Thursday, October 15


Poll finds most annoying word — ‘whatever’ Easily beats out strong contenders such as ‘you know’ and ‘anyway’

So, you know, it is what it is, but Americans are totally annoyed by the use of "whatever" in conversations.

The popular slacker term of indifference was found "most annoying in conversation" by 47 percent of Americans surveyed in a Marist College poll released Wednesday.

"Whatever" easily beat out "you know," which especially grated a quarter of respondents. The other annoying contenders were "anyway" (at 7 percent), "it is what it is" (11 percent) and "at the end of the day" (2 percent).

"Whatever" — pronounced "WHAT'-ehv-errr" when exasperated — is an expression with staying power. Immortalized in song by Nirvana ("oh well, whatever, nevermind") in 1991, popularized by the Valley girls in "Clueless" later that decade, it is still commonly used, often by younger people.

It can be an all-purpose argument-ender or a signal of apathy. And it can really be annoying. The poll found "whatever" to be consistently disliked by Americans regardless of their race, gender, age, income or where they live.

'A special class'
"It doesn't surprise me because 'whatever' is in a special class, probably," said Michael Adams, author of "Slang: The People's Poetry" and an associate professor of English at Indiana University. "It's a word that — and it depends how a speaker uses it — can suggest dismissiveness."

Adams, who was not involved in the poll and is not annoyed by "whatever," points out that its use is not always negative. It also can be used in place of other, neutral phrases that have fallen out of favor, like "six of one, half dozen of the other," he said.

But the negative connotation might explain why "whatever" was judged more annoying than the ever-popular "you know," which was recently given a public workout by Caroline Kennedy during her flirtation with the New York U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton. "You know," Adams notes, is a way for speakers to seek assent from others.

Pollsters at the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., college surveyed 938 U.S. adults by telephone Aug. 3-Aug 6. The margin of error is 3.2 percentage points. The five choices included were chosen by people at the poll discussing what popular words and phrases might be considered especially annoying, said spokeswoman Mary Azzoli.

(My daughter sent us this email; I have no idea where it came from.)

NOTE: I will not have access to this computer for the next few days. Visiting and commenting will be very sparse. Don't write anything good while my computer is away!


One Woman's Journey said...

You could write her back - saying - "whatever".

Jen said...

"Like" and "really" are the ones I can't stand. You know, like gag me!

Dianne said...

"like" is my big pet peeve, it makes my skin crawl

betty said...

I, like, really can't like, stand the word "like".

Anonymous said...

I hope that your computer is fixed and back in use soon. My son uses the word whatever when I am reminding him that what he is doing is unacceptable. That word "whatever" is such a rude way in the way that it is used.

Pagan Sphinx said...

I hate to admit it but "like" sometimes falls out of my mouth as naturally as a yawn. But only usually if I'm with peo9ple I'm truly comfortable with.

I can comment today -yippee!

bobbie said...

It is an annoying word. I have to admit to using it frequently when talking to one man in particular while I was still working. I knew how much he hated it, and I couldn't stand him. Just wanted him to go away.

Darlene said...

'Whatever' is a dismissive word and a way of ending the conversation. It is irritating because it leaves you with no reply. Like it's , you know, whatever.

I love Hillary, but she does say "you know" a lot. Maybe I don't know. :-)

John said...

Oops, I'm guilty of using the most annoying word--whatever! I know I picked this up from my daughter who has said it ("whatever, Dad) to me ever since she was a teenager! I never gave it much thought, but I guess it really is a conversation ender.

I even used "whatever" in a blog post recently! You know, another annoying thing to hear is "you know what I'm sayin."

sage said...

I thought about just writing, "Whatever"... But instead, I'll wish you well and hope your back around soon.

Shiny Rod said...

Whatever definitely gets under my skin.

Arkansas Patti said...

Tone inflection on "whatever" is what kills.
I am just grateful that the equally rude, "duh" and "not" have fallen by the wayside.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I also nominate 'like' - especially when its used in the middle of sentences for no apparent reason.

Its a popular choice

Ginnie said...

"Whatever" is my 20 yr. old granddaughters favorite expression. I've heard her put it to good use when she is loathe to do something!!