5 words that should die an agonising death

I thought green was envy?
Several of these words can lead to disgust… Image from Mashable, owned by Disney Pixar

It was the Buddha who (allegedly) said “words have the power both to destroy and heal”. Though that is undoubtedly true, there does appear to be a crucial emotion missed out. Disgust. Not the disgust that is conjured up by magnificent authorship, by fine strokes of the pen. No, the disgust that is conjured up by a word itself, due to either its usage having warped in modern society into a symbol of all that is wrong with the world today, or just because they sound a bit… nauseating.

In reverse order (to make it that bit more exciting), here are the five words that deserve nothing more than fire and brimstone. A lot of fire. (Not so much brimstone. There’s not much about as it is. Unless you use the Brimstone moth. But surely that would possess an equally limited effect, for the moth would merely fly into the fire…?)

5. Pathetic fallacy

Example: the clouds grumbled quietly among themselves

I’m really spoiling you now, it’s a BOGOF (and if this list returns, that’s going straight down on it). I don’t have any mental image problems with this, just the fact that something which is actually a strangely beautiful literary technique has been so distorted. The words make the technique sound weak (that would be the ‘pathetic’ talking) and open to error (‘fallacy’ sounds strangely similar to ‘fallible’).

4. Literally

Example: it was literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done

This has got to be one of the most misused words around at the minute. It seems to have wormed its way inside teenagers’ heads (including, unfortunately, mine) and can’t get out. It seems to be occupying a new role as a casual emphasiser to make feats sound even more impressive.

3. Putrify

Example: the corpse had now entered the fifth stage of death and begun to putrify

As with puke, putrify conjures up images for most (especially those fans of detective dramas). Unpleasant images. Corpses with bloated faces (and don’t think ‘bloated’ has escaped), things which still have the semblance of people-but are undeniably no longer people.

2. Puke

Example: he was puking left right and center, it was literally disgusting

Puke is a bit like the verbal form of the condition. A bit horrible and no-one really wants to look at it. It’s an ugly word, it sticks on the tongue, and has a harsh sound. Enough reasons? It’s not as clinical as ‘sick’, nor as literal as ‘throwing up’, so it’s left with a word that has ramifications and a single usage associated entirely with one act which is not very pleasant in itself.

1. Gastronomy

Example: the amount of food involved within gastronomy is simply staggering

This is nothing to do with the near compound words of ‘gas’ and ‘astronomy’ (which together conjure up all sorts of unpleasant images), but more…. OK, it probably is to do with that. It’s an ugly looking word that doesn’t look anywhere as appetising as such a word should do.

Are there any words (or phrases) that get your goat? And then is it the mental image, the distortion of meaning, or just the improper usage that you dislike (or hate)?

This post was inspired by the excellent list at 101 Books


16 thoughts on “5 words that should die an agonising death

  1. I can tell you one thing, when my son was doing his internship with the CSI’s in the county here, he did NOT describe his first body as putrefied. His language was much more colorful! The man had died three days before in the middle of the summer in the upstairs of a house with NO air conditioning. And since he was the newbie on the team, he got the honor of popping the body. I never asked how his day went after that! o_O Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t imagine how… interesting (read: nasty) that must have been, but I did read somewhere that most (British) bobbies throw up at their first attended death (though as you say the chance of projectile vomiting increases proportionately with time). Did he end up joining the unit later on, or was he put off by that experience?
      Best, Matt

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He didn’t “upchuck”! LOL No he didn’t join them. He moved to Florida and got married. (In the end it was a bad trade off, as he would now say waiting for divorce papers… 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I had a contest on my blog a while back to choose the most annoying and trite words. Like, awesome, really, actually. Annoying was my criterion, but nauseating enters another realm, which actually I’d like to kinda stay away from lest I get pukey.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Words are tools of my trade,I am constantly using, learning and applying,to go beyond there meaning and take them to a new level is what I strive to do all the time. Thank you Matt for bring this to lite.
    As always Sheldon

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Irony/ironic is misused very often…

    And there’s also these annoying expressions

    “Well, uh…”
    “at the end of the day…”
    “Yeah, no”
    “let’s face it…”
    “it is what it is”
    “to be honest…”
    “with all due respect…”
    “I’m not being funny but…”
    “You know…”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Decimate” as in “The forest was decimated by the fire.” If you mean reduced by one-tenth, then sure, it was decimated. If you mean that it was completely destroyed, then “decimated” is not correct. Such a misuse drives me nuts.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t think about it either until I watched a TV show called, “Monk.” The character has an extreme case of OCD, but he’s also scarily smart and pointed out a misuse of “decimate.” Ever since then, I can’t ignore when someone uses “decimate” incorrectly, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

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