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The things people literally say



I have just spent the last 9 days I have been on holiday and rather than feel the pressure to go away (“we have time off, we must use productively, we must travel”) we just stayed home.  I was a really rewarding and relaxing period of time….and productive.

I say productive, because one of the things that we did was a bit of interior decoration.  I guess like many, whilst I decorate I like to listen to the radio, it keeps the paint brush moving and the soul lifted as you realise that you have only done one eighth of the work despite having not slept for three days……

During this particular project we were listening to commercial radio.  Which means adverts.  The same adverts.  Lots of times.  There were the good (well a few), the indifferent (the majority) and the bad (mainly for small local businesses) and then there was the one that had me screaming at the radio each time it came on. 

The advert that I refer to is actually a public safety announcement, produced by the government to warn on the dangers of speeding.  The theme is a “broken heart”.  The idea being that when you are speeding and have impact, whilst you have the seatbelt to protect you, your heart will travel through your body and hit your ribcage.  Ok, so far?  I’m all in favour of sensible driving.  But then the killer phrase, “the impact can literally tear your main artery away from your heart”.  How else is it going to tear it away????  Figuratively?  Metaphorically? 

Each time, I got more and more exasperated, more and more on edge to the point where I was starting to anticipate it between songs and the quality of my painting was going to pot.  The misuse of the word somehow made even worse by the fact that it is a government ad.  It seems that I am not the only person to get fed up by this, and indeed this site shows me to be a total novice.

A quick scout around showed friends had a range of pet peeves (another favourite was “to tell you the truth….” – so you’ve been lying to me before????)  all of which got people really hot under the collar.  So tell me on this fine Monday morning.  What misused word or phrase would you eradicate from the world and why?

10 Comments leave one →
  1. BJH permalink
    02/22/2010 11:58

    My word would be “awesome”. Eddie Izzard does a wonderful piece about this word which absolutely sums up my feelings too. I have one colleague who thinks it’s “awesome” when I make him a cup of tea … goodness only knows what word he would use if something truly awesome happened.

  2. Lena M. permalink
    02/22/2010 14:26

    I’d have to go with “seriously”… “seriously dude!” “like… seriously!” Aaarrggg!!!

  3. 02/22/2010 15:26

    Dude. I am not “dude.” Do not call me “dude.” If calling me “Gold” is too hard for you, then you may call me “Mrs Digger.”

  4. Corporate Daycare permalink
    02/22/2010 15:44

    My favorite phrase-to-hate is ” visually see”.
    As in, “you can visually see how this will change the look of the program”. (Gee, thanks for clarifying…)

    Close second is the use of the word “random”. As the parent of a 13-yrd old…”random” is no longer random, it is completely predictable.

    (@Lena M…. as for the word “seriously”. Guilty as charged. )

  5. Comms Bunny permalink
    02/22/2010 17:18

    Literally is one of my favourites, and is much favoured by football pundits: he literally ran out of his own body to get down the end (sic) of the pitch, is one of my favourite mental images.

    My blood also runs cold / boils at leverage. A previous company I worked at liked to use it in almost everything. I even saw something where they (sales) were sending something out to staff explaining how they were going to be leveraged as a resource…very engaging. I ran a one person campaign to change it (where I could) to ‘make the most of’ as that’s what they really meant. *sigh*

  6. 02/22/2010 22:07

    But the advert told the public the truth. Your complaint reveals you to be an advocate of parsimony. I enjoy the use of the word ‘literally’, especially when it is misused (e.g. ‘People were literally going insane at the Take That concert’).
    Do you have the same feelings about other adjectives that stress the truthful reality of the message?
    As an aside, have you ever considered the meaning of the metaphorical? On the one hand it is trivially true (‘business is business’) and on the other it is literally false (‘the river’s mouth opened wide’). I suspect that you use it without complaint. In fact, I’d guess that you celebrate its success when it works well. Metaphor, however, is never a slave to the literal, nor is it especially efficient in its deployment of words.
    Therefore, you are literally a hypocrite.

    In other news, I also enjoy commercial radio, as my blog reveals.

  7. 02/23/2010 05:58

    ‘At the end of the day…’ truly causes a red flag moment for me.

    Interesting that bad advertising can sometimes be more stuck in our minds than an award-winning piece.

  8. 02/23/2010 13:33

    @BJH – Maybe you should test them by adding a biscuit….it could be phenomenal?

    @Lena – Seriously, dude you have issues…..

    @Gold Digger – See above, mam…..

    @Comms Bunny – Welcome and thanks for commenting….so if I said the phrase “leveraging human capital….”??

    @Fernandomando – I would literally go mad at a Take That concert….

    @mkeeffer – It is true that we often remember those god awful ads….and of course the jingles!

  9. G-dog permalink
    02/23/2010 13:39

    A former co-worker went apopletic at the common (US) use of “hopefully”. Currently, “like” has had a huge resurgence – “like I was talking to Sean, and he was like “blah blah blah” & I was like ‘No way!’…”

    I am extremely irritated by common mispronounciations – like “new-cue-ler”. No dammit it’s “new-clee-ar”. Especially disturbing went it is your own president, who has control of aforesaid weaponry…

    Other common one “perscription” (as in drugs), &”fwustrated” (as in wascally wabbits).

  10. 02/23/2010 14:22

    @G-dog – Like….I had forgotten about like….argghhh “and he was like you wouldn’t, and I was like, I would….” As for mixing up words, I once worked with a Manager who said pacifically instead of specifically…..used to drive me bonkers!

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