Annoying English Usages, Errors, & Quirks

10 posts


Post anything that annoys you. Here are a few random things to start with.

Errors in basic mechanics:

  • The misuse of the apostrophe and attendant confusion of certain homophones ( its versus it's , they're versus their versus there , etc.). Extra illiteracy points for the needless apostrophe-plural construction (e.g. the dog's chased the cat's ).
  • Any misspelling of definitely . Just memorize it would you.
Stupid stylistic affects:
  • The double negative not un- / not in- construction. Sometimes this is contrastive with the simple positive (e.g. not unlikely is not exactly the same as likely ) but usually it just adds two needless syllables. What is a not uneventful day other than an eventful day ?
  • Qualifications with vague and undefined referents. Here's an example from my own writing: Naturally for the obvious reasons I don't think this enterprise looks too promising. If the reasons are really obvious, why the need to say "for the obvious reasons"?

In the interest of sanity and peace of mind, I have let go of my irritation at many usage errors. The first annoyance I overcame was seeing nauseous instead of nauseated. The most recent one is the misuse of beg the question. It's not just a case of giving up. Language changes, and words take on new meanings, sometimes entirely opposite meanings. I don't like feeling annoyed.

Still, there are some misuses that can make me frown. I will post one when I think of one.

Niccolo and Donkey

There's lots, I just need to hear them again so that I can jot them down on this thread.

Let's start with the word 'basically' which is quite often wholly unnecessary in usage. It is used by some to stress what they are saying which isn't needed because the person is already expressing their thoughts vocally.

"Basically, this is what I think about sailing."

"This is what I think about sailing."

Niccolo and Donkey

I've been noticing this one a lot lately and have consciously been noting it every time I hear it.

All too often, people are ending their verbal communications by saying the word "so". Example:

"I had to renew my driver's license and the line was really, really long, so.................."

Often it's used when explaining something and automatically assuming that the recipient of the explanation can add two and two together:

"Lots of work to do, especially filing these reports with the shitty software, so..................."


Didn't take long to find one, just once glance at was enough.


What brought this on? I've seen this misuse before. My idea is that it sprang from the illiterate mind of someone who has been exposed to words like "comprising" and "encompassing" outside of an educational setting.


In the OP I actually forgot to include the item that planted the seed in my head for this thread:


My eyes are literally glued to the screen reading this thread.


I abhor the use of the phrasal verb "speak to" to mean "speak about".

Example: "Could you speak to this issue?"
Me: "No, I only speak to people, not abstract concepts."

However, I'm not sure it's strictly incorrect. It is possibly so widely accepted as to have become orthodox. Or maybe it's just an Americanism that grates on my delicate European ears.

This reminds me: in California, it is apparently not nice to "speak to" someone; egalitarian politeness requires that I "speak with" them. Ugh. How widespread is this?

I have heard this occasionally. Triple the annoyingness when vocal fry is used.
I have picked up this pretentious usage and now that you have pointed it out I am dropping it immediately.

I like the subtle difference between these two. "X spoke with Y" entails that X and Y spoke to each other, whereas "X spoke to Y" leaves open the possibility that Y did not speak to X.