Education Grammar Memoir

Words That Piss Me Off

Juxtaposition of circle and square cakes

Is it an English teacher thing or do normal other people have a collection of words that carry emotional weight for them?

By this I mean, do regular folks like certain words and dislike other words? Or do most people just walk about the earth caveman-style without worrying too much about things like this?

Let me give you a for example.

I was reading a blog the other day.

It mentioned the word “juxtaposition.”

Do you get it?

I have to tell you that I have a thing about the word “juxtaposition.”

That word pisses me off.

First of all, I missed it on my SAT’s over 20 years ago.

(Okay, fine, over 25 years ago – whatever!)

I totally remember coming out of the lunchroom after being made to sit next to a repetitive pencil-tapper for three consecutive hours on a gorgeous Saturday morning. (Let’s not even discuss the fact that I have a thing about repetitive noises. My closest friends know that if they tap something more than five times in a row, I will throw them to the ground.) Let’s just say, I was definitely a little twitchy.

Anyway, I came out of the cafeteria and went a little ape-shit.

Me (all indignant): Who even knows what juxtaposition means? Anyone? I mean who would know that word?

Everyone looked at me blankly.

And then one person defined it.


Mr. Smarty Pants: Juxtaposition is the act of placing close together or side by side, for comparison or contrast.

Me: Really, Mr. Smarty Pants. That’s awesome that you know that. Can you use it in a sentence?

Mr. Smarty Pants: ‘I like the construction of sentences and the juxtaposition of words – not just how they sound or what they mean, but even what they look like.’ That’s a quote by Don DeLillo.

Me: Who the hell is Don DeLillo?

Mr. Smarty Pants: Where did you say you want to go to college?

I was sooooo pissed.

But from that moment forward, i have never forgotten the dang word.

Do you get it now?

And the reality is, I love the juxtaposition of words and ideas!

Oh, the irony!

And guess what? Now I use the word “juxtaposition” all the time.

Almost daily.

Just because.

I will not tell you the other skillion words that drive me bonkers bother me because if I am ever taken hostage in a bizarre twist of events that would lead to the taking of hostages, I would rather be water-boarded than have people whisper my least favorite words in my ears.

Can you imagine if my captors juxtaposed the whispering of all those awful words with simultaneous, repetitive pencil tapping?

That, dear readers, would be hell.


What words drive you to pain and chaos, and why?

54 thoughts on “Words That Piss Me Off

  1. I use juxtaposition to show contrast. But it has always seemed more dramatic than one who eats cake vs Danish pastry for instance. Dictatorship vs democracy is juxtaposition. I “get it” in the top picture. It is not healthy to be feeding children donuts and other sweet foods all the time. Having a donut shop next to a day care should be prohibited.

  2. Reach out
    Grief Counselor
    Share (not ice cream or cake but “feelings”)

    …no explanations necessary, I hope

  3. Um, having a gun store next to a day care should be prohibited!

    My students make up words that drive me nuts, “confuzzled” being the one I hate the most. Yes, they are confused and puzzled. But I am annoyed and I will not answer their questions when they use that word in any sentence.

  4. I hate “corporate speak”, especially where nouns are used as verbs, such as “conference” and “leverage”. I also despise the term “touch base”…what’s wrong with “talk to” or “contact”?


    1. Ointment is a terrible word. Personally, I don’t like the word condiment. Do you think it could be a words-ending-in-“ment” thing? Probably not, as I don’t seem to vomit in my mouth when I say apartment. Hmmm. I must say, the “oit” sounds pretty bad to the ear, but at least it keeps things moist.

      Ah ha ha ha. I crack myself up. 😉 Sorry.

  5. I don’t like “dealio,” as in “What’s the dealio?” I don’t even know how to spell it (and don’t want to know).

    Pink (an artist I love) sings this word in one of her songs, and I change the radio station at the first few bars, knowing what’s coming.

  6. I hate the word “diss” as in ‘He dissed me” or “He was disrespecting me.” NO NO NO. He was DISRESPECTFUL. “Pre-owned” is another one that can hit the road.

  7. “aks” for “ask.” Or maybe mispronunciation doesn’t count. Most people who say “aks” don’t have a clue that it’s wrong.

  8. This is fantastic. I’m so glad you introduced yourself to me. I also have strong feelings about words, and, coincidentally, I also used the phrase “water boarding” in my post today. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

      1. When I see “a lot” spelled as one word, I flip.

        I have a problem with the word “got”, even when used correctly.

        I have a problem with redundancies: each and every, end result, pair of twins.

        I have lots of other problems, too. I suspect you don’t want me to list them here.

  9. Munch
    Step up (to the plate)
    Out of the box
    At the end of the day

    Oh god, I have to stop. I’m getting verklempt (ironically, one of my favorite words…)

  10. EMPOWER.
    I know what it means, and generally the meaning is a good one. Empowering people is a good thing, but the word is over-used, It has been diluted. It has meaning but it has ceased to have any real meaning. It’s a buzz word.

    I also have a bit of an issue with the craze for “empowerment”. It doesn’t happen for everyone. Yesterday in the news it mentioned that a group of ex-soldiers, all with lost limbs or other physical disabilities had made it to the North Pole. Fabulous, good for them, but the story came with a message of “hope”. If these guys can do it ANYONE can! It just shows what you can achieve if you put your mind to it.

    Well that’s very nice but it rather supports the Tory/republican way of thinking – if you don’t fight and fight and fight you aren’t trying. Everyone can do it! If you are disabled and you can’t do it you are a failure – look at all these heroic disabled people just getting on with their lives and not being a burden on society.

    EMPOWERMENT is being used and abused to guilt people into pushing themselevs to the limit. Lots of people CAN achieve a lot with good support. But some people never will. And it’s not necessarily their fault. I would like to be an entrepreneur like Richard Branson – but I am not him. I do not have his busines head I don’t think that way, I don’t have his temperament. I admire him hugely but he is a very different person to me. Not everyone can be a high achiever, if they were achievement would have no value.

  11. Come to think of it (how’s that for a redundant phrase?) I am not keen on the word HOPE either. I have never really understood the meaning of the word.

    I recently read a definition which was something like “HOPE to wish for something with expectation of its fulfilment”. To wish and expect your wish to come true? What bollocks. Magical thinking!

    I might wish for things – but I don’t have hope. If I expect a wish to come true then I will have made an educated, considered judgement about the likelihood of my desire being fulfilled. A carefully considered prediction is not hope. It’s science.

  12. Slacks. As far back as I can remember, that word has been like nails on a chalkboard to me.

    The word “epistemological” also annoys me, mostly because it’s only used seriously in either a PhD class or a group of people trying to make each other look stupid. “Well, that’s really an epistemological question, isn’t it??” Don’t worry, I had to look it up the first time I heard it. And probably the second too.

    1. It sounds like something of or related to an episiotomy, which as many women know, is not something to be enjoyed or savored.

      So many yucky words here today.

      By the way, in my experience, talking about epistemological issues generally leads to talking about archetypes. I don’t know why that happens, but in English that’s the way it goes. And if you hang with me, it all gets reduced into the virgin/whore dichotomy. 😉

  13. Panties. Makes my teeth itch. Not sure why, but I don’t want to hear it…ever. Underwear, fine. Undies even, but please for the love of all things not panties!

  14. I too have a few words I am not a fan of. My current pet peeve is when I hear people use abbreviations in real life – either saying the individual letters L O L or even worse when it becomes a word “lol.” I cringe every time.

  15. People who make up words to sound smarter and/or more worldly.

    When I was trying to get my driver’s license transferred from AL to TN I had to prove I was born (which can only be done through paperwork), so I brought my birth certificate which, coincidentally, is one from the Philippines. The otherwise lovely county clerk who looked at it said she couldn’t accept it because it was a Filipinese birth certificate.

    I wonder where the Filipinese hail from, probably somewhere between the Philippines and Japan?

  16. Infuse, “irregardless”, “thank-you” (what’s with the hyphen?), moist, “bling”, juicy, treat, cake, saucy (wow, a lot of food related words) and just about any word with four or more syllables that people use in a desperate attempt to sound intelligent. Like pulchritudinous…

    1. Larry:

      “Irregardless” is a great one. That’s the one that people use when they are trying to sound really smart but then they undermine themselves by sticking that one in there.

      What’s wrong with “cake”? Please explain these food related word issues.

      1. It may take years to get to the bottom of my food related word issues, but I think it may have something to do with hearing these words too often in TV commercials as a youngster.

        Remember those cheap ads where they tried to make their voices sound rich and appealing, but just wound up sounding like they still had their mouth half full of something sticky? Those ones.

        Oh yeah, “tasty” is another word that is my verbal equivalent to fingernails on a chalkboard…

  17. I might feel the same way as you, angry at certain parts of speech or math because of a poor showing on the SAT, but I failed all parts so miserably that I would have to be mute to express my distaste.

    1. Wow, man, you are late to the party. Have you been slutting around other people’s blogs all day? Irregardless, I know a lovely Filipinese girl who has got some panties and slacks you might find saucy. She might want to touch base. LOL.

      By the way, let’s not do the “who-got-lower-on-his/her-SATs” discussion on the bloggie. After all, we are educators. 😉

  18. Well I am late to the discussion as well but in totally agreement that some words should not be allowed (contestation or “the other” being two examples).

    However, being the wonderful person I am, once I figure out what words bother people, I use them as much as possible. We all need to develop a thick skin (an expression that I dislike as well). I think this trend towards word torture stems from my dad being a sex education and biology teacher. Since I was little, I used the proper biological terms and for some strange reason this made others uncomfortable (Get over it, people! I had my dad say all those words with diagrams in 5th grade!). Anyway, I find it interesting which words really get people going.

    Great post Renee. I will be thinking of horrible sounding words all day…hmmmmm… I wonder how many I can work into my site visit today? Sounds like a challenge!

  19. Thanks for the interesting discussion, everyone. I don’t have much to add except agreeing with the “end of the day” one–you still hear it a lot in political discussions on the boob tube. Drives me crazy.

  20. Here’s a new word for you – it’s great – my daughter made it – “Broast” it’s bread only a wee bit toasted, so not quite toast, but broast.

    As for favourite words spoiled… I love the word hidalgo. It’s too archaic for most current dictionaries. It means a Spanish nobleman, probably on a horse. Kingsley Amis used it in Lucky Jim, when the hero is dancing with the girl he longs for – and feels like a hidalgo.
    But now someone has moved into our street with the surname Hidalgo. He has a lot to live up to. I fear he may spoil my word.

    1. Oooh! Oooh! That is an upcoming blog. I want to know about people’s favorite words.

      I plan to start using “broast,” but in this house, it will likely mean an combination of “burned” and “toast,” hence “broast.” I sincerely hope you don’t mind the bastardization of your daughter’s wonderful word. I just can never seem to manage “wee bit toasted.” 😉

      Sometimes we have “brice” for dinner.

  21. The word that pisses me off:


    Because everyone (and I mean everyone) I ever met growing up said sherBERT – emphasis on the second R in the second syllable that doesn’t actually exist.

    I was taught to say sher-BET and shown that there was no second R.

    So when I was a kid I would correct people because I didn’t know that this made me look like an asshole. Or stupid.

    My best friend’s mother gave me this patronizing look and said, “You mean sorbet.”

    But I didn’t. I meant sherbet. With no BERT. Because there is no second R

    Anyway, I have never served or bought sherbet in my home as an adult. Because I do not want my kids to say sherbert, but I also don’t want them to look stupid. Or like an asshole.

    Yeah. I hate that word.

    1. As per usual, Julie, I am left wanting to be you.

      And just so you know, in our house, it’s sherbet. Open invitation for you and your family to come over and eat it anytime you want. If only you knew where I lived. 😉

  22. I can hardly believe I dislike so many of the same words people were griping about. The word “panties” sounds ultra pervy to me, outside the bedroom.

    Though I don’t like buzzwords like “empowerment”, I’m fine with most made up words, especiallty as they usually do have a shelf life. “Broast” makes sense to me. It’s creative. If anyone still watches SNL, the character, Stefan (Bill Hadley), who visits Seth Myers on Weekend Update, has some hilarious made up words.

    Some expert lady once told me the word “nice” should be banished from usage, as it describes nothing. Well, I disagree. Nice says a lot to me. I’m not going to explain, be tedious. Reading between the lines is sometimes as important as vocab testing. Juxtapose that.

  23. Reading this string of comments has been fun. My least favorite words are puce and obese. Who would pick out a color for their walls or a dress called puce? I think it is a cross between green, grey, and white with a touch of yellow? It might not look so bad, it just sounds terrible. The word obese is just like it sounds. Fat! However, none of the synonyms sound any better.
    Chunky. chubby, or my nest least favorite, pudgy.

  24. I googled “Why do I hate the word Juxtaposition” and landed on this blog. Oh thank you so much…I am not alone…I laughed so much…may I add the word “undoubtably” to the list. My girlfriend says this EVERY TIME I SEE HER, even though I work in “undoubtedly” later in the conversation so that she will learn, but she never does. I like to make up words sometimes…”That is very observatory of you”. I do not like “pedagogy” … we just do not need this word.

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