It is what it is.
Some words and phrases are just universally despised. Every year, the Marist Institute for Public Opinion polls more than one thousand Americans to find out which words, precisely, are the most loathed in the land. And while it’s easy enough to dismiss any one year’s results as a statistical fluke, it’s hard to argue when the same word is voted most annoying eight years in a row. (Women can’t stand these six words.)
In 2016, whatever was voted the most annoying word in English for the eighth year running. Thirty-eight percent of Americans reported that whatever annoys them more than any other conversational word or phrase, with 20 percent loathing no offense but, 14 percent despising ya know, right? and I can’t even, and 8 percent saying they can’t take any more of the word huge.
Joel Holland for reader’s digest (hand lettering)
Notably, the age of each survey respondent played a role in their ire or acceptance of whatever. Among Americans 45 years old and older, 49 percent agreed whatever is the worst possible use of Shakespeare’s language (as a reminder, these 10 words make you sound old). For Americans under 30, however, top honors for the most annoying English phrase went to I can’t even, earning 33 percent of their vote.
A common thread we can draw between both offending phrases is their role as conversation enders; respond to a friend’s harrowing tale about what a hard day they’ve had with “whatever” or “I can’t even” and your intent is obvious—you wish they’d just shut up, and can’t be bothered to think up an original way to say it.
Looking for something more clever to say? These ten words are almost extinct. Help bring them back.