The most impactful vocabulary hacks you, like, need, going forward, because you only live once and it is what it is. Literally.

This also a Lucky 13, but the title was too long already.

Disclaimer: I know a lot of people hate selfie and hashtag, but those words did not make this list. My reasoning is that they mean specific things, and therefore have valid places in our language. They are new, but so are the things they describe. I think #using #hashtags to #makeapoint in a #conversation is #stupid, and there are some people who share way too many selfies, sure. But the words themselves are not misused or overused. Not yet, anyway.

Lists are fun. I’m a list person. Ranting is fun too. Here are the overused and misused words and phrases that get my hackles up the worst:

13. Literally

This has been bitched about so often that I shouldn’t have to.

“I’m literally going to squeeze your head off your neck with my bare hands. “


I’m going to keep doing whatever I’m doing that irritates you so much while you go look up hyperbole.

I’ll wait.

12. Like

And its best friends, whatever and you know. I somewhat expect these transgressions from a gum-popping, slack-jawed* teenager. It’s disturbing how often I hear it from adults.

Teenagers and adults can, like, sound more thoughtful and, you know, intelligent by, like, making conversational pauses, like, silent. And whatever.

11. ATM Machine

From the Department of Redundancy Department. ATM means “automated teller machine.” “ATM machine” means “automated teller machine machine.” It’s just an ATM.

I have the same complaint about “PIN number.” PIN means “personal identification number.” No need to say “number” twice.

As for chatspeak, wherein “ATM” means “at the moment,” why not just say “now?” It’s the same number of letters and means the same thing.

10. OCD

As in,  “I’m OCD about keeping my car clean. ” OCD does not mean particular or fussy. OCD is the abbreviation for obsessive-compulsive disorder, as found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used by psychologists,  psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals. Saying “OCD” instead of  picky belittles a health condition that  can be debilitating and agonizing. OCD does not mean fastidious

The preceding paragraph contains four words that can be used instead of “OCD” that sound a lot more intelligent.

9. Going Forward

This pointless buzzword-corporate-speak adds no meaning to what is being said. Chop it off the sentence, and the sentence means exactly the same thing. Of course we are implementing this new strategy going forward. If we could do it going backward, we wouldn’t need to implement it at all. Time travel paradox, anyone?

8. I Feel You

No, you don’t. You empathize with me, or you sympathize with me, or you are in a similar situation.  I appreciate the commiseration, but my husband is the only one allowed to feel me. Keep your hands to yourself, or you will certainly feel my elbow in your face.

7. Impactful

What cretin thought this up?  It’s cute-ish if your grade-schooler threw it out while fumbling for the correct word. Adults who use this non-word sound like they don’t bother to do their own thinking.

6. Hot Water Heater

Why? You don’t need to heat hot water. It’s just a water heater.

My son, Monster, breaks out in hives when someone says to “preheat the oven.” He maintains it’s either heated or it’s not. You don’t heat it before you heat it. Just heat the damned oven.


Short for “you only live once.” This nitwittery is usually used to justify behaving irresponsibly, as in “I’m about to add $250 to my already groaning credit card balance for [insert name of conspicuous consumerism item] that I don’t need and can’t afford. “

Besides, whether we live only once has not been established. I happen to believe in reincarnation.

4. It Is What It Is

You mean, it’s not what it isn’t?  Are you sure?

Socrates nailed the Law of Identity a couple of thousand years ago. I’m well aware of what the situation is. I’m not questioning a potential tautology; I’m just griping. Offer me a fresh insight or a solution or a therapeutic glass of Argentinian red, not a trite platitude that has ceased to mean anything. 

3. That Awkward Moment

. ..when you said “that awkward moment” to post to Facebook or Twitter about something that wasn’t awkward, just because you wanted to be cool and say “that awkward moment.”

It’s not clever anymore. Let it go.

2. Baby Bump

This sounds like prepubescent boys snickering behind their hands. It’s juvenile. Please stop.

And the #1 offender…drum roll, please…

1. Hack

They have taken over the media, these stupid hacks. Kitchen hacks. Gardening hacks. Office hacks. Ikea is not a hack; it’s a merchandiser. This dinner hack that “has millennials ditching delivery” by…having the advertised product delivered. Not only is that not a hack, it’s bassackward. Knowing how to change a tire is not a road trip hack; it’s common sense for anyone who drives a car. Not to mention that the concept of a mix tape/CD has been around for, what, 30 years? Not a hack. It does make me a little bit sad that I will never see the article that claims beating my heart is a health hack, because that would be so funny as to be utterly hysterical, but I have decided I will no longer read anything with the word “hack” in the title.** That’s how stupid it is.

I went to Synonym Finder and to find some words to use in place of the idiotic hack, and guess what? They list synonyms for 16 different meanings of hack, none of which are the debatable genius of using a paper clip to make a DIY convertible bra. Why? Because it’s not a hack! No! No hack! There is no boob hack there!

Being efficient or clever or even innovative does not make you Gary McKinnon. Breaking into and shutting down the computer systems of the US military and NASA from 3,500 miles away – not ethical, no, but that is a hack.

But on a good note: Today I heard a radio ad that promoted a food as “nutritious” rather than the grammatically incorrect and ubiquitous “healthy.” I almost swooned with happiness.

* It seems contradictory, but teenagers really can pull off popping gum while being slack-jawed. Covertly observe them sometime in their natural habitat, like a mall or a FEMA zone of a bedroom.

**Unless I’m actively looking for moronic things because I need to feel smarter. Some days are like that.


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

3 thoughts on “The most impactful vocabulary hacks you, like, need, going forward, because you only live once and it is what it is. Literally.”

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