Quiet Desperation

Some words are great, and others just grate


So,” “listen,” “to be honest,” “at the end of the day,” “it is what it is,” “like,” “literally,” “right?”

An April column invited readers to nominate words and phrases that should be banned for overuse, misuse, or uselessness. The response was far greater than I anticipated.

Why we are often careless when communicating is a topic for another column. Someone I know says “At any rate” without knowing she’s saying it.

The usual suspects - including “usual suspects” - were nominated. The one syllable word that has topped every one of these annual lists made it there again.

An expletive the writer admitted is here to stay was nominated for the first time. Take a guess.

Many of this year’s words were pandemic-related and should go away once the coast is clear.

“Social distancing,” “unprecedented, “new normal,” and “we’re all in this together.”

“Have a nice day,” the young woman repeats with the sincerity of a torpid parrot to every customer, never once something else more interesting or thoughtful she could say.

A variant, submitted by Lindi Brubaker (Highlands Ranch), is even more unwelcome.

“Have a nice rest of the day.”

Don’t begin a comment with “To be honest,” wrote Bob Marttila (Highlands Ranch) who added, “The person who uses `To be honest’ may not have been honest in the past and may not be in the future.”

“No worries.” “No problem.” “My bad.” “This too shall pass.”

“Kiddos.” “You guys.” “Dude.”

“Icon” and “iconic.” “Robust.”

Some readers didn’t explain themselves; others went into great detail.

Mike Dabney (Highlands Ranch): “Stakeholder.” Sharene Schmalz (Cincinnati, Ohio): “Frankly.” R. Johnson (Englewood): “Arguably.”

On the other hand, Tom Kocialski (Centennial) submitted a dissertation, edited here, on “systemic.”

“It may be just me, but I prefer to use the word `systemic’ in a biological sense as associated with a system within the human body, or a root system of a plant. I would prefer to use the word `systematic’ to relate to processes that are implemented by a system.”

Terry Gong (Arvada): “How was your weekend?” coming from an employee who asks inappropriate personal questions.

Kalvin Huck (Arvada): “Having said that” and “That being said.”

The all-time loser lost again.


A Castle Rock reader who wants to remain anonymous stated, “It’s an indication that the speaker is lazy-minded and is resorting to empty equivocations. It undermines whatever they are trying to say. I stop listening.”

I like it like that.

Pat Olson (Centennial) wrote, “Last week I was at the dog park and listened to a lady say `like’ every 10 words.”

Douglas Wolf (Wellington, Florida; yes, Florida) agrees with Olson.

“Increasingly, its use has permeated the conversation of those who are old enough to know better.”

Elizabeth No Last Name (Golden) submitted, “To make a long story short,” and added, “My husband uses it many times a day. Just tell your information, please. It doesn’t make you look smarter or more knowledgeable to begin with that annoying phrase.”

(Good luck at home, Elizabeth, after your husband reads this.)

P. Hudson (Centennial), proposed a word I’m unable to mention, except in its sanitized form.

“I think screenwriters must be paid by the ‘f-word.’ None of my friends is as profane as the characters in contemporary movies.”

He added, “If Martin Scorsese remade ‘On the Waterfront’ it would burn your ears off.”

(Note: it’s spoken 506 times in Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.”)

Martin Culpepper (location unknown), being impertinent, nominated “every word in your article.”

“Go figure.”

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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