Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Not so awesome words January 11, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

“IT IS WHAT IT IS.” If I hear that phrase one more time, I shall scream. Inwardly, at least.

Here’s why. I find that string of five words dismissive, uncaring and impolite. Let’s say you’re talking to someone about a difficult situation—whether personal or affecting many (like COVID)—and that individual responds with, “It is what it is.” That reply closes the door. Correction, slams the door to further conversation.

That statement, in my opinion, indicates the other person hasn’t listened to anything you’ve said, doesn’t care and/or simply accepts whatever with no concern about your thoughts or feelings. End of discussion. Alright then. Too many times I’ve felt dismissed by “It is what it is.”

How about you? Do you feel the same about that phrase?

And then there’s the word “awesome.” If I hear that word one more time, I shall scream. Inwardly, at least. It’s overused, thus meaningless. And what exactly is meant by “awesome?” Rather than use a generic word, I want to hear specifics. What makes something/someone “awesome?”

As a wordsmith, words matter to me. As someone who considers herself skilled in the arts of observing and listening, word choice resonates.

So I suppose you could simply tell me something is “awesome” and “It is what it is” as a way of explaining why something is “awesome.”

THOUGHTS, ANYONE? What words or phrases cause you to scream, inwardly, at least?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


43 Responses to “Not so awesome words”

  1. beth Says:

    I so agree with you, and I am so tired of hearing “literally…” in a sentence when it is not literal at all

  2. Washe Koda Says:

    😣 inadvertently , prior knowledge of & ‘what ever’ are my eerps 😉

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    Phrases and expressions come and go, don’t they? I guess I filter stuff like that out and don’t really notice if a phrase is over used. But i am sure it happens. You have such a command of language that I am sure you are more tuned into it than I am . I am usually oblivious. 😊

  4. Eugene Bertrand Says:

    When I buy something or deposit money in a bank and they say thank you, I always say
    [ you bet ] I had a nephew from Ohio stay one summer. He thought that was so funny

  5. Valerie Says:

    I like the reminder to explain why I think something is awesome!

  6. Great Thinking Post Today! I love words and wordsmithing and reading. I have found through the years that with connotation of words comes culture, generational and upbringing. I had grandparents who immigrated to the U.S. I had grandparents that spoke English, German, Dutch, and Norwegian. It was a mixed bag and then add in being raised in the Midwest then moving Out West and then moving South – have had a few people ask about my accent (and here I thought you had an accent – ha). I have experienced diversity through my working environment too. I love when people share their stories and adventures and journeys. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

    • I’m on a bit of a run right now with these “thinking” posts. Not sure why, but I’m going with it and will try to space them out so as not to overdose readers on the subject. I love how much you appreciate diversity and stories and learning from one another. That’s a lot of languages spoken by your grandparents.

  7. Bernadette Arlene Thomasy Says:

    Every time I enter a store and a staffer says, “Welcome in,” I cringe. The “in” is redundant. Just say “welcome or hello”. I’m already in.

  8. I had to laugh as I read this. Yes, there are phrases that have been overused forever that irk us all. “It is what it is” might be something one utters when they have no idea what to say and fall back on a familiar phrase simply to fill the silence, so don’t assume you’re not being heard. (Staying quiet is another idea, for sure!) Anyway, as someone who spits out the word “awesome” on occasion, I compare that to “wow” or other words that erupt when something is delightful. Maybe not the most eloquent word, but don’t we have to allow for people to erupt with sounds that at least acknowledge they’re having a reaction to whatever is in front of them? Words certainly do matter. So does the fact that not everyone is an eloquent wordsmith or skilled at indicating how well they are listening (or reading). Laugh it off, be glad for the conversation, don’t assume the worst.

    • Kathleen, I appreciate, and welcome, your awesome (thoughtful) perspective. I am, by nature, a pretty serious person, which is likely why I react as I do sometimes to the use of certain words or phrases. Often the context, or even the person with whom I’m talking, determines how I feel about “It is what it is,” for example. I can’t think of a single time when I’ve felt a positive reaction to that particular phrase.

      Now, whenever I hear “awesome,” I’ll think of you and smile. And that’s a good thought, my wordsmith friend.

  9. Jane Says:

    Oh, where to begin? I worked in a corporate setting most of my career, so I could provide a history of inane phrases through the decades such as, “I can’t get my head wrapped around it”, “I have a lot on my plate”, or “What keeps you up at night?” However, I’m retired now and cocooned at home because of covid. Nonetheless, we’re not the only ones that could scream when hearing words or phrases that should be banned because of overuse. Lake Superior State University has released its list for 2022 including, “Wait, what?” “At the end of the day.” “No worries,” to name a few. However, one made me laugh because I often hear it from my sons, “You’re on mute.”

  10. JanBeek Says:

    I think we all have our “petpeeve” words – Mine is “guys.” As a student teacher supervisor I used to track the number of times the student teacher referred to his/her students as “guys.” I felt it was demeaning and unnecessary. “Students” or “boys and girls” was much more preferable. Looking back now, I realize that was a futile and mundane focus. There were much more important concepts I should have been putting up to the magnifier! “Like” is another over-used word… but oh well… I liked your “awesome” post, Audrey! :o)

  11. Norma Says:

    Yes Audrey. I agree with your list, and other words and phrases that are over used. One that annoys me is “basically”. I’ve never heard the “welcome in” phrase. If it is a California thing, I haven’t heard it yet.

    • Norma, the comments I’m getting on this post are proving interesting. I never would have thought of “basically,” but that makes sense. I expect different regions of California may use different phrases. Just like in Minnesota.

  12. This blog post made me think. Hummm… how many times have I used those phrases? I never thought they would be interpreted in such a way. Food for thought.
    I guess we all have to step back from time to time and evaluate where we are coming from and the contextual reference our language is being projected.
    What drove me crazy for a very long time when I first moved to The Netherlands is how the Dutch use the phrase “it is not possible.” Instead of just saying “no” or “not available at this time” or “we are not able to fill your request because…”. Anything is “possible” given the right conditions. My co/workers couldn’t understand why Americans would get so frustrated on the phone with them when the answer was “it is not possible.” It felt like their requests were not taken seriously.

    • Paula, thank you for sharing that impossible phrase from The Netherlands. I understand your frustration. And, yes, sometimes we need to pause and reflect on the words we speak, or are about to speak. And, yes, context matters.

  13. jhc1218 Says:

    This comment thread is providing some much needed entertainment. I also despise “It is what it is” although I know I’ve used it in the past. My pet peeves are “To be completely honest” and “actually”. I guess I expect honesty all the time. One coworker gave a presentation and used “actually” more than 50 times in less than 20 minutes. Other annoying corporate jargon “think outside the box”, “let’s circle back” and “synergies”. Okay, rant over.


  14. Sandra Says:

    Glad to see “no worries” on that University list, my personal favorite. Awesome would be on my nagging list as well as most already mentioned. Followed closely by fantastic. Brings new meaning to taking people at their “word”. Interesting thinking post.

  15. I see your point but there are times that is not worth stressing about something that you can’t change. Some things really do fit that “It is what it is” category like for example a blizzard forcing you to change plans.

    I have a few pet peeves of my own; literally, I know right, duh, whatever, and the word moist should only be used to describe food

  16. Neil Says:

    I must agree with your comments. It is what it is… usually a thoughtless comment about the topic being discussed. My response is usually “Are you sure? What of it isn’t what it is?” After responding with that question a few times, the person who overuses it starts to realize how often they say it without giving it any thought.

    Awesome has been overused so much that it no longer provides the level of impact that it is supposed to indicate.

    Other pet peeve words: amongst (means exactly the same thing as among) and reoccur (means exactly the same thing as recur).

    Of course, all of these words and phrases are reiterated (which means the exact same thing as iterated) far too often! I try not to let them irritate me too much. I myself used to use the word Üffdah waaay too much when I lived in Northern MN and ND.

    • Neil, thanks for adding your thoughts to this thread. I’m happy to hear you’ve eliminated Uff-da from your speech. That’s a word I’ve never used, maybe because I’m German. Oh, that’s right, you’re German, too. 🙂

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