Other Matters: Wretched Excess On The Language Front

• Overkill word of the day, perhaps the decade: Absolutely.
This week on The News Hour on PBS television, nearly every person interviewed began answers to a total of approximately 150 questions with, “Absolutely. ” That frequency, from educated people discussing policy issues, is typical at all levels of public and private life.
Perhaps we can bring back “yes.”
• Inapt phrase of the day, perhaps the century: No Problem.
Ask for more water in a restaurant and the waiter says, “No problem.” Tell the supermarket cashier “Thank you,” and she says, “No problem.” Extreme example: the other day I wished a passerby a good morning. He replied, “Hey, no problem.”
This is getting out of hand.

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  1. says

    Great post on the use of overkill words that have absolutely (oops!,used correctly), no relation to what was said by another commentator.
    I lost the rest of my hair when everyone was using (they still do), the once-useful adverb “hopefully” meaning “with hope”, distorting it and misusing it to mean “I hope” or “it is to hoped”. If I say,”Hopefully my wife will arrive home on time”, do I mean she will arrive in a a hopeful state of mind? Of course not! “Hopefully” offends the ear of many who do not like words dulled or eroded especially when it leads to ambiguity, softness, or plain nonsense!
    Some greetings or substitutes for ” goodbye” ring false and empty of real feelings are: “have a nice day”; “love you”.
    More of this Doug. Hopefully(oops!) you’ll assign the “Elements of Style” by William Strunk jr. and E.B. White to the uneducated!

  2. says

    Hi Doug:
    If I may add my two cents worth… one of the things that gets my proverbial goat is people saying the word “literally” when usually they mean the very opposite, e.g., “I was literally beside myself with fury”, etc.
    And don’t get me started on the misuse of apostrophes.
    OK. Must stop now before I disappear in a cloud of self-righteous huffiness. Thanks, though – great post!

  3. Jack Tracy says

    I offer one phrase and one word that should be scrapped. The phrase, “The fact of the matter is…” should be avoided as assiduously as “At this point in time.”
    And let’s stop with “legendary”, please.

  4. says

    Although I’m German, I absolutely agree with your hopefully effective article, which literally means, that I wish it many readers.
    May I wish you a nice day? When you’d say ‘absolutely’, I would literally love you for that, absolutely!°
    Hopefully still yours truly,

  5. says

    I remain bugged by the phrase “I mean…”, especially to start a remark. (“Are you going to the game tonight?” “I mean, yes, I’ll see you there.”)
    Slightly off-topic is the over-pronunciation of ‘often’ as off-ten. They don’t say liss-ten for ‘listen’, or hace-ten for ‘hasten’, so…???

  6. says

    One more, if I may, coming from the father of an eight year-old son. The use of the word “like” as ubiquitous substitute for all other verbs of expression. As in: He was like, “What does that mean?” and I was, like, “Huh?”
    OK, now I’ll stop.

  7. Mickey Horwitz says

    My current pet peeve is when people say, “it’s very kind of…” or “it’s very sort of…”
    Which is it? Very? Or just sort of? Pick one.

  8. says

    You shouldn’t have started this topic, Doug. I’m going around railing at things…
    Why do so many broadcasters use ‘ahead of’ instead of the perfectly apt “before’, as in “The president will sign the bill ahead of going away for the weekend”?
    And another slightly off-topic: using the plus sign (+) in place of the ampersand (&) when they mean ‘and’. Plus is NOT a substitute for And! It’s usually architects or design firms who do it, so obviously it’s because it *looks* better.
    The English are bugging me with the use of ‘brilliant’ when they mean something such as ‘wonderful’. I suppose it’s not truly offensive, but they’ve taken away a specific meaning (re: diamonds or sun-on-water) that doesn’t really have a substitute.
    I feel better now.

  9. Ken Wilson says

    Jack Tracy rightly complains about “The fact of the matter is…” and “At this point in time.” But the one that really bugs me is “Going forward . . .” instead on “now” or “in the future” or just plain beginning with the rest of the sentence.

  10. T.M.Martin says

    Regarding the phrase ‘No problem,’ when it becomes ‘No probs,’ then it becomes a problem.