Catch-Phrases and Trendy Sayings to Avoid

Every couple of years or so, I will step away from IndyCar discussions for one post and focus on the latest trendy buzzwords and catchphrases that have invaded our culture and gotten under my skin. Some are just irritating and overused sayings, while others are non-words that never previously existed – but those that use them will always produce a screenshot of some obscure online dictionary that they claim is proof that the non-word actually exists.

This is not something I would waste time with during the season. But we are in an extended offseason right now. Most seats have been filled, the majority of pre-season testing is in the books and we are in a bit of a lull (except for Sebring tomorrow) as we await the NTT IndyCar Series to kick off the season in another four weeks.

So bear with me while the curmudgeon in me lets off a little steam, as it has been over two years since the last time I vented about these horrible sayings that need to be avoided at all cost. Some of these I’ve complained about before, while some are making their first-ever appearance on this list. If you are using any of the phrases or non-words; please cease immediately. And for the humorly-challenged and the Legions of the Miserable – please keep in mind that this is all in good fun…sort of. I will return Monday with a more IndyCar-related post.

Here are some of the latest trendy phrases that are currently making me cringe.

Let’s conversate: As it typed this out, a red squiggly line appeared. Why? Because it’s not a word! Yet, I have been hearing it more and more in the last couple of months, when my wife, Susan, first alerted me to this phenomenon. I had never heard it, but just the very next day I heard the non-word used on the radio, when the host said “we need to conversate about that”. A couple of days later, a talking head on television looked very smug as he thought he was being very trendy and hip by using it, as well.

If you are going to conversate, does that mean you will be in the act of conversating? That sounds like something that if you do it too much, you’ll go blind.

The phrase should be “Let’s have a conversation about it”. Is that too wordy? I think so. How about just a simple, yet effective phrase like “Let’s talk”? [sigh]

It’s next level: If you watch a lot of college football, you’ve probably heard announcers describe a player as “…ready for the next level”. I’ve always wondered why they don’t just say the pros or even more specifically the NFL. Instead, they always refer to it as the next level. It sounds kind of vague and lengthy, but at least I get what they are talking about.

Suddenly, TV commercials have begun touting their products as “Next Level”. For example, Verizon has started a campaign saying their service is next level. What exactly does that mean? Does that mean if you pay for a next level of service that your calls will no longer be dropped or that the person you are talking to will never start sounding like a Martian? That tells me that if I sign up for anything other than next level, that I can expect sub-par service and can only hope that my texts will go through.

I’ve even seen commercials where clothing apparel is now being called next level. Based on what they are showing as next level, I would prefer to be a few levels lower.

Reaching out: This one may have made this list, each time. Chances are, you are using it in your work. If so, please stop. It comes across as either too touchy-feely or just pretentious. It has become so common in recent years, I have to correct co-workers and subordinates and even some at a higher pay-grade than me (is that next level?).

It just sounds a little too familiar. When I hear of someone reaching out to me, my mind immediately starts playing a Neil Diamond song inside my head. And you know what the words immediately following “Reaching out” is don’t you? It’s “Touching me, Touching you”. Creepy.

I make it a point to never use this phrase. I will contact, call, text, e-mail or send you a letter through the post office; but I will never, ever reach out to you.

I know…Right??? This one has quickly climbed the list as one of my all-time pet-peeves. I think this one gained in popularity within the past year or so. The girl that cuts my hair says it probably fifteen times, while I’m held captive in her chair under an apron. She should be able to see the back of my neck turn red each time she says it. You’ve heard it…you say something in passing like “It’s windy today” That simple phrase elicits a loud, irritating and purposely nasal “I know…Right???” With a heavy emphasis on turning right into a question.

Am I supposed to answer the question with “Yes, that’s right”? Do I just ignore it and keep on talking? It’s such an inappropriate response or question to the most benign statements. Maybe she just wants me to stop talking, because that is what I end up doing, just to keep from hearing that annoying response one more time.

You know what I mean? I thought this one went away in the late eighties and early nineties, with the Ernest and Vern commercials that were unfortunately turned into a series of bad movies. Just last week, I got a work-related phone call from someone that felt the need to finish every sentence with “You know what I mean?” The worst was that she would wait until I acknowledged her with “Uh-Huh”. It was exhausting! By the time the conversation was finished, I wasn’t even sure what we had discussed. I was too focused waiting on my cue to make sure to let her know that I knew what she meant.

Best practices: This is one that has been used in my line of work for years. Whether it is in our office, at a conference or now – on a Zoom. It almost seems to be a cult phrase, because it is always the same people that use it. How about just saying “the best way”? It’s a lot less vague. It’s more direct and easy to say. The term best practices just sounds contrived and pretentious, and one that I have avoided constantly.

The Hodgepodge: No, that’s not a buzzword. It’s just a good way of grouping many of these corporate phrases that have evolved recently into one category. In this group, we will include:

A Deep Dive – meaning a closer look. Why they chose deep dive is a mystery to me. It doesn’t even sound corporate or professional, but it has taken on a whole new meaning lately.

Drill down – See above.

Circle Back – That means we will talk about that later. It usually also means that someone doesn’t know the answer, but they are too insecure to admit that; so they resort to trendy catch phrases.

Put it in the parking lot – See above, except this one sounds even dumber.

Let’s take that offline – Quick translation is “Shut up”. Softer translation is that’s not an appropriate topic right now.

The optics – A very pretentious way of describing how something looks.

In the weeds – The way today’s management says, “Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty”. It’s shorter, but not near as descriptive.

Genre:  This is where my age will show. Apple has made the word Genre part of our everyday lives. But you’ll never catch me using it, because it is one of the most pretentious sounding words out there. People think they sound so cultured when they say it, I guess because it sounds French. When I was a kid and rode our bikes to the record store, we never asked where the rock-n-roll genre was. The salesperson simply asked what category we were looking for.

Flustrated: This one has made this list more than once. I first encountered this non-word while listening to the Titans radio pre-game show. Former Titan Kevin Dyson, uses this non-word often when things don’t go well for the home team. I suppose it is a combination of being flustered and frustrated. In the past few years, I’ve heard others use this hybrid phrase. I’m hoping it doesn’t work its way into everyday vocabulary. That would be very flustrating.

The New Normal: We didn’t get very deep into the pandemic last spring for me to grow tired of everything being referred to as the new normal. I resented that phrase since it implied that we should get used to this lifestyle, because it has now become our standard way of life. While some things have probably changed forever, I never want to think that sporting events without fans, virtual family get-togethers and masks in public are going to be permanent components of our lifestyles. This is temporary, however long temporary has to be; but it is not our new normal.

Infotainment: Someone thought they were quite witty, when they combined two words to create a trendy non-word (sort of like flustrated). This one started out as a pretentious and trendy buzzword to describe an information medium that doubles as entertainment. When I was a kid, Walter Cronkite brought us the news every night. He wasn’t a comedian, but he was one of the most trusted men in America. He couldn’t cut it in today’s world. People insist on being entertained while they get their news.

Even worse is the automotive world adapting this non-word to label the big screens in dashboards that contain Apple Car Play and all other ways to entertain you. Nowadays, these Infotainment Centers look more like giant iPads that have been duct-taped onto the top of the dash.

It is what it is: This is another repeat offender on this list. The saying has been around for close to twenty years now, and it still makes no sense to me. I know the gist of it means that’s the way things are, which is sort of pointless to state. It is basically recognizing the brutally obvious. I have to wonder what AJ Foyt thinks, when he hears a driver try to explain away something with “It is what it is”. I can’t think of a quicker way to get a tire tool slapped upside your head.

There are many, many more of these – I’m sad to say. We are all guilty of using phrases that we grew up with. There are many things my father used to say that I probably shouldn’t print here. My brothers read this site every day. If they’ve read this far, they will probably laugh when I say that one of his pet-sayings involved a rolling donut, while another has a Christmas Turkey in the punch-line. One of his favorites was “I told him how the cow ate the cabbage”. Although I know the message he was trying to convey, I’m not quite sure where that one came from – but it sure sounded funny, as did the rest of his sayings.

Today’s buzzwords and catch-phrases don’t sound funny. They just sound pretentious and like someone trying to sound hip. Just remember, if you think you are sounding hip; chances are you’re just coming off as a pompous fool. As Sheriff Taggert once famously said; “I am depressed”. If you’re not familiar with what movie genre or film he is associated with; look him up. That’s old people language for “Google it”.

George Phillips

21 Responses to “Catch-Phrases and Trendy Sayings to Avoid”

  1. Hi George. It’s often said that “The British and the Americans are two great peoples divided by a common tongue” [sometimes attributed to George Bernard Shaw but it didn’t appear in his writings] and most of your peeves have not made the journey over the Atlantic. Interesting read and I have never heard of ‘conversate’ which is truly horrific. If someone said that I might not be responsible for my actions. Over here the one which prevails for me is “Does that make sense” after every third sentence in an ordinary conversation. Of course it makes sense! I’m not deaf, stupid, 8 years old or illiterate! It grates every time……

    If interested here’s an old rant of mine;

    “What in Holy Hell is going on with the Nation’s news source? I watch the pompous ass on BBC South Today discussing passenger numbers on the rail network. Now I do realise that it is deemed that we are unable to understand anything without someone standing in front of huge zooming Early Learning Centre graphics but he shows us a figure of 22% which he describes as “nearly a fifth”. FFS, it’s more than a fifth! I know what 22% means and even if I didn’t, it’s unlikely I would know what a fifth meant either, especially converted incorrectly!

    This follows a dozy idiot on the Six O’clock BBC News last week describing flood water of 2 metres depth as “nearly 6 feet” for Chrissakes! What do these gimps do for their day job? I remind you all that this is the British Broadcasting Corporation not the Daily Star or the National Enquirer. Length being described as “as long as 10 double decker buses” or area illustrated as “as large as 15 football fields” is equally moronic…..

    I know that it is terribly fashionable to anti-intellectualise everything and that it is perceived that correct grammar, punctuation, spelling etc. does not matter, but it bloody does. Does everything have to be in primary colours, delivered as if I had the comprehension of a four year old and even then wrong? It’s just so exasperating…. ”

    Best wishes

  2. Brandon Wright Says:

    Have you encountered the new trend among young people where they just pronounce/spell every word wrong? On purpose?? I don’t understand it and I don’t like it, which of course makes me feel like Gerorge yelling at the kids on his lawn. Haha I have left more than one Facebook/Discord group because of it. It is not best practices and needs to be put in the parking lot before it becomes the new normal because it makes me flustrated.

    I’ll show myself out….😄

    • Thanks Brandon. I needed that today. My peeve is with auto spell check on my phone and email. I do not use the words gonna or wanna, thank you very much. 😠

  3. S0CSeven Says:

    I’ll move on when the entire English speaking world learns how to pronounce the second month of the year.

    It’s Feb-RU-ary not Feb-U-ary you dolts.

  4. Rick Johnson Says:

    George, I share your frustration. Some additional ones that annoy me:

    “Apartment homes” – I don’t know when this term started – seems like I’ve seen it since the early 2000s. Some PR person thought they would create a greater sense of luxury if they advertised that they were renting “apartment homes” instead of mere “apartments.” It really rubs me the wrong way, as if to suggest that all other apartment dwellers live in lowly “apartments” instead of the more special “apartment homes.”

    “Pre-owned vehicles” – Along the same lines as “apartment homes”…another term dreamed up by some marketing person who thought it had a less negative connotation than the previous term. I’d prefer car dealerships just refer to such vehicles as what they are (and they used to be called)…“used cars.”

    “My bad” – This is a phrase meant to acknowledge responsibility for a mistake. It gained popularity sometime around the mid-1990s or perhaps later. Sadly, it has been around so long it’s probably here to stay.

    “Ask” (as a noun) – For example, “Requesting a pay raise is a big ask.” I recall hearing this beginning sometime in the 2000s. This is another one in which I’m not fond.

    “Effort” (as a verb) – “I’m going to effort to find out.”

  5. Did “Give me 4 good ones “ annoy anyone? 😆

  6. Jack Phillips Says:

    One word that I’ve grown awfully tired of hearing in this pandemic age is “unprecedented”. it is a perfectly good word, but it has been very much over-used. It has become the 202 version of “Awesome”, which is another perfectly good word that is much over-used. The Universe is awesome. A one-handed catch of a football is not.

    I’ve not heard “conversate” yet (thankfully). Why not just converse? Oh – that’s right, Converse makes Chuck Taylor basketball shoes.

  7. I knew there were a couple more I’d come up with after we talked yesterday. Here are a couple more:

    “I was today years old when…” Just no. One time, back about 2017, this phrase got a chuckle out of me. Now it’s just tired and stupid. Please, everyone, I beg of you. Please stop using it.

    Something is X “times less likely.” What the hell does that even mean? It’s either the engineer in me of the one-class-away-from-a-math-minor in me that cringes and cries every time I hear this. I *think* it’s actually supposed to mean 1/X times as likely… as if someone says “George is 4 times less likely to know an Indianapolis 500 trivia question than Paul,” they are really meaning to say “George is 1/4 as likely to know an answer.” Something “4 times less likely” to happen means it might have a 92% of happening rather than a 98% chance. But that’s never what they mean.

    “Cold as hell.” Pretty self explanatory.

    I continue to maintain the word “proper” in nearly all racing connotations should here and forever be outlawed.

    And finally, while it’s not a buzz word, the incorrect usage of xST vs xDT to announce times always annoys me. The number of professional organization that incorrectly use time zone indicators is astonishing. If you can’t use then correctly, please just use the two-letter designations… ET, CT, MT, PT. Quit trying to look educated or fancy.

  8. billytheskink Says:

    It sounds like Weird Al Yankovic wrote the song “Mission Statement” because he thought it would be funny if he could annoy George while sounding like Crosby, Stills, & Nash…

    I thought “next level” went out the window in the mid-90s when Sega started focusing on advertising the Saturn instead of the Genesis and changed their slogan from the moderately clever “Welcome to the next level” to the bland “It’s how you play the game” and eventually to the dreadful “Hard stuff” (appropriate if the “stuff” in question was finding new Sega Saturn games in 1998).

  9. I have a new department chair this year. Younger than me of course. She says, “I know…..right?” at least three times in every conversation we have.

    Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one who finds that phrase annoying.

  10. Oliver W Says:

    Ten years ago I remember many racing drivers used to say “ for sure “ all the time. Think Massa. Same time as when awesome was the buzz word.

    Now it’s “yes, no “ when asked a question. I find I now say it too!

    The one that really gets me is “ I’m trying 110% “ not possible !

  11. no problem.

  12. Well, “next level” obviously comes from the world of gaming where gamers always would aim to reach the next level of the game It certainly does indicate a step up in league but not quite. A product being promoted as such would then mean that getting the product will feel like a breakthrough to the buyer, which reveals it as seemingly just another meaningless marketing term to get you hyped up about the product.

    “Best practises” is a term that comes from quality management and stands for the ever-supposed-to-be-improving standards according to which people should do things. I suppose some academic from the field of economics must have first come up with it to set his idea apart from the “standards” that were current at the time but, according to him, not as good as the “best practises”.

    Infotainment is a category of media programming that is different from mere reporting because it is meant to evoke emotions in the viewer. It has thus got a completely different intention behind it than reporting which is supposed to be unbiased and fact- oriented whereas infotainment always tries to tell a story, even if there isn’t any in a news item. That doesn’t exactly make it informative, does it?

    Might “circle back” have come from the language of pilots before it became common to say it about other things than getting back to some place later with your plane?

    Thanks for this lesson in language from this non-native speaker.

  13. Bruce Waine Says:


    LIKE I am suprised that LIKE has not be mentioned.

    I suggest the word “LIKE” be also added to the under 25 years old slang when they start ‘talking.’

  14. “Battle royale”

  15. Talón de Brea Says:

    One of my George-like peeves is “XX-year anniversary.” Just … no. “Anniversary” is derived partly from “year,” so the concept of “year” is already made clear. Let’s just say “10th anniversary” instead of “10-year anniversary.”

  16. Lynn Weinberg Says:

    The phrase “out of an abundance of caution” is my biggest pet peeve right now. It first became a trendy phrase during the pandemic. I don’t want to make this a conversation about the pandemic. However, from the time this phrase started to become common, it was being used inappropriately. I show this in an example that is not pandemic related.

    “Out of an abundance of caution, the 4 story building will be completely evacuated because the 2nd floor has been actively engulfed in flames for 20 minutes.”

    “Out of an abundance of caution, the 4 story building will be completely evacuated because the building 2 doors down is completely engulfed in flames and the wind is blowing in that direction.”

    Thank you for allowing me to vent. “The New Normal” also makes me cringe.

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