Phrases Which Should Be Banned

I have two out of three of the qualities needed to be a grumpy old man – and the one I lack will presumably come to me as it comes to all, or most, of us.  In short, I’m an unapologetic curmudgeon and one of my biggest pet peeves is the mangling of the English language. Here then, is a list of some of the biggest offenders which should be removed from our beautiful language. Any offenders who use these in official documents or otherwise should be soundly thwacked with a copy of Chambers Dictionary. Naturally I never use any of these terrible expressions myself. Literally. Lolz.

110% effort (impossible)

A can-do attitude (meaning ‘willingness’)

A different kettle of fish (horribly clunky)

A funny old game

A game of two halves

A leg-end in his lifetime (a ghastly construction)

A level playing field

A new challenge (meaning ‘a new job’)

A solid base (in business)

A win-win / lose-lose situation

Action plan (in a corporate sense) 

Actioning (meaning ‘doing’)

All our ducks in a row

Almost unheard of (how is this possible?)

Alright (meaning ‘All right’)

Amazeballs (meaning ‘amazing’)

Anyways (meaning ‘anyway’)

At the end of the day

Back in the day (unless being ironic)

Back of the net (unless being ironic)

Banter (used in the context of football fandom)

Barrow boy made good (unless being ironic) 

Best in its class

Best practice

Best value (when used by local authorities)

Blotted your copybook 

Blue Sky / Blue Sky thinking (who comes up with this rubbish?)

Born again Christian


Brand (unless you mean a branding iron)

Brew (for hot drink)

Cadbury Cream Eggs (what happened to the apostrophe and the letter ‘S’?)

Can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Career man / career woman

Cascade it down (meaning ‘to communicate’ to one’s colleagues)

Cats / dogs / budgerigars would buy X (how do you know?)

Chillax (another ghastly construction)

Circle back


Close of play (give a deadline time instead)

Commented (meaning ‘said’ if used in a press release)

Community (sounds woolly)

Completely (unless you’re talking about everything. ‘Destroyed’ instead of ‘Completely destroyed.’)

Core competency

Cross-pollinate (unless in a scientific context)

Delivering change / results etc (you don’t deliver change – you deliver letters, babies etc) 

Deliver on that 

Do it as priority (instead of ‘a priority’) 

Done us proud (lazy)

Don’t let the grass grow under our feet

Don’t you think? (used at the end of a statement or instruction)


Driving sales / success / change (you drive a car or a golf-ball – not success)

Drop the ball

Dynamic (when describing a business)

Eco (when used as a prefix e.g. ‘Eco-house’)

End of play (give a deadline time instead)

Enormity (when used to mean ‘scale’ instead of ‘evil’)

Enterprise solution

Everything happens for a reason (no kidding!)

Eyes on the ball

Eyes on the prize

Facilitate (meaning ‘do’)

Family (when used in a corporate sense)

Famous (if you have to say it is, it probably isn’t)

Fart smeller (meaning ‘smart fellow’)

Feeding it back (meaning ‘to give feedback’ which is also jargon)

Feel-good factor

Fighting a rearguard action (sounds stupid)

Flag it up (to bring it to one’s attention)

Flipping heck (as euphemism – I’d prefer the full-blooded Anglo Saxon thanks very much) 

From the get-go

Game changer

Game on

Gate (when used as suffix e.g. ‘Flakegate’, ‘Camillagate’ – Watergate is fine)

Get busy (meaning ‘do some work’)


Going / moving forward (how exactly can we go ‘backwards’ – travel through time?) 

Gone viral

Guv / Guv’nor (when used to mean ‘boss’ or ‘sir’)

Happy Christmas from Fido the dog / Tibbles the cat etc 

Happy days (unless being ironic)

He’s got a good left / right foot (is the rest of him rotten?)

Hit the ground running

Holistic approach

Home from home (meaningless)

Hysterical (meaning ‘funny’)


If you assume you make an ass out of you and me both (gosh, how witty) 

If you’ve time to lean you’ve time to clean (patronising guff) 

In order to (meaning ‘to’)

In today’s competitive market place

Incentivise (meaning ‘motivate’)

Innovative (when describing a business – unless it really is)

I’m not being funny, but…

It is what it is (unless being ironic or philosophical)

It’s a game of football (no – really?)

It’s a game of two halves

It’s a no-brainer

It’s a non-starter

It’s not big and it’s not clever (neither is your cliché)

It’s not right that, is it? (when used excessively – surely the speaker is aware of his / her own opinions?)

It’s on my radar

Just sayin’ (used at the end of a statement)

Kit (meaning ‘equipment’)

Knuckle down

Lad done brilliant (ghastly)

Launched (unless referring to a ship or missile)

Learners (meaning ‘pupils’ or ‘students’)

Leg End (when you mean ‘legend’)

Legend (should only be used if something is related to folklore or mythology e.g. ‘The legend of Robin Hood.’)

Let’s do lunch


Let’s action this (meaning ‘let’s do it’)

Let’s solution this (meaning ‘let’s do it’)

Literally (for example, ‘I literally died laughing’ – no you didn’t. If you had, you wouldn’t be telling me this)

LOL (unless you really are, in which case write ‘laughing out loud’)

Loop back

Loved your input (meaning ‘thanks for your ideas’)

Low-hanging fruit

Lowest man on the totem pole (meaning ‘most junior’)

Market leaders (you can’t lead a market anywhere – they don’t walk)

Mate (when used frequently and by someone you don’t consider a friend)



Mucker (meaning ‘friend’)

My success is your success

Neghead (meaning ‘one who is negative’)


New kid in town (unless referencing the song by the Eagles)

Now with 50 per cent less fat (meaningless unless we’re told what the original figure was)

Off the wall (unless it really is)

On paper

On the ball

On the horizon

On the radar

Onboard (unless talking about a ship)

Our people are our best asset (glad to hear it)

Ourselves (meaning ‘us’) 

Out the box

Out the park

Over the moon

Paradigm shift (unless in a scientific context)

People (when used by managers to refer to their staff e.g. ‘Okay people’)

Ping you (meaning ‘send’)

Played / worked his socks off (even worse if it’s prefaced with ‘He literally’)

Pre-plan (meaning ‘plan’)


Pucker (meaning ‘very good’)

Pushing the envelope (unless you’re a postman and you’re stuffing it through someone’s door)

Quipped (meaning ‘joked’)

Raise the bar (unless you’re talking about weightlifting)

ROTFL (unless you really are rolling on the floor laughing – in which case, say so) 

Reach out

Recycled teenagers

Reduction in workforce


Right? (when used repeatedly, at the end of spoken sentences)

Roll up your sleeves (meaning ‘do some work’)


Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes (about an idea in a business context)

Schizophrenic (unless talking about the condition)

Scrambled egg on his cap (referring to gold braid on an officer’s uniform) 

Searing indictment (unless used ironically)

See if the cat licks it up (meaning ‘see if this will win support from management’)


Service users (meaning ‘customers’ or ‘clients’)

Setting out the stall (unless you’re talking about market traders)

Shy bairns get no sweets (thin justification for selfishness)

Sick as a parrot (horrid)

Silver surfers (unless it’s the well-known comic character in which case capital ‘s’ for both words)

Singing from the same song / hymn sheet

Smoke ’em out their holes 

Squid (meaning ‘money’)

Squire (meaning ‘a fellow’)


State of the art

Staycation (meaning ‘a holiday spent at home’)

Strategic objectives (used in a corporate context)

Swotting (meaning ‘revising’)

Synergy (meaning ‘working together’)

Take it on board

Take it to the next level

Take ownership

Talk the talk

Tally-ho (unless being ironic)

Tastic (when used as a suffix e.g. ‘Challengetastic’)

Teach your granny how to suck eggs (sounds stupid and disgusting)

Team leader

Team player

Thanking you (instead of ‘thankyou’ or ‘thanks’)

Thanks for having me (said to one’s parents)

That’s grand (unless it’s a stately home or similar)

The bottom line (unless used ironically)

The customer is always right (no they’re not)

The dog’s bollocks (what’s so great about that – they’re bloody ugly things)

The dog’s danglers (ditto)

The establishment (other than in an ironic sense)

The little man against the system (other than in an ironic sense)

The mutt’s nuts

The politics of envy (patronising)

The question is the answer (no it’s not)

The school of hard knocks

The team (in a corporate sense)

The university of life (as in ‘I went to…’)

The war on terror (you can’t have a ‘war’ on terror – terror is a concept)

The wow factor

The youth (in a collective sense, meaning ‘young people’)

There is no ‘I’ in ‘Teamwork’ (may have been witty in the 1950s)

They’re going to go out there and play football (I should hope they are, given what they get paid)

Thinking outside the box

This game needs a goal (used in any sports report)

This ‘Product X’ says (no it doesn’t – it can’t talk, it’s an object)


Top dog

Totes (meaning ‘totally’) 

Totes Amazeballs (arghghgh)

Touch base (unless in the context of sport)

Transparency (if you need to tell people you are, you probably aren’t)

Twenty four-seven / 24-7 (meaning ‘all the time’)

Unfree worker / person (meaning ‘slave’)

Unprecedented (unless it really has never happened before)

Values (when used in a corporate sense)

Walk the walk

We care because you do (patronising)

We couldn’t do it without you

We didn’t have this in my day (said of crime drugs etc, unless being ironic)

We got beat (meaning ‘beaten’ or ‘defeated’)

We gotta move on this (meaning ‘we have to do this quickly’)

We had good craic (meaning ‘we had a good time’)

We hire the best people (who hires the worst?)

We’ve (meaning ‘the sports team I support has’)

Whatever (when used dismissively)

When I were a lad (unless being ironic)

When you could leave your door unlocked / open (woolly nostalgia) 

With a fine toothcomb

With our partners

Work-life balance (when used to justify people working longer)

Working in partnership

Working with ourselves (meaning ‘Us’)

X is the new Y

Y (when put at the end of someone’s name to create a nickname e.g. ‘Giggsy’)

Years young (to describe someone’s age)

Z (when used instead of ‘S’ to end a word e.g. ‘Babez’) 


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