Frankly, One Word’s Missing from 2012’s Worst

Words have a power all their own
(Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

‘Tis the season for best and worst lists, and this one, of 2012’s worst words, is pretty good.

Some of these words have been bugging me since long before 2012, so I think ascribing a timeframe is a bit arbitrary. For instance, I got over “epic” since around the time Facebook was invented. And people have been suggesting I “ping” them for several years now and it’s never been okay.

“Baby bump” is downright execrable.

The complaint about “actually” is pretty funny:

Actually. Adverb, mostly. When Sarah Miller declared war on literally over at The Awl, I argued that actually was worse, the “talk to the hand of the adverb community,” or “the word that you use when you’re actually saying, ‘You are wrong, and I am right, and you are at least a little bit of an idiot.'” Actually, I still agree with that.

It’s closely related to an adverb not on the list that has long peeved me: “frankly.” It’s constantly overused and misused. Frankly signals that you are admitting something surprising or counterintuitive. It sets up an expectation that you’ll be sharing a special confidence — “Hey, I’m letting you in on something. It’ll be our little secret!”

As in, “Frankly, I’ve never been comfortable in a man’s body.” Or, “Frankly, that outfit makes you look fat.” Or, famously, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

But too often it’s used for the most obvious of statements, like, “Frankly, I don’t enjoy root canal,” or “Frankly, I like my steak cooked.”

Frankly, we can do better than this.