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Top Ten Irritating Phrases

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Top Ten Irritating Phrases

Top Ten Irritating Phrases


Researchers at Oxford University have compiled the top ten most irritating phrases.


At the end of the day, such lists are fairly unique.  I personally, at this moment in time, and with all due respect, absolutely agree with their list.  It’s a nightmare to hear these phrases, and I know that when I have thought of using them, I shouldn’t of.  Nonetheless, you hear them 24/7, even when stopping shouldn’t be rocket science.


Here they are in a less irritating form:


1.      At the end of the day

2.      Fairly unique

3.      I personally

4.      At this moment in time

5.      With all due respect

6.      Absolutely

7.      It’s a nightmare

8.      Shouldn’t of

9.      24/7

10.    It’s not rocket science


Not quite making the top ten, but coming close, was the expressions “synergy,” “literally,” and “ironically.”


Revealed in the book A Damp Squid, named after the mistake of confusing a squid with a squib (which is a type of firework), author Jeremy Butterfield says “We grow tired of anything that is repeated too often – an anecdote, a joke, a mannerism – and the same seems to happen with some language.”




So here’s my “top five” list of irritating phrases circulating around Christianity, leaving those who post on this on to suggest those that might round it out to ten:


5.      “Must be providential.”  Trotted out every time anything happens good or bad, often in ways that trivialize the true nature of God’s sovereignty and conveys a fatalism of the worst sort.


4.      “I need to go where I’m fed.”  The ultimate in spiritual narcissism and the deepest reflection of a consumer faith.  We can throw in “I didn’t get anything out of it” (applied to worship) and “I need to be ministered to.”


3.      “I’m Reformed.”  Code used by those who claim the entire Reformation for themselves and their embrace of Calvinism.  Nothing against Calvin, but it is a ridiculous reduction of the Reformation’s mosaic and the many streams of Protestantism that flowed from its dynamic.


2.      “Postmodern.”  So overused, and misused, that it’s become specious.  When a single word can refer to a philosophy (such as offered by Lyotard), an era of history (meaning that which follows the modern era), and a style of ministry, then we need some more words.      


1.      “Emergent.”  Do I even have to explain selecting this one?


Looking forward to yours…..


James Emery White





“Oxford compiles list of top ten irritating phrases,” Charlotte Bailey,, November 8, 2008.  Site:


A Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare by Jeremy Butterfield.

Top Ten Irritating Phrases