It’s happened again. In America, the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion has released the results of its annual poll to discover the most annoying word in English. And the winner? For the fourth year in a row, ‘Whatever’ has taken the gold.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, the authority in English, ‘whatever’, is defined as:
a relative pronoun & determiner used to emphasise a lack of restriction in referring to anything or amount, no matter what.
Why is it so annoying? It really doesn’t sound so bad… But it seems the authority in English might be a little off target with this one. If you look at how ‘whatever’ is defined on www.urbandictionary.com, you might understand how it could be annoying:
- Used in an argument to admit you are wrong, without actually admitting it, thus ending the argument.
- Used to express complete indifference to what a person is saying.
Whatever the Context
There were other words and expressions which appeared on the list. From ‘Like’ to ‘Twitterverse’ and ‘You know’ to ‘Just sayin’.
Unfortunately, the Annoying Words poll did not give the context in which the words get the blood boiling. Does this mean the best course of action is to avoid using ‘whatever’, ‘like’, ‘you know’ and ‘just sayin’ in any context?
While the Annoying Words poll has been conducted in America every year since 2009, it appears Oxford University researchers in the United Kingdom compiled a list of irritating expressions in 2008. ‘At the end of the day’ was followed by ‘fairly unique’ and ‘I personally’.
Once again, there was no context given, although allusions were made to the way football players speak. However, the results of research into where these terms originated were shared. Apparently, many annoying expressions begin as office lingo. And so, if you're being flummoxed by an atmosphere of bad camaraderie in the office, adjust your language and everything will be fine in no time.
Lost in Translation?
A few minutes ago I found myself using the word ‘whatever’ when translating a text. Alarm bells began to ring! Although it was used in a context I was sure would not be annoying, I couldn’t help myself: I found an alternative translation.
When they run the Annoying Words poll this year, I hope commonly-used words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘and’ don’t feature on the list. I’ll be in some trouble if they do.