Overused and Passé Phrases

I have already written about things people say that annoy me, with “I have a quick question” being at the top. Here are some other phrases that have passed their sell by date.

Stay in your lane – It can mean, mind your own business, or stick to your role. It seems to be the cliché flavor of the month.

Crazy – This is the new “go to” word for anything out of the ordinary. Here’s another word: lazy. Be creative and description. There is an entire language out there for expression. Use it.

OMG – God does not care if you are surprised or offended by something. He/she prefers you to find something else to say. Here’s another overused group of three letters: WTF.

I prayed about it – Praying is great, I have no problem with that. What I find offensive is when people use God to justify their actions. Asking God to give you strength, fine. Asking God to hear your thoughts, great. Saying that God told you to do something, not okay. Politicians are the worst, followed by hucksters like Jim Bakker and Paula White.

Just chillin’ – I have never really understood this phrase. Just relaxing? Just hanging out? This is not offensive, just lazy and not really very hip. Slang is fine, in moderation, but it is a crutch for not thinking. Need a quick, easy response? Be creative.

Think outside the box – That damn box again. What a cliche now. I’ve never felt I was inside a box. Are we a society of people wearing blinders with no ability or motivation to think?

Move the cheese – I love cheese, don’t be messin’ with it. Moving the cheese is changing someone’s reality, forcing change on them, in an uninvited manner. It was a call to be more adaptable. More than two decades ago, this saying was profound. Now, it’s just tired. It’s valley girl talk of leadership lingo.

Reinvent the wheel – Another time-worn phrase. We don’t want to waste effort and resources that can be better spent more productively. At times, re-examining what we accept as good, is necessary, as long as we don’t end up with square tires on our cars.

The new normal – The world is changing at the speed of life. Normal no longer exists. When this phrase was coined, it was easy to tell between yesterday and today, even if accepting it was an uncomfortable adjustment. Life is no longer “parked” long enough to be normal, so the phrase has no fixed reference point.

Been there, done that – Another short-cut that implies an experiential connection. Unfortunately, not all experiences are the same or leave the same historical imprint. We are always in a hurry, so we short-cut communication, and sometimes have a “failure to communicate” moment.

On the same page – In the old days, that saying made more sense. Since we are now in the digital age, a page is harder to imagine. We all know what the phrase means, it’s a short-cut to imply we have a mural understanding, not just do we have the same information. Information and understanding are not the same.

Honestly – I don’t understand the fascination with this word, but I hear it us d a lot. It’s use prefaces a statement of fact – or opinion. Facts and opinions are pretty much the same thing now, so whatever follows the word honestly, it is deemed the truth.

Here’s the thing – A variation of “honestly” where truth follows.

I’m Just Sayin’ – How many times has someone made a remark, uttered that phrase, and repeated the same remark verbatim? It’s as if we’re stupid or we’re not listening. Saying it twice makes it more true or more important?

Low-hanging fruit – Easy opportunities. I get it. Go there first. Perhaps symbolic more than signifying substantial progress. Why hasn’t this fruit been picked before? If it’s so opportunistic, why has it been overlooked. I’m curious. We could pick the easy challenges, call mission accomplished, and have some beer and nachos.

Strategic thinker – This is one of the most troubling phrases for front-line workers who are process and function oriented. Tactical people have a difficult time when you encourage them to think strategically. Actually, Labeling yourself a strategic thinker has very little meaning, it is such a general phrase that defines nothing. When I hear those words, my first thought is to ask the person to elaborate on why they see themselves that way. Their answers are quite revealing.

Detail-oriented – Another over-used resume phrase. There are jobs where detail and focus are essential. Other jobs require vision and creativity. One can also be mired in details and miss seeing the forest because they are too focused on one tree. Detail people often need very specific guidance. Too much detail is like being in the weeds.

Multitasker – You can walk and chew gum at the same time? Great! You are a multitasker. This phrase is used on every other resume. There are times to be focused, and other times when you need to be flexible. We are all multitaskers. I ignore phrases like this when I am hiring.

Self-motivated – I damn well hope so. I’m not your momma, don’t look to me to motivate you. As a manager, I reinforce motivation. I help open doors and support success – but if you cannot motivate yourself, move on.

I’m a people person – When I am hiring, this is usually an important thing to know, because it can have a varied impact on the job and the work environment. Getting along with others is important. Being a constant socializer spreading gossip and in everyone’s business can be a major problem. When I hear that phrase it is more a red flag than a positive attribute. To denote a professional persona that is respectful and positive with others, simply say something like that instead of falling back on a cliché.

Whatever! – Dismissive and rude.

3 thoughts on “Overused and Passé Phrases

  1. Some of these I’ve never heard (“Stay in your lane,” “Move the cheese,”), others drive me batty (“I’m just sayin'” and anything involving God or religion), and others I’m guilty of. My pet peeves – and I constantly heard them while hiking the A.T. – are the words “like” and “literally.” People with poor vocabularies sprinkle their sentences with “like.” “Literally” is often used when that word doesn’t even apply. What can one do other than cringe? If you point it out, you’re being rude…literally.


    1. We are a lazy society, we want it fast and easy. Social media has compounded it. Remember Edwin Newman, the newsman? He wrote books on the usage of grammar. He is probably spinning in his grave at how we now communicate.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I remember Newman. Thank heaven (secular heaven) for people like him, and other social critics like Steve Allen, George Carlin, Frank Zappa, etc.


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