Words That Piss Me Off: The Sequel

Words That Piss Me Off: The Sequel

I never would have guessed when I sat down to write Words That Piss Me Off in March 2010 that I was creating a smash hit.

Many of the words and phrases which sparked that furious rant were irritating proliferations of business English that made their way into daily use.

Don’t get me wrong, they still piss me off.

But more recent offences to the English language have their origins in an even more irritating realm. Most — but not all — of my latest linguistic hates festered like a pus-filled boil from the confused inner cloister of academia.

If twenty-first century English were a reality television series, it would be called Ideology Gone Wild.

Now, I’m not a fan of television, unreality or otherwise, but I’d much rather watch drunken college girls flash their perky parts at the camera than listen to these bun-clad bores whine about their latest grievance from their ‘safe space’.

I like to think I’m a pretty nice guy, a live and let live sort of person. But I’ve had enough of weak beta males crying ‘toxic masculinity’ over normal male traits they can’t hope to embody.

Let me propose a new research project for you man-shaming weaklings. Chart the number of so-called ‘male feminists’ playing the ally in the hopes of tricking themselves out of the friend zone with some poor deluded girl.

I remember a guy like that from uni. My wife was a member of a Japanese student’s association, and they were tasked with writing the group’s constitution so they could be listed as an official student group on campus.

There was one skinny white guy, an anime enthusiast, who kept ranting on about how important it was to protect the organization from predatory white guys who just wanted to sign up to get an Asian girlfriend. The poor guy worked himself up to the point of tears during one of his heartfelt addresses. He sure didn’t seem to like me very much either, when I was invited to their dinners.

But Hachimaki Andrew wouldn’t be an irritant for very long. He quit the group as soon as he got a Japanese girlfriend.

Three cheers for Andy: Hip hip Hippocrites…!

Moving on.

This is who I am’. Guess what? No one cares.

Know what I ‘identify’ as? Totally indifferent.

“What, you’re near-sighted, Moldovan AND a non-binary semi-straight shoe fetishist? Society must reward you for your incredible uniqueness. And anyone who remains unmoved is obviously committing a hate crime.”

“What about you?” you might ask.

I’m writing at the intersection of Dudenstrasse and Mehringdamm.

“What’s that? Your identity?”

No, it’s my address. We’re all individuals with a unique story to tell. Can’t we just leave it at that and move on?

Intersectionality’ is just the idea that it’s somehow exceptional not to have a one-dimensional life.

And another thing… yeah. ‘Cultural appropriation’. A term that belies total ignorance of how cultures form.

“You stole my culture,” cries the aggrieved party, after searching desperately for a cause to be offended by.

Stole your culture, did they? And then what? You just slumped in a blank stare like a Mac with a stolen operating system?

Cultures grow by a form of accretion, accumulating useful strategies, borrowing and lending, mixing and mingling just like people mix and mingle their genes when they travel to different parts of the world.

But we must put a stop to that — or at least become indignant about it.

The Japanese should never have started writing in kanji. They were guilty of cultural appropriation against China, a nation badly divided into competing ethnic groups at that time. And the same goes for their shameful theft of Buddhism. Of course, the Chinese appropriated it from the Indians, but we’ll deal with being offended by that later.

Let’s talk about Spain. You know what the Spaniards should have done when the Muslims invaded Andalusia? Stayed away from them. None of this fucking mingling of cultures. If they’d only segregated themselves into identity groups, we wouldn’t have flamenco, or that Moorish Alhambra architecture, or that uniquely mixed up cuisine.

But now we’re stuck with this mess because they didn’t have any social justice activists to utter the dreaded cry of “I’m offended!” in the Middle Ages. The only one who benefits from that is Michael O’Leary with his cheap Ryanair flights. Fucking capitalist.

Whew. I’m glad I got that off my chest. It’s sure to offend someone. But rest assured, I don’t deal in ‘dog whistles’ — a sound no one else can hear apart from the chronically aggrieved accuser.

I don’t do imaginary ‘micro-agressions’, either. Give me a good old fashioned macro-aggression any day. Why drop hints when you can deliver a knuckle sandwich?

I supposed that’s just part of my ‘lived experience’, whatever the hell that means. If it’s ‘un-lived’, then it isn’t an experience. It’s something you read or saw on TV. 

Unless, of course, you’re dead. And if the dead are having experiences, we’ve got far bigger problems than imaginary grievances in the guise of ‘social justice’. Better start sharpening the stakes. No, not to burn heretics who are insensitive enough to disagree with you — stakes to impale vampires.

That’s different from the sort of steaks that repel vegans, but we can grill those up, too, because I’ve had just about enough of their religion disguised as a dietary diatribe. I don’t go around preaching my love of bacon, nagging people to convert to fried rashers or feel the guilt of destroying the earth, so don’t nag me about your man-boob-forming soy sludge or your desperate daily hunt for a complete source of protein.

Anyway, I think we’ve flogged those tired ideological trojan horses enough.

There are a few other words that piss me off which are outside the realm of the offence junkies, and I want to give them a good kick in the teeth, too.

Let’s start with ‘gifted’. Since when did that become a verb? When I was in school, ‘gifted’ referred to the smart nerdy kid who got extra math classes as some sort of punishment for winning the genetic lottery.

But now ‘gifted’ is a new term for giving someone something, as in, “Which book have you gifted the most?”

Let me gift you something right now. A piece of advice. Please stop saying that. It’s unbelievably irritating.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, and what you’re about to say in response. “It is what it is”.

Thank you Captain Obvious. You’ve spouted a vapid truism disguised as a Zen koan.

Either that or you’ve misquoted Popeye. “I am what I am and that’s all that I am”. It doesn’t get any wiser than that.

I won’t even begin to ‘unpack’ these empty statements, not just because they’re empty, but because I hate that phrase, too.

Can’t we just go back to explaining things? I’m getting confused about which is a sentence and which is my suitcase. I’ll be packing sentences and writing my luggage before much longer, and that could really ruin a trip.

Speaking of vapid phrases, here’s another one. ‘Beautiful inside and out’. Unless you’re an x-ray technician or you’re manning the monitors at the proctology clinic, how would you know?

Finally, I’ll leave you with an irritating phrase which isn’t a phrase at all, but a mannerism. The double ‘is’. Please, if you’re a podcaster, banish this from your lexicon. Hire a speech therapist if you need to. But stop saying, “The fact is is that…”

Every time that happens, I disconnect and delete in a rage.

Speaking of rage, I really need to take a breather. I’m going to brew up a nice warm cup of Murdock’s Angry Tea, and I suggest you do, too.

I guarantee you’ll wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

There, doesn’t that feel better?

About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


  • Sweet Jesus, that was funny! As I wipe the tears from the corners of my eyes and struggle with my senescent incontinence, I struggle to find words to express how wonderfully apropos your piece is in today’s iteration of societal cultural expansion, especially in North America. You can’t say or do anything without fear of offending some “disenfranchised” segment of the populace and having to endure vituperative epithets hurled your way by “The Offended” (who themselves are the most offensive).
    I’ll restrain myself from a second reading so that I can enjoy my breakfast without spluttering coffee all over my computer or choking on my toast.
    Good one, Ryan. Keep ‘me coming……

  • Awesome piece Ryan. One that really bothers me at work is when the managers say “moving forward”! In my head I’m thinking, are we going backwards.

    Great piece I had a lot of chuckles.

    • Oh yeah, some of that business English really drives me nuts, too. That’s what I wrote about in the first Words That Piss Me Off. ‘Touch base’ and all the rest.

  • These words and phrases are used way too often especially by news journalists and commentators: quite frankly, in terms of, mitigating, need to have a conversation, dialogue and absolutely. You can make a sentence such as “ Quite frankly, in terms of mitigating the current situation we’ll need to have a conversation and dialogue on how to move forward. It’s absolutely what we need to do.” In other words nothing will get done!

    • Exactly. That sort of waffling is designed to say nothing at all. By the time the other person pieces this convoluted mess together and realizes it was just a smokescreen, the one who said it is already gone. Vanished in a puff of random words. It’s one of the few things I learned at university when struggling through postmodernist critiques. Their writing were deliberately incomprehensible, as muddled as the vapid idea hiding beneath it. Stating their ideas in simple terms revealed how ridiculousness they were.

  • Just lately I have been your articals in shift regarding Malta and its extreme government both today and recent passed ,Just like to say they are very good and on the nail just wish they would print them in TIMES MALTA.so the people of all Malta/Gozo could make there judgments .We live here in Gozo so listen to the locals who seem powerless to do anything except maybe at the ballot box next time love reading you keith/Pat kindest regards.

    • Thanks very much Keith, very kind of you. Glad to hear you’re following my work. It’s terrible to see what’s happening in Malta. The country changed so much with the rise of Muscat, and unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight.

  • Hey Ryan. I save every new piece from you in a folder in my email for later reading. I’ve been catching up due to the being shutdown for months. Love reading your thoughts on things, plus for me, many are very informative about the world that I wasn’t necessarily aware of. And then there is the fun stuff like this article. Absolutely gut-splitting brilliant.

    Might I add two of my own major pet peeves. The term “my bad” drives me bonkers. It doesn’t make one a bad person to say “I was wrong.” The other popular term nowadays is “woke”…or being “woke”?? Like wtf does that even mean?? Gawd, I must be getting old!

    P. S. Btw, Library has just slightly reopened to curbside pickup for 3 hrs every day. Patrons are happy. I am not cos I hate hate hate how the hand sanitizer makes my hands feel. So I reverted back to plain old soap and water a kazillion times during my work time. Works for me. Stay well!

    • Hi Susen,

      Great to hear from you. Oh yeah, I absolutely loathe “my bad”. It sounds like a toddler learning to speak. And I have no time for “woke” — the word or the concept. It’s a sanctimonious, bigoted ideology, one I hope the culture will grow out of.

      The used bookshops have been open here throughout. Book shops and wine shops are considered essential services. There’s an excellent English language second hand shop called Curious Fox, maybe 15 minutes bike ride from my place. I’ve been looking forward to a browse. I’ve got a small stack to trade in.

      Stay well. I hope to get over there this year if the borders open up again. The library and the river are the two things I’ve always missed from home.


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