Words that bug

Language is powerful. The Buddha said so.

Slowing down for Recess and noticing verbal reactions related to time have made me more sensitive to this power.

As an ongoing experiment, I’ve listed five words that I’d like to excuse from my vocabulary… find new patterns for. Wish me luck (oye, there’s another word I’m not fond of… maybe the start of list #2).


Word:  Sorry – as in I’m sorry.

Why:  For starters, think of what that words means – sorry. Yes it’s “feeling distress or sympathy,” but it also means “in a poor or pitiful state.” I certainly don’t want to put “I am” in front of that!!

My mom says I’m sorry for everything. Even for things she doesn’t have any role in. Rather than it coming out as compassionate feeling for my frustration (or whatever) it comes across as I’m sorry – it’s my fault, which does two things: it puts responsibility on her for something that is not her responsibility; and it puts the focus on her rather than my feeling.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have my stepdaughter (another non-favorite word, so usually I use “bonus daughter” but honestly, she’s not feeling like much of a bonus right now). Here we have the typical teen-style, flat and empty, sorry. As though just saying the word absolves her from any and all responsibility (there’s that word again).

Try Instead:  If you are “feeling distress or sympathy” why not say that? Wow, honey…I feel for you. Or relate to the actual emotion, Geez, that must hurt. Or, if you are apologizing, I apologize or Will you forgive me are so much more clear.


Word:  Interesting – as in that’s interesting.

Why:  Someone told me that interesting is a “lazy” word (she said it because I’d just used the word!). We use it to pretend that we’re paying attention or when we don’t know what else to say. We use it to mean a thousand things, but really, it doesn’t mean much on its own.

Try Instead:  Say what you mean – What a great idea… I don’t totally agree with you, but I want to give that some thought… I’ve never looked at it that way… I wasn’t really paying attention, can you repeat that?


Word:  Retarded – as in that’s retarded.

Why:  I don’t really need to lay this out, right?

Try Instead:  Oh, I don’t know… silly? goofy? oh fiddlesticks? Not a big fan of stupid or lame, even though I say both. I have a hard time finding an adequate replacement without being all English butler, That’s quite to my disliking.


Word:  Should – as in you should

Why:  We all know. And in case this is one of your favorite peeves, this is a great post about it.

Try Instead: I’d like to… What if you… Have you considered… I want to… I need to… Or just letting it go.


Word:  Universal Consciousness – as in tap into the universal consciousness

Why:  Whyyyyy??? <shaking fists at sky> I’m a yoga teacher for god’s sake. I should (see above) love shit like this.

But I don’t. It bugs me.

I’m not saying there isn’t universal consciousness, I just don’t want to be told to “tap into it.”

Maybe it’s tag phrases that I don’t like. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve heard these expressions in class and sometimes they seem rehearsed and empty.

So please don’t ask me to Make manifest my desires. Or to Look up to be enlightened. Or Tap into universal consciousness.

Try Instead:  Something more real. Something tangible. Notice your breath… Notice what you’re feeling right now… Your state of mind, your energy, your emotions… Maybe even letting me explore, Do you sense something beyond yourself, something bigger than this room, this moment? Ya, something like that.


What words bug you? Do you have other “try instead” suggestions? Does swearing in another language help? Do you make up words? What are you working on?


7 Responses to “Words that bug”

  1. 1 elizabeth February 24, 2010 at 2:16 am

    I do use interesting. Possibly a lot. Usually when I think something is interesting .. but now I’m curious what I really mean when I say it. Funny .. the word that popped into my head when I thought of a replacement is fascinating. Actually, that is what I mean when I say interesting. That something fascinates me and I want to think more about it.

    I’ve been working on “try”. It’s pretty ingrained – but I chip away at it. Oh, why? I was working with a wellness coach and she noticed that I used the word a lot. I can’t remember exactly what she said about the word, but it was something about carrying a funny energy, like you use it if you don’t want to commit to something so it gives you a way out .. actually, it’s like an incomplete word. Ah, Yoda. You either do or not do, and you might not do it right or well or .. but you still did it.

    Universal consciousness sounds vague and formless. I don’t know what it means. It would frustrate me to no end to be told to tap into it, because I don’t know what it is. Argh. *shakes fist at sky*

    Thank you for sharing this. I needed to read it. :)

  2. 2 Kelly Parkinson February 24, 2010 at 2:50 am

    Oh, man, now I know why this one friend used to snap at me whenever something bad happened, like someone died, and I’d say, “I’m SO sorry,” and she’d be like, “It’s not YOUR fault!” Like I’d just said the most irritating thing in the world. I totally get it now. She perceived I was trying to take responsibility for her grief and to make it about me. I should have… (ack! scratch that!) In the future, I will try to (ack! no!)… I regret not knowing to use “I really feel for you” earlier. This clears up so much.

  3. 3 Tami February 24, 2010 at 4:28 am

    the hippie-dippy yoga speak kills me every time. thank you for calling it out on its annoyingly pretentious ass. i think this is what keeps most folks away from the yoga – i’m doing my part on this one.

    i’m sorry. ugh. i used to be guilty of this one. i know, hard to imagine now! such a woman habit. i’ve never met a man that was that sorry about anything.

    ed-u-speak – “academic” language or acronyms for the sake of looking smart in front of others? just say what you mean. no one is impressed by your inability to connect with your audience or your inability to break down complex ideas into simple steps. job hazard.

  4. 4 blogasana February 24, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    @ elizabeth – LOVE the ‘try’ thing. what a great point. i don’t know what universal consciousness is either. =)

    @ kelly – i totally get you! in fact i just had a walk with a friend who “might” have cancer… and didn’t know what to say. it took everything to not say “i’m sooooo sorry.” but in the end i think it helped me relate to her feelings better. sigh. we’ll keep practicing.

    @ tami – hippy yoga speak = yuck. great point about ‘sorry’ being a woman thing. and no one wants to hear your acronyms. i mean, omg.

  5. 5 janeen February 25, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Oh, now I know why we haven’t gotten together. Kidding…But, what a great reminder of how HORRIBLE our language is!
    Last night, I had three clients. Two retired, one school teacher. One of the retirees used “retarded” to describe our, um, economic climate. I thought the school teacher was going to hit her over the head. Talk about passive anger!
    A great post, dear and lovely friend!

  6. 6 Bob February 25, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Trying to be flexible or neutral, I often use words that end up seeming indecisive or muddy. For example, “I think my preference is _____” or “Perhaps it would be best to _______”. When I catch myself being flexible, I wonder if I’m actually being indecisive.

    When I edit my own writing I often eliminate all the excess words. It’s surprising how many can creep in, even when I know I want to be concise and direct. So why do I put all the excess word in in the first place?

    Both of these things may be related to protecting myself from (the fear of) criticism. By being flexible or less direct, I have an out. I think.

  7. 7 blogasana February 26, 2010 at 12:41 am

    @janeen – oh my gosh… what an awkward situation! the thing is i use ALL of these, all the time (except universal consciousness=). such hard habits to break! and… yet *another* thing to work on!

    @bob – (what i want to say is ‘interesting’…) what a great catch. the whole ‘softening your opinion’ thing sounds like it’s hiding some insight! i love how even at the end of naming that insight, you soften it again (“I think.”). hee hee

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