The five most annoying phrases in the English language

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Thursday 22nd March 2012

“I truly am the reflection of perfection.” “In order to be the best you’ve got to beat the best.” “Enthusiasm is a huge asset of mine and I believe it’s caught not taught.”

Lines as dire as these can only mean one thing. Yes, you’ve guessed it. The Apprentice is back, with a new batch of entrepreneurial hopefuls (and hopeless cases) battling it out for the chance to go into business with the redoubtable Lord Sugar.

“This is not about a job anymore and I’m not looking for a friend,” the gruff tycoon told them last night (the bearded guy at the back looked like he was quaking in his boots). “If I wanted a friend I’d get a dog. I’m looking for a partner, the Marks to my Spencer, the Lennon to my McCartney. This is about me investing £250,000 into a business with one of you and I’m expecting you, as the so-called entrepreneurs, to make the money for me.”

I’m not sure if 2011 winner Tom Pellereau, who recently launched a curved S-shaped nail file called the Stylfile, is going to make shed-loads of cash for Lord Sugar or not. But the start of the eighth series of The Apprentice got me to thinking about some of the most infuriating phrases in the English language today. I’ve used the phrase “got me to thinking” on purpose. Sarah Jessica Parker (aka Carrie Bradshaw) uses it all the time in Sex and the City and it drives me and my daughter bonkers.

Anyway, here are my current top five annoying phrases:

1. “The fact of the matter is…” Politicians love this one but it doesn’t mean anything at all.

2. “Don’t get me wrong but…” Columnists use this phrase way too much.

3. “At the end of the day…” Surely there must be a more original summing-up phrase than this?

4. “With all due respect…” It  means the opposite.

5. “Absolutely.” Why can’t interviewees just say “yes” to a question these days?

I’d love to hear about your most loathed words and phrases. I have a feeling that Lord Sugar’s Apprentice happy band of wannabes might inspire a few.


22 comments so far

  • “can I get” instead of “may I have…” really grates with me. But for sheer vacuity, the phrase “going forward” takes the biscuit. It’s dropped at random into sentences presumably to let the listener know that the speaker is a tosser in thrall to business jargon.

  • Totally agree, Gervase. And you’ve just reminded me of those awful business-speak ones like “direction of travel,” “thinking outside the box” and “fit for purpose.”

  • “You know what I mean?” still grates after many, many years. I always want to shout back “Yes, I do, I am not as daft as you” but try and refrain.

  • There are so many…I’m a cliché hater!

    ‘To be honest with you’ has got to be the worst. My boss says it to me all the time. She even replies to my emails me starting ‘To be honest with you’ drives me nuts! If anyone says ‘At the end of the day’ I always want to shout back ‘It’s gets dark’ What else does it mean you moron..why are you saying that?

    Great post 🙂

  • Oh you all have me giggling away – I love to hate ALL of these little over used phrases. The whole ‘thinking outside of the box’ thing….I’ve decided that it’s probably time to be really radical and ‘think inside the box’.

  • Oh, that really made my day! Those sentences are quite excruating when you see them in print, but I’m sure I’m as guilty as the next person of using one or two of them. Have printed them out and pinned them on my noticeboard, determined to turn over a new leaf.
    Did I just say “turn over a new leaf”… Argh!

  • I think when interviewees say “that’s a very good question,” they mean “that’s an impossible question” and are just saying it to play for time…

  • Thanks so much, City Girl. I hate all those phrases too. When someone says “to be honest with you” I always wonder “does that mean you aren’t usually honest with me?”

  • I’m going to copy your example, Henri, and print them out too. I felt nervous about writing this post because I reckon I’m as guilty of using the odd cliche or two as well…

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