It’s come to my attention that I use the words “awesome” and “amazing” far more often than my circumstances merit. Recently, the e-newsletter GrammarBook.com published a list of words and phrases their contributors think are overused. At first, I scoffed at the list. I’ve never used the latest “in” words and phrases—my bad, chill pill, cool beans—because they very quickly become clichés and, as a professional columnist, I avoid clichés at all costs—like the plague.
But then I noticed “amazing” and “awesome” at the top of the list. I use them interchangeably to describe everything from the Grand Canyon to a quick nap.
Also on the list were “really” and “pretty,” two modifiers I also use far too often, as in “seeing the total eclipse would be pretty awesome” and “this tapioca pudding is really, really amazing.”
“Absolutely,” was on the list and I use it almost as often, even though I seldom feel as certain as it makes me sound. And seriously? I absolutely say “seriously” at least once a day. I say “sounds good” almost every time I agree to anything, even when it doesn’t sound good at all. And I have not only said “drop the ball,” I have done it.
Still, I’m proud to say that there were many words/phrases on GrammarBook’s overused word/phrase list that I rarely use. I don’t say “think outside the box,” and I probably don’t do it much either.
Nor do I say “paradigm shift.” Over the years, I’ve had a lot of things shift, but I’m not sure my paradigm is one of them.
And, honestly, I hardly ever say “honestly.” I always figure it’s implied. Besides it brings to mind that Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”
I never say “It’s all good,” because nothing is ever all good. I think people only say, “It’s all good” because “it’s mostly good” isn’t as catchy.
And I don’t say “my bad,” either, mainly because it means “I was wrong,” and I seldom am—honestly.
“Like” made the list, and it does, like, baffle me why some people, like, sprinkle the word “like,” as if it were salt and pepper throughout, like, every conversation.
I was happy to see “just saying” on the list, because I’ve never understood it. Someone says something dramatic, and then they add “just saying,” or, more precisely “just sayin.’” Do they mean, “I’m just saying it because I can’t keep quiet another minute”? Or “I’m just saying it, but I don’t really mean it.” Or “I’m just saying it because I don’t feel like singing it?”
There were many other overused words and phrases on the list that I rarely use including “high impact,” “low key,” “cutting edge,” “it’s not rocket science,” and “alrighty then.” But there were a few that didn’t make the list that I think should have, for example, “but wait, you also get…” and its numerous variations. And “it is what it is,” always sounds far more profound than it is…and what it is.
And “sweet” is the new “tubular” which replaced “gnarly” which came after “groovy” which replaced “keen” which came after “gas” which was once the “bee’s knees” and the “cat’s pajamas.”
But I was happy my favorite overused phrases weren’t on the list because I don’t want to stop saying them. I say “you know” or “you know what I mean” as often as teenagers say “like” and motivational speakers say “paradigm shift.” But I have a good reason. I say something important—really, really important, then I say, “You know what I mean,” because I’m not sure anyone does. I’m just sayin’.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better.)