What one word tips you off that the writer is an idiot?

Certain words have been co-opted for the purpose of parroting boilerplate bullshit to such an extreme that when I see these words, regardless of context, I’m convinced that I’m reading or am about to read an essay, argument, letter to the editor, or blog post whose creator has zero intellectual candlepower, and is most likely a political wingnut as well.
For me, this word is “agenda.” Outside of the application of this word to business meetings (loci typically filled with idiots, actually), it’s been years since I have seen this word used in a way not intended to denigrate a group of people using a shallow straw-man argument. “The homosexual agenda” is obviously the king daddy of these, but there are numerous spin-offs–liberal agenda, socialist agenda, atheist agenda, feminist agenda. Basically, use of the word “agenda” signifies that the writer is bitching about something without having given it any original thought. Ask someone point blank what “the homosexual agenda” specifically includes, and the response is no more insightful than one actually given by a brightly colored South American avian, and with good reason.
Any others?

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  1. #1 by Lesath on March 25, 2009 - 7:46 pm

    Excluding linguistic atrocities like “irregardless” –: “Infosphere”. “Vibrations”. “Attuned”. And unfortunately, “scientifically proven”. I’ve found that good science rarely makes categorical claims of proof and that most “scientifically proven” information is thirdhand half-remembered nonsense.

  2. #2 by Shaden Freud on March 25, 2009 - 8:22 pm

    “Darwinist” is a pretty reliable one.

  3. #3 by dean on March 25, 2009 - 8:43 pm

    this may apply only to the administration at my school, but hearing “paradigm shift” does it for me (our admins, none of whom have ever taught, use it whenever they have a new idea they think we should implement in the classroom)

  4. #4 by Glendon Mellow on March 25, 2009 - 9:29 pm

    The word “referencing” in fine art circles always makes me nuts.
    Basically seems to mean “I have included this content or copied this other artwork without making any clear judgment about it so that you can think I must have deep thoughts in my art”.

  5. #5 by Bill from Dover on March 25, 2009 - 9:57 pm

    I’ll go with has not been scientifically proven.
    Immediately, the choices have rounded down to either the bible-thumpers or the fossil fuel industry.

  6. #6 by Pierce R. Butler on March 25, 2009 - 10:02 pm

    Occasionally the term (I dispute that it rises to the level of “word”) pro-life is used by a non-idiot, but never preborn or pro-abort.
    Likewise for Obamanation, Democrat as a modifier (“Democrat Party”), and any statement including the phrase, “according to Drudge”.

  7. #7 by Anon on March 25, 2009 - 10:20 pm

    In any context other than physicists discussing physics… “quantum”.
    I have seen it too often in psychology. Nope. “Quantum” in psychology means the writer is an idiot.

  8. #8 by llewelly on March 25, 2009 - 10:59 pm

    In the context of global warming: ‘alarmist’ is a 90% confidence indicator of idiocy. ‘warmist’ is a 99% confidence indicator.

    In debates about religion, ‘worldview’.

    In software development, ‘paradigm’ doesn’t indicate idiocy, but is a 90% confidence indicator for ignorance.

    In US politics, anyone accusing an opponent of being a ‘socialist’ or promoting ‘socialism’ is about 90% likely to be an idiot.

  9. #9 by Kevin Beck on March 25, 2009 - 11:18 pm

    @ Pierce: Ah, “pro-life” is perhaps the biggest misnomer ever coined. It’s not so much idiotic as unapologetically deceptive. In my experience, it is purely a synonym of “anti-abortion,” nothing more. Its purveyors couldn’t give a shit about meaningful life.

  10. #10 by Emory K. on March 26, 2009 - 1:23 am

    “Avowed.” As in “avowed atheist.” It’s really a veiled insult: Calling somebody an “avowed _____” actually means “Wow, I can’t believe anyone would PUBLICLY ADMIT to being a repulsive ______?”
    Also “militant.” Similar reasons.
    You’re an avowed militant atheist with an agenda, Beck. Admit it.

  11. #11 by Kevin Beck on March 26, 2009 - 1:25 am

    Do you have scientific proof?

  12. #12 by Martin on March 26, 2009 - 1:53 am

    Any use of the word “lifestyle” makes my idiot detector start pinging. If “lifestyle” is preceded by “gay,” the idiot detector explodes into a shrieking, howling, banshee-like cacophony prior to melting down and venting steam from my ears.

  13. #13 by mgordon on March 26, 2009 - 5:27 am

    indoctrinate.
    Wingnut: You libbies want to use the public schools and the liberal MSM to indoctrinate our kids with the commie homosexual evolutionist lifesyle.
    Me: How old did you say the planet was again?

  14. #14 by vjsingh on March 26, 2009 - 7:09 am

    The word ‘Wikipedia’. When used in a way that implies it’s a respectable source of information; even, in cases of severe idiocy, as if it clinches an argument. ‘Well here’s what Wikipedia says…’

  15. #15 by Cannonball Jones on March 26, 2009 - 7:29 am

    Only one word, although doesn’t really count as a word. Usually appears between the title and the actually article, pretty soon after the word “by”.
    Chopra…

  16. #16 by Neuroskeptic on March 26, 2009 - 8:32 am

    “meaning” and “purpose” (in the context of “the meaning of life”)
    “worldview”
    “reductionism”

  17. #17 by Neuroskeptic on March 26, 2009 - 8:34 am

    Oh, and “science”, when used as a proper noun, e.g. “science has discovered…” “modern science threatens…” “science vs. religion” is always dubious. There is no one, monolithic thing called “science”.

  18. #18 by Epicanis on March 26, 2009 - 8:38 am

    Any variation on the word “toxic” or “toxin”, when not used by genuine scientific professional who studies poisons. Bonus points for compound-word neologisms (“erototoxin”?) or use of the verbs “cleanse” or “clear” somewhere in the same piece of writing.

  19. #19 by Butter on March 26, 2009 - 8:50 am

    Scientism
    Civility (in the context of whether it’s okay to call ideas stupid)
    If you’re old-school, baramin
    PowerPoint

  20. #20 by Dr. Kate on March 26, 2009 - 9:12 am

    Maybe not necessarily idiot alarms, but definitely ones that grind my gears: using “impact” in contexts other than collisions (“impact your sales figures”); the use of “grow” as a transitive verb (“grow your business”); any euphemism for an actual accurate description of a product (e.g., describing a web site as a “solution”, as in “solution to a problem”) that is used to avoid using the common name for the product.
    In my experience, any or all of the above signal text that has been written by marketing types, who actually don’t know anything about the product they’re selling but want to make it sound fancy.
    Essentially, any jargon used solely for the purpose of using jargon (as opposed to valid use for clarity or accuracy).

  21. #21 by Mark on March 26, 2009 - 9:14 am

    Believe/Belief in Evolution [concept (usually evolution)]
    “quantitate”

  22. #22 by J-Dog on March 26, 2009 - 10:11 am

    Casey Luskin = Sure Sign Of Stupidity & Lies
    Denyse O’Dreary = Sure Sign of Poorly Written Stupidity.

  23. #23 by Pete Buchholz on March 26, 2009 - 10:22 am

    Materialism or materialist used as a synonym for reality. It’s often intended as an “insult” in the phrase “scientific materialism.” It’s intended to insult the person it’s being launched at by causing an association to Madonna.

  24. #24 by hopper3011 on March 26, 2009 - 10:25 am

    In any context other than physicists discussing physics… “quantum”.

    I take issue with this one, the word quantum wasn’t invented by physicists, it has very definite meanings both in financial and legal discussions. Ask a lawyer about a claim for “quantum meruit”, or an insurance executive about the “quantum of loss” – both terms predate the early 1900’s when the term “quantum theory” was coined.

  25. #25 by Blake Stacey on March 26, 2009 - 11:02 am

    Hey, I rather liked Quantum of Solace . . .
    “Darwinist” is a pretty sure signifier; a few British scientists seem to be holding onto it (I wonder if national pride is a factor here), but for almost everybody else, it’s a warning sign of crankdom. “Scientism” is another one — the number of times I’ve seen it used by crackpots far outnumbers the number of occasions it has appeared in a legitimate critique of, well, anything. “Reductionism” is another supposed insult in the same category.
    When is somebody a devotee of “scientism” or “reductionism” or even “the New Atheism”? When they are more uppity than their critic would prefer.

  26. #26 by Steve on March 26, 2009 - 11:07 am

    Evolutionism always does it for me. Seeing that or any derivative such as Evilutionist just redlines my bullshit detector

  27. #27 by Onkel Bob on March 26, 2009 - 11:50 am

    Phobia
    Every time I hear homophobia I ask the speaker does the person in question have an irrational fear of “the same” or is it of “men.” Invariably, I am accused of being insensitive, unfeeling, and uncaring (which to a case is true); however, if a person dislikes another simply because they do not share a similar sexual attraction, the word is bigot. Don’t ask about femiphobia, it’s my opinion that Ducat should be… (best not not elucidate felonious fantasies here) No, if someone has a phobia they must exhibit physical manifestations of that condition, it is not enough to feel uncomfortable around or to dislike the target of this phobia.
    Hate is another. If you hate something, you must do something about it; hate requires active involvement. If all you do is whine or complain, then you do not hate, you simply dislike. I hate whiners and actively avoid them or berate them they engage in their monotonous screeds. As you can guess, I am very popular. People hate me :^)

  28. #28 by Tommykey on March 26, 2009 - 1:15 pm

    Specific to Bill O’Reilly is when he denigrates someone or something he doesn’t like as “far left”. It absolves him of the responsibility of having to explain just what is wrong with the person or position he opposes. All he has to do is just put “far left” in there and his troglodyte audience nods in agreement. After all, “far left” = “very bad”, and that is apparently all they need to know.

  29. #29 by Kevin Beck on March 26, 2009 - 1:24 pm

    Sticking with politics, here’s another curious slur: “Progressive(s)”. You know, or should know, that your worldview ideas are fucked up when you openly regard progress as something bad. It’s not much of a leap to conclude that such people regard regressive ideas as beneficial; they do, but haven’t been in the habit of admitting it.

  30. #30 by speedwell on March 26, 2009 - 1:33 pm

    “Paradigm” and “deconstruct,” when used as a futile attempt to sound profound.

  31. #31 by Marc Abian on March 26, 2009 - 1:33 pm

    “Going forward” = useless business jargon, usually spoken not written though.
    “closed/open-minded” = why you won’t believe my nonsense without evidence, you dogmatic facist?
    “lol” = third grade is hard omg
    “reductionism” = my criticisms of science are based on recycled buzzwords from bad po-mo authors.
    “holistic”= my beliefs are wholly stupid.

  32. #32 by Texas Reader on March 26, 2009 - 1:41 pm

    abortificant
    it’s what right wing catholics call the morning after pill and sometimes even the pill itself to try to garner opposition to it.

  33. #33 by Greg Laden on March 26, 2009 - 1:45 pm

    Problemitize
    Dialogical
    Cosmopolitanization
    Valorization
    Totalization
    Detotalization
    Phenomenological
    Authorship used in any context other than somebody wrote something.
    Masculinities
    Femininities
    Modalities
    Reimagining
    Reenchantment
    Africanity
    Authenticity in any context other than antiques
    Ingeginism
    Geno-Globality
    Anything in quotes that is not a quote.

  34. #34 by Larry Ayers on March 26, 2009 - 1:53 pm

    This is one of those posts which ignites a truly entertaining string of comments. It belongs, really, over at Language Log, where such linguistic issues are discussed.

  35. #35 by John on March 26, 2009 - 1:59 pm

    You guys are making these words up right? Surely no one says these things. Well some of them.
    Really? They do?

  36. #36 by Onkel Bob on March 26, 2009 - 2:00 pm

    “Paradigm” and “deconstruct,” when used as a futile attempt to sound profound.

    Ow! How could I have forgotten the late Jacques Derrida’s offense to the English language. Exactly how does one demolish and erect at the same time? (I use disassemble to describe the act of removing layers of meaning from an art work.)

  37. #37 by Armchair Dissident on March 26, 2009 - 2:01 pm

    Particularly in American politics: Socialist. I have yet to find a single American politician who seems to know what it means.
    Similarly, “Politically Correct”, normally in the context of “This is Political Correctness gone mad”, code for, “I want to be a bigoted arse”.

  38. #38 by Science Avenger on March 26, 2009 - 2:04 pm

    In medical contexts: “energy”, “allopathic”, and “toxins”. Want to make an alternative medical practitioner spin madly, ask them specifically what they mean by these terms.
    “Ontological” and “teleological”. I know they have legitimate meanings, but 99% of the usage is sophmoric claptrap.
    “Liberal” as a noun. It’s used just as O’Reilly uses “far left” in Tommykey’s example above, to dismiss an argument without dealing with it. “Liberal” has become the Satan of politics for the right: no matter what happens that’s bad, the liberals did it.

  39. #39 by David Marjanović, OM on March 26, 2009 - 2:07 pm

    I’ll go with has not been scientifically proven.

    Yep, “proven” and “unproven” outside of mathematics and formal logics immediately flag an argument from ignorance.

    Immediately, the choices have rounded down to either the bible-thumpers or the fossil fuel industry.

    Or, scarily, historical linguists. They do science – most of them just don’t understand what they’re actually doing!

    Regarding Quantum. I have to disagree with your disagreement. The word “quantum” as misused in the context of modern idiotosity is NOT the correct (or incorrect) use of the word prior to 1905 (or whenever). It IS the incorrect use of the word as it is known in physics. The fact that the physicists borrowed the word to begin with is not relevant.

    Oh no. Every modern use outside physics I’ve seen of this word – except for “Quantum of Solace”, which plays with the older sense – is based on a metaphor from quantum physics. Like “quantum leap”: that’s the change of an electron from one orbital to another, and is now all over the German language as “big metaphorical leap”. Stupid! Stupid!
    Without exception, quantum woo claims to be based on quantum physics or even to be a direct application of it.

    When is somebody a devotee of “scientism” or “reductionism” or even “the New Atheism”? When they are more uppity than their critic would prefer.

    Bingo.

    As you can guess, I am very popular. People hate me :^)

    Well, that’s what happens when you make arguments from etymology. :-|

    “holistic”= my beliefs are wholly stupid.

    LOL!
    Oops, sorry :-]

  40. #40 by Greg Laden on March 26, 2009 - 2:10 pm

    I did not make up any words.

  41. #41 by DrA on March 26, 2009 - 2:19 pm

    The phrase “shares my values” generally means the person they are writing/speaking about goes to their church. What these values are is never clear from reading the rest of the missive.

  42. #42 by David Marjanović on March 26, 2009 - 2:31 pm

    Anything in quotes that is not a quote.

    Oh, I have nothing against scare quotes, but there are assholes who use quotes for paraphrases, and morons who use them for emphasis. ARRRRRGH!

  43. #43 by Levi on March 26, 2009 - 2:36 pm

    Any sentence that starts with the word “basically.”
    The speaker may just as well say, “I’m about to talk out of my ass.”

  44. #44 by Optimus Primate on March 26, 2009 - 2:48 pm

    Anytime I see reference to “scientists,” especially if they’re painted as some sort of monolithic group, I assume the stupidity of the writer.
    Also, any single author (especially a blogger or forum poster) who refers to himself or herself as a “we” is usually assumed to be a moron.

  45. #45 by Jim Fiore on March 26, 2009 - 2:49 pm

    Reinvent
    This word simply makes no sense. It seems to be used to indicate that something was updated, modified, or altered. Those are perfectly good words.
    literally
    when it is used in a figurative sense, as in “He could literally eat an entire horse for lunch”.
    The other thing that makes me mutter “idiot” is the use of high precision quantities where they are not warranted. For example, a commercial may state that their razor produces a “52 percent closer shave”. How did they quantify “shave closeness” and what sort of deviation or confidence are we looking at?

  46. #46 by Mary on March 26, 2009 - 2:50 pm

    Utilize.
    Most of the time people should write/say use, but they just like the corporate-y sound.
    (Unless it’s your project for the Burning Man festival, something you heard about in MAKE or CRAFT. In that case, utilize to your hearts’ content)

  47. #47 by Martin on March 26, 2009 - 3:02 pm

    Particularly in American politics: Socialist. I have yet to find a single American politician who seems to know what it means.

    And its evil twin, lurking over in the world of literary criticism: Marxist.

  48. #48 by Optimus Primate on March 26, 2009 - 3:06 pm

    Add “wellness” to the list.

  49. #49 by scrabcake on March 26, 2009 - 3:27 pm

    Hmmmmm:
    “Unpacking the invisible knapsack of _________ privilege.” (Insert white, male, wealthy, elitist, european in blank depending on situation.) Heard this one a lot in college. I refuse to unpack any invisible knapsacks. Actually, “unpacking” used by itself is enough to get me to tune out any sentence that follows.
    Also,
    “Liberal” used as slander.
    “Darwinism” which comes off as accusing someone of participating in a cult of personality.
    “Synergy”. I’m not sure anyone actually knows what this means, but management and marketing sure love it.
    “Agile” also frequently used by people who do not know what the *** they are talking about.

  50. #50 by Hal in Howell MI on March 26, 2009 - 3:29 pm

    @34 Hey, where would the Nigerian scam industry be without the word “modalities”!
    What about “alternative” as in medicine?
    “Take away” is quite annoying as in, “what’s the take away on this or that subject?”

  51. #51 by Susannah on March 26, 2009 - 3:30 pm

    “Lefties”. May as well quit reading here.
    “Renowned”, as in “renowned evolutionist”. Quote mine coming up!
    “Incredible”. Yes.

  52. #52 by Scrabcake on March 26, 2009 - 3:32 pm

    Ooooh. I almost forgot! The word “disrespect” used as a verb! NO! It’s NOT A VERB! I’ve heard this one a lot, even by smart people, usually in a double negative and almost always followed by a dumb excuse.
    Every time I hear it I cringe and have to convince myself that even though someone used that word as a verb in a double negative doesn’t necessarily mean they have nothing worthwhile to say…

  53. #53 by Mojave66 on March 26, 2009 - 3:34 pm

    As an old and proud lefty, I do have to say that if I hear the suffix “-industrial complex” appended to anything from pharmaceuticals to prisons to whatever the hell industry the author is trying to demonize, I’m going to personally come over to their house and whack them with the hardcover edition of “Das Kapital.” Did you know it was coined by that great progressive thinker, Dwight Eisenhower, Comrade Lazy-ass?

  54. #54 by Mojave66 on March 26, 2009 - 3:37 pm

    >”Lefties”. May as well quit reading here.
    Heh. Now there’s an unfortunate cross-post.

  55. #55 by Susannah on March 26, 2009 - 3:40 pm

    #37;Re: “deconstruct”.

    Ow! How could I have forgotten the late Jacques Derrida’s offense to the English language. Exactly how does one demolish and erect at the same time?

    It just takes a bit of practice. Here in BC, we load and “offload” our ferries dozens of times a day. Then all the offloaded traffic joins the rush hour.

  56. #56 by Susannah on March 26, 2009 - 3:43 pm

    #55.
    I should have qualified that. “Lefties”, as applied to anyone in disagreement with the writer.
    Ok?

  57. #57 by llewelly on March 26, 2009 - 3:46 pm

    “Synergy”. I’m not sure anyone actually knows what this means, but management and marketing sure love it.

    Synergy is the term used to describe a situation where different stupids cooperate advantageously for a final outcome. Simply defined, it means the stupid of the whole is greater than the sum of the stupids of its parts. The essence of synergy is an unexpected eruption of towering stupid.

  58. #58 by Free Lunch on March 26, 2009 - 3:47 pm

    [re: quantum leap] … now all over the German language as “big metaphorical leap”.

    English, too.

  59. #59 by Mojave66 on March 26, 2009 - 3:56 pm

    Susannah (#57):
    I sincerely chuckled at that. I call myself an old lefty all the time. Since I live in the SF Bay Area, it’s rare for me to hear it used as a perjorative, except when visiting my dad. Even then, his perjorative of choice is “Liberal”, usually pronounced with only two syllables: “LIBRUL!”
    I blame Bill O’Reilly for this.

  60. #60 by David Marjanović, OM on March 26, 2009 - 4:15 pm

    I’ll go with has not been scientifically proven.

    Yep, “proven” and “unproven” outside of mathematics and formal logics immediately flag an argument from ignorance.

    Immediately, the choices have rounded down to either the bible-thumpers or the fossil fuel industry.

    Or, scarily, historical linguists. They do science – most of them just don’t understand what they’re actually doing!

    Regarding Quantum. I have to disagree with your disagreement. The word “quantum” as misused in the context of modern idiotosity is NOT the correct (or incorrect) use of the word prior to 1905 (or whenever). It IS the incorrect use of the word as it is known in physics. The fact that the physicists borrowed the word to begin with is not relevant.

    Oh no. Every modern use outside physics I’ve seen of this word – except for “Quantum of Solace”, which plays with the older sense – is based on a metaphor from quantum physics. Like “quantum leap”: that’s the change of an electron from one orbital to another, and is now all over the German language as “big metaphorical leap”. Stupid! Stupid!
    Without exception, quantum woo claims to be based on quantum physics or even to be a direct application of it.

    When is somebody a devotee of “scientism” or “reductionism” or even “the New Atheism”? When they are more uppity than their critic would prefer.

    Bingo.

    As you can guess, I am very popular. People hate me :^)

    Well, that’s what happens when you make arguments from etymology. :-|

    “holistic”= my beliefs are wholly stupid.

    LOL!
    Oops, sorry :-]

  61. #61 by Kapitano on March 26, 2009 - 4:18 pm

    “Known” as an adjective before a noun that describes a person. As in “a known homosexual”, “a known denialist”, or “a known supporter of Darwin”.
    “Deconstruct” as a pretentious way of saying “analyse”.
    “Potentialities” as a pretentious way of saying “potential events”.
    Words ending in “-centric” that aren’t geometrical. “Afrocentric”, “phallocentric”, “Eurocentric”.
    “Team Player”. Always means “obedient”.
    “Scientism”.

  62. #62 by chancelikely on March 26, 2009 - 4:28 pm

    It’s not a single word, but any statement beginning with the phrase “I don’t want to be an X” concludes with the speaker being an X.

  63. #63 by Roadtripper on March 26, 2009 - 5:08 pm

    I usually stop reading when I get to the word ‘patriarchy’ or any of its variants. It’s a warning sign that I’m about to be declared a horrible human being on the basis of my genitalia alone. Shorter version: all men just are big, mean, poopy-heads.
    Rt

  64. #64 by Eric Lund on March 26, 2009 - 5:15 pm

    Any time somebody goes out of his way to emphasize that he is a Christian, I double check that my wallet is where it should be. Such people almost always focus on theological details at the expense of the big picture.
    “Sigma” (as a shorthand for “standard deviation”) has its valid uses in things like statistics, but in business speak it signifies someone who doesn’t understand that his model has been disproven.
    The phrase “liberal media” does not always denote an idiot. Many who use that phrase are liars.
    Mojave #54: Some people who talk about the X-industrial complex are aware they are referencing Eisenhower’s statement (for which X = military).
    Optimus Primate #45: In some contexts, such as deriving an equation, “we” might mean “the reader and I.”

  65. #65 by Richard Simons on March 26, 2009 - 5:16 pm

    I heartily agree with most of the suggestions here. A couple I’d like to add are ‘elitist’ and any invocation to a god or gods. There are some irritating expressions, particularly ‘quote unquote’ with nothing in between (no longer fashionable) and all the variations on ‘very unique’.

  66. #66 by jj on March 26, 2009 - 5:32 pm

    From a techie point of view – Google, as in to google

  67. #67 by ctenotrish on March 26, 2009 - 5:58 pm

    A new phrase the gives me a weird vibe is “lift up”. As in, “I’d like to lift up this idea/group/person to you”. I’ve been hearing it quite a bit in recent months, and it is apparently a phrase straight out of fundamental christianity. It does serve as in identifier though, so maybe that is a good thing . . . still, it just sounds creepy to me.

  68. #68 by jj on March 26, 2009 - 6:09 pm

    I always disliked the word very, and extremely

  69. #69 by pascale on March 26, 2009 - 6:33 pm

    “protocol” used by pseudo-scientific health advocates.

  70. #70 by Science Avenger on March 26, 2009 - 6:36 pm

    Add “materialism” and “naturalism”, when referring to supposed philosophies rather than obsessions. It translates to me as “I want my religious presuppositions to be excempt from the burdon of proof. Other “ist”s and “ism”s and their translations include:
    Abortionist – I can’t fathom that someone could support choice while having a decided opinion as to what they hope the choice is
    Scientism – Demands for evidence are so picky.
    Darwinist – I can only think in terms of authoritarian systems.
    Evolutionist – I like to pretend the people who oppose creationism are as emotionally vested in their scientific views as I am in my theological ones.

  71. #71 by Kevin Beck on March 26, 2009 - 6:40 pm

    I’ve even become skeptical of the word “opinion,” considering the frequency with which idiots use it compared to people with some amount of intracranial illumination. It’s typically used for purposes of ham-handed equivocation: “You believe in evolution and I don’t, but we’re both entitled to our opinions.” Yes, you have every right to be a moron, moron; no one’s disputing that. The point is that you’d be better off without the three coats of matte stupid.

  72. #72 by Science Avenger on March 26, 2009 - 6:47 pm

    Make that:
    Abortionist – I can’t fathom that someone could support choice while having a the opinion that the choice should be not to have an abortion.

  73. #73 by Morsky on March 26, 2009 - 6:51 pm

    I’ve always hated the word “merely”, when used in sentence constructs such as “but surely we’re not MERELY bags of icky fleshy bits descended from apes?!”.

  74. #74 by Spaulding on March 26, 2009 - 7:06 pm

    “Family” as a non-sequitur adjective, e.g. “family programing” on TV, “family values”, various institutional acronyms.
    Invariably a code-word for Christian right-wing, anti-gay, or anti-admitting-that-sex-exists.

  75. #75 by G Felis on March 26, 2009 - 7:13 pm

    @ Roadtripper #65: I’ll readily admit that there was a point in the history of feminism where “patriarchy” was an overused buzzword; but overused or not, the word has a clear definition – systematic oppression of women. Since actual systematic oppression of women still goes on damned near everywhere in the world every day, your impatience with any use of the word that most succinctly refers to it doesn’t speak well of you. (In short, you aren’t judged to be a horrible human being because you have a dick; it’s because you act like a dick.)
    For my part, I’m likely to check the mental box next to “Dismissed!” when I hear someone use the word spiritual as if it actually means something. It’s a conceptual muddle beyond redemption, a complete semantic void into which everyone who utters it pours whatever bullshit they want – if they bother to think about its content at all. Usually “spiritual” is just a completely empty “Rah rah!” valor word.
    We hates the word “spiritual,” don’t we Precious? Yesss…

  76. #76 by Spaulding on March 26, 2009 - 7:14 pm

    Long-winded substitutes for concise words:
    “At this present time” as opposed to “now”, “currently”, or simply using the present tense.
    Even worse when the error is compounded by redundancy:
    “Right now at this present time we are currently experiencing an idiot try to act intelligent.”
    Elements of Style covered a lot of this stuff already!

  77. #77 by Jacob Wintersmith on March 26, 2009 - 7:14 pm

    What is really awful about “worldview” is how it allows people to make implicit assertions about epistemology without explicitly declaring themselves to be radical epistemic relativists. People who talk about “worldviews” are invoking discredited ideas while trying to avoid having to stand up and defend them.
    With that in mind, I’d like to nominate “Fair Trade”. People use the phrase to implicitly assert that free trade is unfair without ever having defend (or even articulate!) their pet Just Price theory.
    (Ok, in principle, a person who has no truck with Just Price theories might still claim that trade is unfair due to various market failures. But pretty much none of the people you see buying FairTrade coffee can tell you what those failures are, much less why they think price supports are a good solution.)

  78. #78 by Will TS on March 26, 2009 - 7:18 pm

    Spiritual – “I’m not religious, but I’m very spiritual.” I have no idea what that means.

  79. #79 by Tommykey on March 26, 2009 - 7:22 pm

    Add “naturalism”, when referring to supposed philosophies rather than obsessions. It translates to me as “I want my religious presuppositions to be exempt from the burdon of proof.
    Hey SA, that reminds me of someone who’s been haunting ERV’s blog.

  80. #80 by Anonymous on March 26, 2009 - 8:04 pm

    The word “disrespect” used as a verb! NO! It’s NOT A VERB!

    Not to dis anyone, but I’m convinced that this is a myth, and that the idea that disrespect has only recently forced its way (back) into use as a verb may find its origin in racial prejudice.
    From the *Internets* I gather that the earliest known use of this word is as a verb, and it appears in dictionaries as both noun and verb. Though that usage is thought to have decreased in frequency until recently, the verb form never became archaic, and certainly never left dictionaries.
    But then in 2003 there’s this:
    From Paul Brians, Common Errors in English Usage:

    The hip-hop subculture has revived the use of “disrespect” as a verb. In the meaning to have or show disrespect, this usage has been long established, if unusual. However, the new street meaning of the term,ordinarily abbreviated to “dis,” is slightly but significantly different: to act disrespectfully, or–more frequently–insultingly toward someone. In some neighborhoods “dissing” is defined as merely failing to show sufficient terror in the face of intimidation. In those neighborhoods, it is wise to know how the term is used; but an applicant for a job who complains about having been “disrespected” elsewhere is likely to incur further disrespect . . . and no job. Street slang has its uses, but this is one instance that has not become generally accepted.

    Is the writer of that passage a racist? I don’t think one can really decide based only on this evidence, but what’s your first guess?
    Again, this is all my opinion based on discussions and articles on the Internet, so I know it’s not worth much. Maybe actual language sampling can show that the verb form was almost absent until some time in the 90s. If so, then I’d concede that I really ought to find this recent usage jarring and unnatural.

  81. #81 by John J. McKay on March 26, 2009 - 8:26 pm

    I always wonder if those who rant about the “radical homosexual agenda” are okay with the moderate homosexual agenda. Ditto for the “militant atheist agenda.”

  82. #82 by Jeremy on March 26, 2009 - 8:27 pm

    Regarding “Quantum” – I agree that is very frequently misused by people trying to use the word as an analogy for it’s scientific meaning, or in some reference to its scientific meaning.
    However it also can be used correctly from it’s original meaning. Indeed I only recently found out it had a non scientific meaning, after looking it up in the dictionary in response to an essay by the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in which he talked about the “quantum of global financial transactions,” and it turned out the phrase did make sense, although was a rather verbose way of putting it.

  83. #83 by John J. McKay on March 26, 2009 - 8:28 pm

    I always wonder if those who rant about the “radical homosexual agenda” are okay with the moderate homosexual agenda. Ditto for the “militant atheist agenda.”

  84. #84 by DrBadger on March 26, 2009 - 8:35 pm

    I gotta go with Darwinist/Darwinism and to add one of my own: elitist – it basically means a stupid person who’s threatened by education is speaking.

  85. #85 by SiMPel MYnd on March 26, 2009 - 9:55 pm

    I’ve always hated the use (and more often the misuse) of “per se”. “I agree with that idea per se”, followed by drivel about why they don’t.
    Also, microevolution. Instant warning of creotard nonsense to follow.

  86. #86 by Robert S. on March 26, 2009 - 10:51 pm

    I saw this in an ad rather then a comment, but actualize.
    as in “actualize affordable speed”
    from an AT&T ISP flash ad

  87. #87 by Interrobang on March 26, 2009 - 11:14 pm

    Anybody who uses the word “just” in a dismissing sense is pretty much a write-off, like “Why doesn’t she just leave?” or “Why don’t you just get a job?” or “It’s just politics,” as if any of the situations to which those phrases refer aren’t complex and probably fraught as hell. I am pretty sure from observation that people who use “just” in that sense are peeking out of a fluffy cocoon of advantages they have over lots of other people…

  88. #88 by Azkyroth on March 26, 2009 - 11:16 pm

    The word ‘Wikipedia’. When used in a way that implies it’s a respectable source of information; even, in cases of severe idiocy, as if it clinches an argument. ‘Well here’s what Wikipedia says…’

    Mindless Wikipedia-bashing is usually a tip-off to me, yes.
    (Seriously, I realize that the project has its limitations and weaknesses, but 99% of those who write it off as an information source seem to have taken the obvious potential problems that the basic concept engenders, exaggerated them by about two orders of magnitude, and just flatly assumed that nothing whatsoever has been or is being done to address them.)
    The phrase “is comprised of” makes me cringe, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a flag for idiocy per se.
    Misuse of the term “energy,” on the other hand…

  89. #89 by Azkyroth on March 26, 2009 - 11:19 pm

    By the way, I don’t know if it’s just my computer, but the fact that this page and/or blog seems to be coded to open every link clicked on in a new window is becoming a severe annoyance just in the five minutes I’ve been browsing the thread.

  90. #90 by Azkyroth on March 26, 2009 - 11:23 pm

    Oh, yeah. “Backtalk.” I have yet to encounter a decent human being who uses the term.

  91. #91 by Paper Hand on March 26, 2009 - 11:41 pm

    @Azkryoth #91: I believe it’s your computer. That doesn’t happen for me.
    And #90

    (Seriously, I realize that the project has its limitations and weaknesses, but 99% of those who write it off as an information source seem to have taken the obvious potential problems that the basic concept engenders, exaggerated them by about two orders of magnitude, and just flatly assumed that nothing whatsoever has been or is being done to address them.)

    Agreed. Wikipedia is great as a general reference. I’ve seen quite a few posts here on Scienceblogs that linked to Wikipedia for general background on a topic, while discussing a specific area in greater detail. It works well, as it allows the author to skip basic details that would bore more knowledgeable readers, while giving less knowledgeable readers some background to understand the post.

  92. #92 by Inoculated Mind on March 26, 2009 - 11:51 pm

    This is a most excellent idea.
    Neuroskeptic stole my #1 word: Anyone who mentions when advocating for something science-related who brings up the word “reductionim” or “reductionistic” is automatically suspect. I have almost never heard anyone use this term to criticize scientific theories properly.

  93. #93 by Kevin Beck on March 27, 2009 - 12:00 am

    “Elitist”–there’s a good one. People who trot this one out are usually idiots steeped in high-octane insecurity. I used to spend a lot of time on distance-running boards, and it got to the point where I would prefer to post anonymously because if I advised someone doing 25 miles a week to work up to 50 in order to run a decent marathon, I’d be branded an “elitist” if people knew my fastest times. The same advice coming from the rabble was not treated as suspect.
    Of course, I *am* an elitist–but only in the sense of fairness (such as letting the fastest runners into a race with a limited field size) and appreciation, not in a way that implies contempt. I know that no matter how hard I tried, I could never, ever produce the kind of prose Cormac McCarthy has. Not even close. I’m in awe of human outliers because their acomplishments are worthy of wonder and admiration, and whether they got there chiefly by hard work or mostly by talent is, in the end, immaterial.
    Azkyroth–I’m not sure why that would be happening, but it must be on the broswer side. A few links in the sidebar are set up with a target=_blank attribute, but that’s it. And I don’t know why that is, I just work here.

  94. #94 by Azkyroth on March 27, 2009 - 12:02 am

    Agreed. Wikipedia is great as a general reference. I’ve seen quite a few posts here on Scienceblogs that linked to Wikipedia for general background on a topic, while discussing a specific area in greater detail. It works well, as it allows the author to skip basic details that would bore more knowledgeable readers, while giving less knowledgeable readers some background to understand the post.

    To say nothing of its value as a dynamic citation aggregator; the extensive citation lists in the more robust articles have been valuable sources on multiple occasions in the past. I have yet to encounter a Wikipedia-basher who seems to be even aware that citations and references are used or encouraged, though; most of them seem to have just assumed that it’s a more verbose version of urbandictionary.com

  95. #95 by Bill from Dover on March 27, 2009 - 1:10 am

    Libtard. Ya just know these people haven’t escaped their teens.

  96. #96 by Azkyroth on March 27, 2009 - 1:44 am

    “Libtard” isn’t a very useful or erudite term, I agree. I prefer “Biggel.”

  97. #97 by Russell Blackford on March 27, 2009 - 3:06 am

    I have no idea what you think is wrong with the word “agenda”. I use that word all the time, and I can assure you that I am not an idiot. I even use it of myself: I do have an agenda; i.e. there’s a rough list of issues that I want to pursue. I see nothing wrong with having an agenda … in fact, I’d respect someone less if they didn’t have one. That suggests they don’t have a clue what they’re trying to achieve.
    On the other hand, I second, or third, or however many people have already beaten me to it, the word “scientism”; as soon as I see someone use that word, my idiot detector goes off loudly. In many contexts, the same applies to “reductionist” and its cognates. I also know I’m dealing with an idiot when they start talking about fires and crowded theatres, without putting any distance between themselves and these words.
    I also know that something is very wrong when I see such words as “hegemonic”, “problematic”, and “imaginary” used as nouns.

  98. #98 by Blind Squirrel FCD on March 27, 2009 - 3:07 am

    Thermite.

  99. #99 by Russell Blackford on March 27, 2009 - 3:20 am

    There’s also nothing wrong with the word “quantum”. Its most frequent use in my experience goes something like this:
    Union official: We demand a pay rise!
    Boss: Okay what’s the quantum you’re after?
    Union official: 16 per cent.
    Boss: No way. I’m prepared to offer 2 per cent.
    Union official: Right, we’re going out on the grass until you make a better offer.
    Boss: Wait, let me think. You can have a flat $3000 p.a. at all pay levels. Don’t expect me to shift on quantum – that’s the best I can do. But I might think about some retrospectivity if we can negotiate a few trade-offs over work practices.
    Etc.
    Yes, I know that the boss could have just said “amount” or “quantify what you want”, but “quantum” has become well-known and accepted jargon, and hence people in industrial relations here in Australia know exactly what is meant: i.e. the dollar or percentage amount of an increase in pay. The word just means something like “discrete amount”, and physics has no monopoly on it.

  100. #100 by rue on March 27, 2009 - 4:34 am

    “Modernism”: always the target of criticism, a term that either signifies something plain and hardly worth criticizing, or more often, a rigid caricature of dogma that no one actually believes in.
    “Energy”, except when quantifiable.
    “Misandry”; though technically there are a few identifiable instances of such, the complainer who has gone out of his way to learn this word is invariably one who feels emasculated by recent steps toward gender equality.

  101. #101 by rue on March 27, 2009 - 4:56 am

    Skimming this thread, it appears that Onkel Bob and Roadtripper are just so emasculated.

  102. #102 by Deen on March 27, 2009 - 5:00 am

    “Leftist” would be at the top of my list. Most of the others from my top ten I think have already been mentioned. Except for this one: “feminazi”.

  103. #103 by Russell Blackford on March 27, 2009 - 5:55 am

    My real hate, though, is the expression “as such”. This does have a correct usage:
    “The brachiosaurus was a very large animal. As such, it had to eat a lot.”
    But it is almost always used as a pretentious substitute for “accordingly”.
    “It was a long way down to the street from my 120th-floor window. As such, I decided not to jump out.”
    As what, you moron? Grrr, it sets my teeth on edge when I see this usage.
    And what is this new word “rediculous” that I keep seeing? Is it something small enough to fit in your reticule?

  104. #104 by Aenthropi on March 27, 2009 - 6:41 am

    For me, it is the words ‘descriptive’, ‘paradigm’ and ‘whole’, as in Linguistics and food.
    I am a linguist, and I have found when ever someone says ‘descriptive linguists’, I can think of other phrases, like ‘lacking predictive power’, ‘fallaciously reasoned’, or ‘basically made up’.
    Something similar for ‘paradigm’. It has come to mean to me, ‘what sand I put my head in’. I wish it did not.
    And whole food! What is that suppose to mean? When thought about, nothing, just some vague implications and a Pavlovian reflex of optimism.
    After those, I hate narrations that really heavily on copular to be to operate verbs, as it is weak language and insults the listener if he really listens. “The thing this does is aggravate you”. I should know aggravate is what it does in a simple sentences; aggravate is the predicate and you do not have to tell me. It aggravates me! I know.

  105. #105 by outeast on March 27, 2009 - 6:58 am

    Funny – the words here seem to fall into two categories: red flags (warmist, Darwinist, pro-life, etc) and pet mere peeves.
    The real red flags are interesting and justifiable, but I can’t believe how many people here are suggesting they would dismiss someone based on the use of a neologism… Someone above even objected to ‘disrespect’ as a verb, ffs – the OED has cites for that going back to E17, contemporaneous with the noun. Honestly, people – peevology is a display of ignorance.

  106. #106 by Muzz on March 27, 2009 - 7:40 am

    Can we have a hyphen?
    “Right-thinking” = set BS meter on full alert

  107. #107 by Marc Abian on March 27, 2009 - 7:57 am

    #104 I’m kicking myself. I can’t believe I left out feminazi.
    I know what it means, but I always get a visual of a group of uniformed women rounding up all the Jews and mothering them. “I made you a special cake. Now don’t you go outside without a jacket.”

  108. #108 by ed thomas on March 27, 2009 - 8:11 am

    How come is it that those you disagree with are “of that ilk”, but those you agree with are ilkless?

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