Saying the Wrong Thing? 13 Words and Phrases You Probably Should Stop Saying


Why do we often find ourselves saying the wrong thing?

Language is a funny thing. Not literally, because, well, we’ll get to that in a bit, but it can be funny in that there are a lot of words and phrases we say when we mean something else. Saying the wrong thing has hit epidemic levels in our culture lately. Are you guilty of using one of these words or phrases when you mean something else?

1. “It’s like crack” –  Really? Have you ever smoked crack? Why would you compare something like, say, delicious and good-for-you kale chips, to a destructive, addictive illegal drug?

2. “Like I gave birth” – I know. Building your website or writing that novel must have been really hard. But I have a few questions for you. First question: Do you have a vagina? Second question: Have you ever actually given birth, you know, in order to compare said achievement to squeezing a hard skull out of your most delicate body part? How about just trying something like this: “Writing that book was really challenging and rewarding!” Much better, isn’t it?

3. “Meant to be” – If some things, like a marriage or even a divorce, are ‘meant to be’ – are other things not? How can this rule apply to only some of our life circumstances? Everything is either meant to be or it isn’t, and either way, does it really matter in how you live your life?

4. “Literally” – I’ll revert to the always prescient David Cross on this one: If you misuse literally, you’re using it in the exact opposite way it was intended. Literally.

5. “Dislike” — People have started using this in the Facebook “like” sense in conversations: Me: “Someone hacked into my bank account and stole all my money!” You: “Dislike!” Ugh. I love like! Facebook as much as anyone, but this just reminds me of that Dave Chappelle skit where he goes to the Internet like it’s a mall. Funny, but annoying.

6. “Intentional community” – This phrase is almost redundant. Why? Because all communities are intentional.We build highways, power plants, and elect governing bodies intentionally. Your house full of cohabitating individuals is no more intentional than every other community on earth.

7. Calling food “sexy” – It’s food. Many people don’t have enough of it to eat. To call a burger or a smoothie “sexy” borders on arrogant, and a little creepy. Food should be lots of things: healthy, filling, tasty…but sexy it is not.

8. “I’m starving” – On the food note, you’re probably guilty of using this phrase when it’s literally inaccurate. Louis CK recently explained why this is so offensive, and it’s for many of the same reasons calling food “sexy” is wrong. People in this world are starving. You only having a Clif bar after your workout does not equate to actual starvation.

9. “I’m vegetarian…but I eat fish” — Fish are animals. You can’t be an animal-eating vegetarian. (See: “literally”.)

10. “Mercury retrograde just started/ended” – Please don’t blame a planetary alignment for your shitty cell phone reception. (Although you may have better luck contacting the planet than AT&T Customer Service!)

11. “I’m too busy” – Are you really too busy or are you just not interested? How about just being honest?

12. “I’ll try” – Try is a lie, so the saying goes. Either do it or don’t. Whether or not you do it well doesn’t matter in most cases, but trying feels like you’re just not really intending to follow through.

 13. “I’ll be happy when…” – You probably won’t. If you’re not happy now, chances are you won’t be happy then either. We all suffer losses, tragedy and grief along with the shitty day here and there, but if our general state of consciousness isn’t content or happy, things or events won’t change that. Stop waiting for something to make you happy. Make yourself happy.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.