‘Whatever’: Most annoying word remains for ninth year in a row

The term, though less abrasive to millennials than baby boomers, still makes the majority of people cringe. ‘Fake news’ and ‘no offense, but’ are also high offenders, a recent poll revealed.

If this year’s most annoying words are any indication, people are not fans of ambiguity, falsehoods or platitudes.

On Monday, Marist College released a poll that ranks the most grating terms people throw around, and “whatever” topped the list—for the ninth year in a row.

While the word retained its crown, respondents under 45 don’t think it’s as infuriating as their older counterparts. Though only 25 percent of millennials say they loathe the phrase, 44 percent of respondents ages 53 to 71 list it as the most annoying term.

The Marist Poll reported:

“Since 2015, we have seen a narrowing between ‘whatever’ and the rest of the list,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “It has been more than 20 years since ‘whatever’ first gained infamy in the movie Clueless. While the word irks older Americans, those who are younger might not find ‘whatever’ to be so annoying.”

Thirty-three percent of Americans voted “whatever” as their most-irksome term, while phrases such as “fake news” and “no offense, but” also vied for the title (with 23 percent and 20 percent of the vote, respectively).

The term “fake news”—which stands as a growing problem for PR pros—was voted more annoying to those on the liberal end of the political spectrum.

Philly Voice reported:

Among those who considered themselves liberal or very liberal, the most annoying term was “fake news,” with 30 percent picking the phrase that’s become a staple of the national discourse.

It’s an unsurprising choice for the left, considering President Donald Trump’s penchant for using “fake news” to describe media coverage of his administration that he doesn’t like.

Though the poll can serve as an interesting (and perhaps humorous) look at phrases that make us shudder, communicators should take special care not to be too ambiguous or patronizing in their writing or other communications.

You probably won’t have occasion to write “whatever” in your next newsletter or press release, but avoid jargon and other over-used phrases, opting instead to explain your aims in a way that any reader can understand.

PR Daily readers, what words do you find the most annoying? Is “whatever” at the top of your list, too?

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