On Forbes.com, an illustrated list of “40 Things To Say Before You Die,” has been making the rounds of late. It includes such classics as “I wonder” and “I believe.”
But far more important are things we say constantly but should be mortified about. Here they are.
40. “Let me share this with you.” “Let me share this with you” is always completely indistinguishable from “let me tell you this even though you don’t really want to hear about it.” In elementary school, “Let me share this with you” is what people say before grabbing your truck. It is all downhill from there.
39. “You look tired.” This has never made anyone who heard it feel better. Unless you are about to supply that person with soup and a nap, avoid this.
38. “Literally.” This word, as I’ve noted, is most commonly used when you mean its opposite, “metaphorically.” (Key and Peele have a PSA on the subject.)
37. “Moist.” Just don’t. It’s a gross word.
36. “Slacks.” The worst word ever, according to the New Yorker.
35. “Very.” Very is like cumquats, as my aunt always told me. Any salad with cumquats is better without them.
34. “You too!” to someone like a waitress or TSA official who has told you to have a good meal or a nice flight.
33. “I am SO fat!” if what you mean is, “I am, in fact, skinny or of average weight, but I crave verbal reassurances.”
32. “That’s gay,” unless you are talking about something like marriage or members of the armed services.
31. “We need to talk.” Yes, you sometimes need to say this, but I have always found “I HAVE HORRIBLE NEWS ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIP! LET’S GO SIT IN AN UGLY RESTAURANT!” works better for setting the mood.
30. “Xmas,” out loud. This also goes for “LOL” and “OMG.”
29. “Fine, thanks, and you?” as an answer to “Fine, thanks, and you?” This has happened to me more often than I will admit, and then you wind up trapped in an unending loop forever.
28. “My Klout score is in the 40s now.” Or, in fact, anything involving the word “Klout score” or implying that you have knowledge that Klout exists as a measurement of your worth.
27. “Hey, how many birds are there in North America?” or any other simple question whose answer your interlocutor should not be expected to know but that can be answered by Googling it.
26. “I need you to like my Facebook page.”
25. “When’s the baby due?” As Dave Barry said, never tell a woman anything that implies you think she’s pregnant unless you see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.
24. “It’s okay, I have a lot of [demographic group you just insulted] friends.”
23. “Oh yeah? Well, Hitler also ...” Comparing people to Hitler, as the Internet and Godwin’s Law have long established, is a sure recipe for a losing argument.
22. “Ha, ha, ha,” or “That’s really funny,” or “I see what you did there,” when you should just laugh.
21.5. “No, I’m listening.” This is always a lie.
21. “Never say never.” Never say “Never say never.” Actually, never say “Never say, ‘Never say never.’”Actually . . .
20. “Man, remember middle school? Those were the best days.” Anyone who enjoyed middle school is a bad person.
19. “Did you fall in?” This is the single worst thing to ask anyone who has just taken too long in the bathroom. If you must have an explanation, a more up-to-date question, better grounded in fact, might be, “Did your cellphone fall in?”
18. “What a coinkydink!” I don’t know if anyone says this, but if they do, they should stop right now!
17. “The bride was glowing.” Unless this was one of those strange radioactivity-themed weddings that you hear about so often, try to find a more original way of phrasing this.
16. “Everything happens for a reason.” You never see people who say, after things go wrong, “I wish more people would tell me that everything happens for a reason. That is exactly what I crave right now.”
14. “Addicting.” This is simply wrong.
13. “Irregardless.” Also, wrong.
12. “Exacerbate,” when you mean “irritate” rather than “make worse.”
11. “I could care less.” So you could possibly care a great deal, is what you’re saying, as David Mitchell points out.
10. “YOLO.” Unless you’re a cat, in which case this is a really poignant and controversial statement. Also, you’re a talking cat, so say what you like!
9. “I feel you.” This is a very creepy way of expressing empathy, imho. (IMHO should have made this list.)
8. “Just sayin’.” As opposed to all those other times, when you are not just saying things, but rather are causing worlds to shift by way of your words.
7. “Zed” or “colour” or “theatre” or other Anglicisms IF YOU ARE NOT ACTUALLY BRITISH. I don’t care how formative your summer there was.
6. “Who are you wearing?” This question has always struck me as exceptionally “Silence of the Lambs.” Also, no one has ever said it to me.
5. “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” This is true, except in cases where overfishing has done serious damage to fish populations, but in general it does little to console the person you are talking to, who does not want to date fish.
4. “It is what it is.” QED! This is another of those tautological reassurances that make life so unpleasant.
3. “Just be yourself.” People always offer this in the place of actual advice, like when you have inquired what to wear on a date or whether it is okay to chew with your mouth open and your head tilted slightly leftward. It is invariably unhelpful.
2. “Excuse you.” Anyone who says this deserves the rude thing that you just did to him.
1. “No offense.” This translates to, “I have just said something rude to you, and I realize this, but I would like you to respond as though I hadn’t.”