5 Cringe-Worthy Words that Should *Totally* Bite the Dust

Photo credit: http://www.ccvsocal.com/valleyworship/use-your-words/
Photo credit: http://www.ccvsocal.com/valleyworship/use-your-words/

Are there words out there that just make you cringe? They either reflect another human’s idiocy or inflict feelings of disgust just because of what they are. Sometimes I wish people could vary their word usage a little bit. A thesaurus is your friend. But I suppose group think is hard to overcome, even for a thesaurus. The following are 5 cringe-worthy words that should be erased from the English language and never uttered again.

1. Ideate

I didn’t hear this word until I entered the corporate world. I guess as an English major, I was spared the agony of this word until I got my first job. According to Merriam-Webster, ideate can be both a transitive or an intransitive verb. The definitions are as follows: To form an idea or concept of. To form an idea.

I couldn’t tell you if this word grinds my gears (thank you, Peter Griffin) because people use it all the time or because it’s just a dumb word. Probably, it’s a little bit of both. The thesaurus gives 39 other possibilities. Yes, 39!  39 blissful words or phrases that function 10x better in a sentence than ideate. So next time, you find this word on the tip of your tongue at a meeting, maybe consider one of the following:

Analyze, Appraise, Appreciate, Brood, Consider, Cerebrate, Cogitate, Comprehend, Conceive, Deduce,
Deliberate, Estimate, Evaluate, Examine, Figure out, Imagine, Infer, Intellectualize, Judge, Logicalize, Meditate, Mull, Muse, Ponder, Reason, Reflect, Resolve, Revolve, Stew, Speculate, Study; Have in mind, Mull over, Rack one’s brains, Sort out, Stop to consider, Take under consideration ,Turn over,
Use one’s head.

I think my new favorite is cerebrate. How about you?

2. Slash

Slash is a new texting cultural phenomenon. If you are texting about one subject and then introduce a different topic, you use the word “slash” to indicate a change in topic. It functions like a new paragraph, signalling a different or new point. I’m okay with slash as a texting principal, but I’ve witnessed some people bringing it into regular speech. They change topics mid-sentence and insert the word “slash” as an indicator. At first, this really confused me and I’ll confess I had to do some research the first time it happened. I couldn’t figure out the purpose of that little interjection. To be honest, I was really disturbed.

3. Totally

This word gets on my nerves simply because of the way people have adopted different usages for it. Totally has replaced completely and culturally means, I agree. The way words change based on how our culture interprets them is a very fascinating. Take the following hypothesized scenario:

Person A: “That movie really sucked.”
Person B: “Totally.”

In the above scenario, Person A critiques the film. Person B expresses mutual agreement by using this eardrum-popping irritant. Merriam-Webster defines totally as follows: In a total manner. To a total or complete degree. And while this definition loosely allows for the above scenario, Person B has a lackluster vocabulary and I would never date him.

My dream guy would use one of the following taken from the thesaurus:

Absolutely, All, Altogether, Comprehensively, Consummately, Entirely, Exactly, Exclusively, Flat out, Full blast, Fully, In toto, Just, Perfectly, Quite, Thoroughly, Top to bottom, Unconditionally, Unmitigatedly, Utterly, Wholeheartedly, Wholly.

Well, the guy who used the phrase “in toto” would not be my dream guy…But you get the picture. If I were to choose a substitute, it would *totally* be unmitigatedly simply because of the number of syllables. And yeah, sometimes I dig sounding pretentious.

4. Conversate

I was a little surprised that this word showed up in the dictionary. Personally, I thought it was a mistake made when people turn the word conversation into a verb. The correct answer would be converse, in case you were wondering. But according to Merriam-Webster, conversate is an actual word and it is defined as follows: converse. Luckily, the dictionary redeems itself by stating that the word is nonstandard. Also, in case you are curious, the first known use of the word conversate was 1973.

The person who chooses to use the word conversate in conversation or writing would strike me as someone who strives towards being bombastic…and fails. And as I stated earlier, it’s okay to fail. But please don’t fail by using this word. It would be much appreciated. The thesaurus gives you just a few viable options when you decide to delete this word from your vocabulary.

Conversant, Converse, Converter (not really applicable), Converses, Converted (not really applicable), Convert (not really applicable), Converts (not really applicable).

I might be inclined to add synonyms to the word discuss to that list, in case none of the above strike your fancy.

5. Synergy

I learned this word from an ex-boyfriend who was a Business major. Why I dated a greasy business major we can discuss at another juncture. But anyway, because of my proximity to the business world (I edited all said ex boyfriend’s papers in college and graduate school), I came across this word early on in my college days and, to be honest, I despised it from the start. I never really considered this to be a real word. To make it, you smash together the words synthesize (which is a good word, by the way. Why waste it?) and energy.

Merriam-Webster defines synergy as: Synergism; combined action or operation. A mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (as resources or efforts). Upon looking up this word, I was displeased to discover that the first known use of the word synergy was way back in 1660. People have been using this atrocious word for more than 350 years! If you were curious, Merriam-Webster also tells you that synergy comes from the New Latin word, synergia, and from the Greek word, synergos which means working together.

Now, why does this word bug me? It’s due in part to the over-use factor, the connection to “corporate speak” and really, it just kind of sucks. The thesaurus offers only 11 words as synonyms but they would more than suffice as a replacement for this cringe-worthy word. So, next time you get a little shiver of dread because the word synergy popped into your head, consider one of the following to offer to your colleagues instead:

Alliance, Coaction, Combined effort, Harmony, Teamwork, Symbiosis, Team effort, Teaming, Union, Unity, Working together.

I think symbiosis gets my vote. I’ll just drop that one casually into a conversation sometime and see how people respond. What would you pick?

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As you can see, there are tons of possibilities out there when it comes to word choice. You don’t have to use the standard. Branch out. Try something new. Don’t be afraid. I promise it won’t hurt. And if you misuse a word, it’s okay. Just jump right back on that bike and try again!

Until next time, I remain your enthusiastic word servant.
Writer, out.


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