Totes annoying: words that should be banned


The internet is the source of many crimes against language and these are among the worst offenders

We all have a watershed word the word that tells us its all over, that the internet has won, and our youth is gone for ever. For me, it was Yolo, or You Only Live Once. It was born, I used it, and rooms fell eerily silent as soon as it left my mouth. Yolo belonged to the others, the younger people; it carbon-dated me and I was envious.

You might call it snobbery but, for me, every delicious new bit of slang reminds me Im being left behind, along with VHS cassettes, legwarmers and Lady Gaga. Susie Dent, Countdowns resident lexicographer, tells me I should lighten up. Slang has always moved this way, she says. From Cockney rhyming slang to codes swapped among highwaymen, theyre tribal badges of identity, bonding mechanisms designed to distinguish the initiated, and to keep strangers out. The linguist and author David Crystal agrees: Remember the old maxim the chief use of slang is to show youre one of the gang.

Fine: Im not one of the gang. But surely even the experts would admit there are some words that urgently need to be retired, or at least restricted to people under 25? If a term becomes too popular, its irritant value is ramped up, Dent agrees. The impulse is then to replace it with something else.

This, then, is my highly subjective glossary of words that should be binned in 2017 the most annoying, the most misused, the most broken. Is one of these your Yolo? Its a hotly contested field.

Because internet

A lot of purists hate this one, but I think its quite inventive and useful as a shortcut, Susie Dent says. The main issue here is a fake sense of guilt. Were allowed to enjoy cat gifs, videos of people falling over and animations of a horse playing with a chicken without blaming it on the internet. Thats what the internet is for! Youre not above watching a 10-minute supercut of every time Alexis Carrington from Dynasty walked into a room and said Krystle! and you shouldnt pretend otherwise. Because internet? Because you.

Krystle vs Alexis (The hillside tumble).


Here lies the body, but not the soul, of totally, bastardised beyond recognition from a gorgeous, absolute adverb into an uber-chilled shrug or nod of the head. Not only that, it has a tendency to take other words down with it. Totes emosh, totes cray: no syllable is safe. All is not lost, however: so omnipresent is totes that your grandmother says it to mean yes, which means it should be getting measured up for its wooden overcoat pretty soon.

That thing when

A shortcut to starring in your very own scene from Seinfeld, That thing when attempts to glitter the very dullest of all the concrete: our everyday lives. That thing when your five-year-old sees Donald Trump on the TV and says he looks like a walnut whip. That thing when a girl hits on you in the gym, but youre married to the weights and gotta say no. Its easy to see why its popular that thing when you sit staring into your phone for hours at a time praying for something, anything, to happen until finally you just make something up doesnt quite cut it.

Amaze, or awesomesauce

Awesomesauce may sound like a ketchup business started by the dullest, most bored and married of your friends, but its actually a cutesy way of saying something is great, that you like it. Its an uncomfortably long hug from an overfamiliar stranger, or a double thumbs up from your manager on a team-building day, at the exact moment you decide you never want to join in. Amaze is the same, but has wider, more enthusiastic eyes, which it rolls very hard at you when youre not looking.

Sorry not sorry

This is the battlecry of the wilfully unapologetic, who see themselves as edgy mavericks while they go about their daily business dropping truth bombs (being rude), taking no prisoners (being rude again) and making baristas, waiters and shop assistants lives a misery because theyre too important to be polite.

School night

If you wear an itchy uniform, have chemistry in the morning and your alarm clock is a parent, then fine. If youre kidulting through your 30s and dont want to stay out for another drink, just say youre tired: everybody else is, too. But also: live a little, go to work hungover. Again, everybody else is.

Man crush

This is alpha masculinitys rare nod to homosexuality, which might come after watching a Ryan Gosling film, realising how cool he is and kind of wanting to be him and marry him all at the same time. Still, its better than no homo, I guess.


Illustration: Justin Gabbard

Words you love are dying all over the place, yet this centuries-old signaller of faux-intelligence and an incoming garbage opinion prevails. Used by people who want to come across as clever, authoritative or interesting, but actually sound argumentative and pretentious. And old. Ive used this one for years, Dent admits. Awkward.

The Boy

This sobriquet for the man of your dreams would be charming if he were the lead in a romantic novel. It tends to lose its lustre quite quickly when it becomes clear hes a crashing, bumbling bore who cant tuck his shirt into his pants, misses the bowl when he uses the loo, and forgets your birthday every other year. The trouble with The Boy is that hes mythical. In reality, hes all grown up; hes just A Man.


The moth-eaten cape of respectability afforded to demeaning words, teasing, bullying or harassment. Banter is a secret handshake that permits you to say just about anything you want and nobody can get offended. Anyone who doesnt fall into line is just being a buzzkill, mate theyre not even worthy of your bantz. If banter had a face, you would never tire of punching it.

Food baby

Pain is pleasures natural pudding, and your eager forays into nom nom and #foodporn territory can result in only one thing: a food baby. Parents-to-be proudly pat their distended midriff like nobody ever ate before, but unless that burger is going to somehow pop out of you and demand both your attention and the entire contents of your bank account for the next 18 years (more like 40, who are we kidding?), then its not a baby, baby.

I cant even

Pity the poor I cant even crew continually presented with situations that render them dumbstruck, able only to react with hands clamped to their face and a wide-eyed stare. Nothing trumps I cant even; not outraged, disgusted or horrified. Once you cant even, you cant anything youre unmatchable.


Just two more sleeps until my birthday, Timmy says as you tuck the covers in tight. Thered be no problem were Timmy a freckly youngster in cartoon pyjamas. Timmy, however, is a middle manager in his 30s and, predictably, his birthday is set to last a whole week, because these things always do. But this isnt just infantilisation, according to David Crystal, its a very old English usage, proving that basicness is one genetic trait we cant breed out.


The disturbingly cold trend for describing your mum and dad as a pair of androids isnt actually as space age as you might think; this usage was recorded by the OED in the 16th century. Mothership, however, when talking about your dear old mum, is newer, but still unacceptable. If she knew youd said that, shed be bundling you into an escape pod and shooting you right out into space.

All the feels

Anger, joy, love, pain, misery, shock, excitement: theyre all present and correct, but in between the nerve endings and the mouth, or the typing fingers, they become a rush of something conveniently indefinable. The feels is almost an embarrassment, as if you cant believe something is making you emotional, so you explain it away as the feels and hope it will pass. The feels can strike at any time: looking at a baby polar bear, mourning a dead relative or reading about Aleppo as long as youve got your feels handy, theres no need to, well, say how you actually feel. On the internet, the fact youre feeling something is usually enough.


I want the good things in my life to look like a happy accident and I also have an overwhelming desire for you to envy me. If we were next-door neighbours, Id own everything you do, only one price point up.


Most husbands have names John, Dave, Benot, even but if someone really wants you to know they have one, that dude will be known only as Hubby. Its used by those recently wed and bizarrely anxious to show theyre settled and sorted. First recorded in 1600, in 2017 Hubby is wrapped in I have one, you dont smugness, a fast-forward to the kind of cosy resentment only 20 years of marriage can bring you. Listen carefully, and you can almost hear Hubbys slippers shuffling towards you even though hes only 29.


Pretentious maybe, but quite poetic, Susie Dent says, and another move on for lit and its meaning of drunk or high. Yep, its brilliantly expressive when used by cool teens describing the illegal rave theyre at, and definitely works when youre talking about Beyoncs post-Grammys party packed with A-listers. But your dreary barbecue or gathering of thirtysomethings in a conservatory with a leaky roof? Lit it most certainly is not. Bring accelerant.


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