December 21, 2016 / 5:45 PM / 8 months ago

What-ever! Poll tracks Americans' language pet peeves

BOSTON (Reuters) - No offense, but Americans are seriously ticking each other off with their huge overuse of the word "whatever." I mean, we can't even. Ya know, right?

It's highly likely that any reader who made it through that paragraph felt a little annoyed by the end, based on the findings released on Wednesday of an annual Marist College poll of Americans' language pet peeves.

The word "whatever," most often used to dismiss another speaker's idea, topped poll respondents' list of the words or phrases they found most annoying in conversation for an eighth straight year, with 38 percent of respondents saying it bugged them.

The dubious honor of second-most annoying interjection went to "no offense, but," with one in five of the 1,005 people polled from Dec. 1 through 9 saying it was their top linguistic annoyance.

"Ya know, right," and "I can't even," were tied, with 14 percent of respondents saying those phrase were their top conversational annoyances.

"Huge" ranked fifth, with 8 percent of respondents saying it rankled them more than the other four. Feelings on the word, a common linguistic flourish of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, broke down along party lines with 10 percent of Democrats objecting to it, while just 5 percent of Republicans said it bothered them.

For reasons that are unclear, nearly half of Republicans named "whatever" as their top peeve, more than the 37 percent of Democrats who objected to the word.

The survey also suggested a generational shift may be coming, with just 24 percent of millennial respondents aged 18 to 34 objecting to "whatever," far fewer than the 54 percent of Baby Boomers, now aged 51 to 69, who did so.

What set millennials' teeth on edge? "I can't even" was the most objected-to phrase, with 28 percent of that generation citing it, while just 5 percent of Baby Boomers minded.

That suggests a shift in the cultural roots of annoyance, with the rise of "whatever" to the 1995 film "Clueless," while "I can't even" is more commonly used as an internet meme, said Mary Griffith, the survey's media director. "It really comes down to the impact that pop culture has on our society as a whole," Griffith said. "We are seeing this evolve."

Editing by Alistair Bell

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