‘Shouldn’t Of.’ Argh.

The top ten most irritating phrases in the English language, according to Oxford:

1 – At the end of the day

2 – Fairly unique

3 – I personally

4 – At this moment in time

5 – With all due respect

6 – Absolutely

7 – It’s a nightmare

8 – Shouldn’t of

9 – 24/7

10 – It’s not rocket science

30 thoughts on “‘Shouldn’t Of.’ Argh.

  1. rakia November 23, 2008 at 3:33 am Reply

    Hmmm. With the exception of #4, I don’t find these particularly irritating. Probably because I use them.

  2. shani-o November 23, 2008 at 8:00 am Reply

    Ooh, more fun with lists! Here’s mine:

    1. No homo
    2. What had happened was…
    3. Irregardless

    Btw, I’m with Rakia. I don’t use those phrases, and I don’t find ’em irritating

    People have been abusing the English language for centuries — which is why it’s in the shape it is today.

  3. G.D. November 23, 2008 at 8:25 am Reply

    Rakia: ‘Shouldn’t of’ is one of my great pet peeves. i want to be like “‘HAVE,’ DAMMIT. ‘SHOULDN’T HAVE.'”

    Also, ‘definately.’

    Shani: “People have been abusing the English language for centuries — which is why it’s in the shape it is today.”

    and what shape is that, exactly? It seems odd to push against the evolution of language — the English language of 1508 is dramatically different than the one we use in 2008; I ride for the linguistic legitimacy of Ebonics, etc.

    But the above phrases are grating because of their redundancy (“I personally”) or because they function as empty, Palin-esque filler (“At this point in time” instead of saying “presently” or “now.”) I wonder why athletes, musicians and bureaucrats pepper their speech with those inane little flourishes.

    Anyway, is your problem with “no homo” the sentiment behind it? (That seems sorta like a different conversation.) And irregardless is an interesting case; it’s been a source of contention for decades — like, every time anyone uses it — but has become more widely accepted and even pops up in a bunch of dictionaries.

  4. shani-o November 23, 2008 at 8:38 am Reply

    GD- my point is that English has evolved to its current state (in part) because people were using it wrongly until the wrongness became accepted. And that’s fine (I don’t see where I was ‘pushing against’ evolution). ‘Irregardless’ is an example of an accepted redundancy.

    And some of those phrases are redundant, yes, but some (like 24/7) are just not to the taste of the listmakers. ‘No Homo’ is not to my taste.

  5. G.D. November 23, 2008 at 8:50 am Reply

    shani-o: so why can’t ‘irregardless’ be part of that evolution? hmmmm?

  6. shani-o November 23, 2008 at 8:54 am Reply

    It clearly is. But I don’t have to like it. Ugh. It annoys me because that extra syllable adds nothing! Nothing!!

  7. Lauren November 23, 2008 at 10:17 am Reply

    I’m a big fan of the passive-aggressiveness of “With all due respect” because what it really means is, “Watch! I’m about to disrespect you!”

  8. verdeluz November 23, 2008 at 11:54 am Reply

    These are hallmarks of bad writing and faux-smartspeak, but at the end of the day, I personally am not really bothered by most of them (8 and 10 being the exceptions). With all due respect, I think the people that compiled this list are wound a bit too tightly.

    Meanwhile, they left out the oft-abused ‘literally’? Huge oversight.

    Lauren, I used that phrase in a (quite passive-aggressive, actually) note to my landlord’s family last week. Its underlying meaning in that case was something along the lines of ‘I am seething with contempt for you irresponsible sons of bitches, but expressing myself honestly may get me kicked out of my house, so I need to play nice.’ And damn it, I did.

    It was completely ineffective.

  9. Seanathan November 23, 2008 at 2:46 pm Reply

    I’m surprised “Same Difference” didn’t make the cut

  10. G.D. November 23, 2008 at 3:05 pm Reply

    v: literally was mentioned in the longer article, along with ironically. Literally is so misused that I’m legitimately surprised when it’s employed properly.

  11. Ralph H. Manningfield November 23, 2008 at 5:04 pm Reply

    I hate it when educated people use the word ‘conversate.’ I have to always fight the urge to correct them. When I do, I tend to do it passive-aggressively. I’ll reiterate what they said making sure I replace ‘conversate’ with ‘converse.’

  12. rakia November 23, 2008 at 5:46 pm Reply

    Why is “shouldn’t of” wrong? Because “of” isn’t a verb?

  13. G.D. November 23, 2008 at 6:05 pm Reply

    rakia: it should be ‘shouldn’t have’

  14. rakia November 23, 2008 at 7:11 pm Reply

    Yeah, but why does it have to be “shouldn’t have”? What about “shouldn’t of” is wrong? I’m just curious. (This coming from an editor.)

  15. Ralph H. Manningfield November 23, 2008 at 8:00 pm Reply

    You’re thinking of the contraction of ‘should’ and ‘have’ which written out is ‘should’ve.’ ‘Should of’ is the phonetic spelling of should’ve.

  16. Ralph H. Manningfield November 23, 2008 at 8:21 pm Reply

    One more thing, the contraction should’ve or would’ve are examples of the subjunctive mood which expresses a condition that does not exist or is contrary to fact. For example, some people are saying: “Barack SHOULD NOT HAVE named Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.” The idea of Clinton not being secretary of state is contrary to fact as she very much is. Hope that helps.

  17. rakia November 23, 2008 at 9:29 pm Reply

    Ralph: Oooooooh. Thanks for clarifying.

  18. Ralph H. Manningfield November 23, 2008 at 9:51 pm Reply

    No problem, but with all due respect, it’s not rocket science… 🙂

  19. unknown November 23, 2008 at 11:39 pm Reply

    I would like to add “No offense, but…” to this list.

  20. bitchphd November 24, 2008 at 1:18 am Reply

    I’m cool with the “language evolves” argument. But Oxford is right: most of those phrases are heinous.

    I’m sorry they didn’t include “what it is, is. . . ” though.

  21. bitchphd November 24, 2008 at 1:20 am Reply

    “Shouldn’t of” is wrong because, like “fairly unique” and “I personally,” it demonstrates that the user is just not thinking about what they’re saying. As do most of those other phrases, really: they’re just sort of conversational fillers.

  22. Ralph H. Manningfield November 24, 2008 at 1:49 am Reply

    I cannot help but harken back to my essay writing days when I would routinely use the phrase ‘in other words’ as opposed to the more efficient ‘however.’ Interestingly, I think a lot of writing and conversation for that matter is littered with filler which can be attributed to the pretentiousness that comes with adulthood. Contrarily, my fourteen-year-old step son’s observations are pithy yet incredibly on-point. For instance, one day while we were watching music videos he said, “All this stuff — it’s just people showing off.” He said in seconds what would take an esteemed cultural critic an entire book to sum up.

    Also, let us not forget that our language is so damn redundant. Centuries of borrowing from any and every language we got our hands on has made for overkill. For instance if someone’s nice, they’re nice right? No, they can be amiable, friendly, genial, agreeable or any of a hundred other words. However, each of these words take on different connotations when used. For instance, if I tell you Sally is nice you may just shrug it off. But if I tell you Sally is delightful, well you’re going to want to meet that broad.

  23. Redstar November 24, 2008 at 12:57 pm Reply

    Ralph – “broad?” I’m sure Sally prefers “lass,” “lady,” “woman,” or hell, even “gal.”


  24. mr. get $ November 24, 2008 at 2:32 pm Reply

    “shouldn’t of” makes my intestines flush.

    i have a friend who uses it incessantly in text messages.

    i just want to put her in a box and mail her to Siberia.

  25. ladyfresshh November 24, 2008 at 3:00 pm Reply

    (i’m afraid to type now…)

  26. quadmoniker November 24, 2008 at 3:03 pm Reply

    You know what should be added to this list: “Alot” spelled as one word (it’s two people, TWO!) and the phrase “the fact that.” I agree that much of what sneaks into writing is an effort to sound smart. Most people are never corrected, either. When you write a paper for school professors often are more concerned with the quality of your ideas and the strength of your research. Also, professors are bad writers as well.

  27. quadmoniker November 24, 2008 at 3:04 pm Reply

    Verdeluz: I think “literally” must have been on the list in a previous year.

  28. ladyfresshh November 24, 2008 at 3:59 pm Reply

    how about ‘in my opinion’

  29. verdeluz November 25, 2008 at 9:13 am Reply

    rakia, ‘shouldn’t have/of’ is not the whole story- for the purpose of generalization, we’re cutting off the past participle (‘shouldn’t have done/said/eaten/etc.’), but you can’t convey the perfect aspect without the auxiliary verb ‘have’. To test this, substitute: ‘I of worked here for three years’, ‘It’s 10:30, she will of made the deposit already’, etc. Your editor’s stomach should be churning. =P

  30. justindburton November 26, 2008 at 2:00 pm Reply

    I enjoy the phrase “It’s not rocket surgery.” It’s delightfully subversive.

    As for empty filler, which most of these seem to be, check out sports talk radio or the broadcast of any sporting event. One of my favorite activities (it can’t be a drinking game, or I would never be sober) is counting how many times an announcer says the name of the game, the league, or the ball during a broadcast.

    For instance, “In the National Football League, if you can’t run the football up the middle, you just aren’t going to be able to win very many football games. You have to be able to move the football down the field.”

    I wish what I just typed were an exaggeration.

    One other question: I’ve noticed “24/7/365” gets tossed around a lot (not alot), but it doesn’t make much sense. Shouldn’t it be “24/7/52” or “24/7/4/12?”

    Anyway, unless a student is handing me these in his/her paper (some of us do care, quadmoniker), I’m not so much bothered as mildly amused by these things. That is the beauty of Sarah Palin; she could string these empty phrases together for hours on end.

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