The Popcorn Stand: It’s the most annoying word? Whatever

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“Whatever” was the most annoying word of 2016 according to a Marist Poll and I pretty much agree with that. It’s also the perfect passive-aggressive poll result because what are people who disagree with this poll supposed to say, “Whatever?”

I’ve written about the use of words before and how context is so important. I have to admit I find people who say “whatever” as annoying as people who won’t take “no” for an answer or people who say they’re “sorry” when they really don’t mean it. Or “excuuuuuuse me,” which is the equivalent of saying “sorry” when you really don’t mean it.

It’s the eighth straight year in which “whatever” has been deemed the most annoying word in the poll, although apparently people seem to be getting used to the word because less people were annoyed with it, 38 percent in 2016 to 43 percent in 2015. Whatever. Oops.

I don’t know if there’s a poll for the best word but my vote would be for “OK.” It’s really nice when you tell somebody what you’re doing and they just respond with “OK” and don’t ask you a bunch of questions about what you’re doing.

Now again, context is key, and there are actually times in which using the word “Whatever” is “OK.” Like “whatever will be,” although I don’t think anybody has used that phrase since Doris Day.

Or “whatever you want,” although that’s a tough call. When you ask somebody what they want for dinner and they reply “whatever you want,” it usually begins a lengthy discussion in which nobody can decide what they want for dinner.

Another question I find more troubling than it should be is “what time is it?” as if it’s not “OK” to say “I don’t know.” (Trust me, I’ll understand if you don’t know what time it is and “I Don’t Know” could actually be the best phrase in the English language). Then there’s Yogi Berra who once when asked what time is it replied, “You mean now?”

And Chicago is one of my favorite groups and I do like the song “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is,” but if I asked somebody on the street what time it is and they responded with “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” I would respond with “Yes, that’s why I asked.”

And then when they ask “Does Anybody Really Care?” I would again reply, “Yes, that’s why I asked.”

Actually I would probably mumble “Whatever” and be late for my appointment.

— Charles Whisnand


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