightmare." Like actually, it's sort of bossy, with attitude.
ketosis. "It's what your body does on Atkins so it's basically self-cannibalizing."
legit. "Often when I hear it, it is not being used legitimately, not to mention I hate the abbreviation."
like. "Like is far worse than actually or literally." Related: awesome.
moist. This one, which we received the most and also the most emphatically, we might have predicted. See also: because.
nuptials. "Sounds like some alien genitalia," says he who nominated this word.
ogled, ogler, ogles. Yuck, and please stop it.
panties. "A lot of people hate the word panties," says one wise soul. Related: "Pants. Not sure why. But try saying it a lot for a while and you'll start screaming."
particular. "As in, 'I don't know what this particular dial is for.' Who needs particular? the sentence would be the same without it."
Qream. This is the word selected to represent "a delicious vodka-based spirit from Pharrell Williams."
rancid. Because it seems it.
seriously. When said incredulously, for effect, especially with an exclamation point and a question mark following it.
supposably. Not a real word.
surface. As in, "are you trying to surface words that people have started to use brutally incorrectly?"
thusly. "Unforgivable." See also: firstly; see also snooty.
troll. For those of us who work on the Internet or live under bridges, or both.
tweeps. Defenders of this word, please come forward and explain why.
um. "How could any word possibly be worse than um? It serves absolutely no purpose other than to fill dead air space, literally means, 'I need time to think of something real to say,' and actually makes its speaker sound dumber for saying it." Does um count as a word?
utilize. "For when using something just doesn't sound 'intellectual' enough."
undergarments. "So grandma-ish."
vajayjay. "I hate euphemisms for genitalia and excrement. Like tee tee or vajayjay."
vender. This spelling still galls.
webinar. One of those awful "new media" words, like weblog and bloggerati.
whatever. As related to tone. "Whatever you like" is probably fine. But announcing whatever! while making a W with both hands and giving off a general aura of bad attitude is not.
winningest. Also: winning, as appropriated by Charlie Sheen.
whimsical or whimsy. These adorable words were offensive to one, who called them "gross."
xenophobia. For the same reason(s) as hate.
yammer. A social network, and a word in the dictionary. Annoying both ways.
zwieback. Effortlessly evocative of drool. How can you love a word for a teething biscuit?
There appear to be several categories that hate words tend to fall into: Words people hate the sound of; words people hate the meaning of; words widely considered to be or mean something gross or unpleasant; words that are overused or meaningless; and words that reflect something unflattering about the user, often that that person thinks much of him or herself. One person, however, brings up a good if possibly confusing point with regard to all of this. The hate word, like a good hate read, can often become a loved word: "I'm not sure that I purely hate any words," he says. "Most of the words I hate have more of a love/hate (or love to hate) kind of thing for me, like goiter."
To each his own.
Update: Many of you have gotten in touch to express feelings about your own most-disliked words. Just a few of them: toilet ("because nobody is willing to utter it anymore"), crispy, synergy, retrenched, delicious (in reference to water in a pool or the ocean), scrumptious, tasty, zeitgeist, irregardless, restructuring, schadenfreude, tool, physicality, melty, particularly, puberty, rock ("your presentation ROCKED" or "He rocks!").
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.