Petri: 12 words you should stop using right now

Here are a few words to purge from Here are a few words to purge from your speech, immediately. Photo Credit: iStock

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If you want a list of words to incorporate into your conversation to make you sound more intelligent, this is not the place.

Frankly, I am not sure what you hope to gain by working random Internet vocabulary words into your conversations. These lists always result in conversations in which you pause for a few seconds and then say, furrowing your brow with intense concentration, "Dang, that lady makes a fine crepitation! I'd like to show her a machicolation or two, or would I?" And that which never impresses anyone quite as much as you would like.

Instead, here are a few to purge from your speech immediately:

12. Actually, when you mean to use "literally," when what you really mean is "figuratively" or "not literally." As in the sentence "I ACTUALLY DIED." No, you didn't. I appreciate your effort to stop using "literally" in that position, but "actually" isn't an improvement.

11. Irregardless. This is not a real word. "Ah," you say, "but neither was jangle when Shakespeare got started with it!" Sorry, this is not sufficient. Have you written "The Tempest" lately? "No," you say, because apparently you are really going to get into this with me, "but I did write something that was AT LEAST as good as 'Cymbeline,' if not miles better." Was it really, though? Are you sure? I acknowledge that "Cymbeline" was terrible, but somehow I doubt your assertion.

I'm sorry. We don't need to get into this. Just stop saying irregardless.

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10. Exacerbate, when what you want is aggravate, when what you want is irritate.

The English language gave up on dragging aggravate back to its original meaning "make worse," years ago, when even Dickens used it to mean irritate. This being said, exacerbate is not the word you want when you are trying to talk about how irritating something was. I know it sounds longer and fancier than irritate or aggravate, but you mean exasperate. Leave exacerbate at "make worse," where it belongs. There is nothing more exacerbating than someone saying, "It was just so exacerbating!" - at least in the sense that this sentence makes the whole language worse. (I've harped on this before.)

9. YOLO. Just kidding, actually. Go right ahead and keep using YOLO. It is a handy flag for people whose acquaintance I can avoid.

8. Synergy. I think this word meant something once, but at this point it is stuck in some weird circle of post-Dantean business-tripping Hell where it goes from conference to conference and PowerPoint to PowerPoint getting listed as something to encourage.

7. Disrupt Are you sure you're being innovatively disruptive? Are you sure what you're doing isn't just saying something inane?

6. "The salt of the earth." Just once I want to hear a resident of a small town described as "the pepper of the earth" or "the Sriracha of the earth" because, hey, that guy must be pretty cool and go great with rice dishes!

5. Lucubrate. This is just a test to see if anyone uses this word. If you do, come be my friend! Let's go douse things in Sriracha together!

4. Game-changer. Unless you're talking about formative experiences in the life of rapper the Game, which you aren't, because what has he even been up to lately? Or something that happened in the course of a sporting event.

3. Twerk/Twerking. I realize that this happens. I just wish we didn't have to talk about it all the time.

2. Headline lies. This isn't a word so much as it is a sentiment, like "The Only Video Of X You'll Ever Need To See" or "This GIF of A Puppy Doing Something To A Pumpkin Spice Latte Will Change Your Life." Is it? Will it?

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I guess "This May be Marginally Interesting And It Won't Take That Much Time Away From The Project You're Ostensibly Doing" doesn't have the same click-bait cachet. Also, the term "click-bait." Honorable Mentions: Mansplaining (the only thing I hate more than the word is the phenomenon), virality, epic (if it's so epic, where are the wind gods and sirens?), ironic, Renesmee.

1. Washington Redskins

Alexandra Petri is a columnist for The Washington Post.

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