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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

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Five phrases that irritate me

Learn how to "Speak like a Champion" by eliminating these five phrases from your vocabulary.

       1. “Part of me feels like…”

The quintessential phrase of indecision. To help contextualize this, I will offer a few examples. “Part of me feels like consistently showing up to early morning lectures and office hours. The other part of me feels like valuing my time. Part of me feels like buying a venti vanilla sweet cream cold brew from Starbs. The other part of me feels like not spending my parents’ money. Part of me feels like going out on a Thursday night. The other part of me feels like getting a real major.” 

This phrase is essentially a lukewarm verbalization of one’s inner thoughts in order to fabricate a moral equivalence between a ridiculous option and a clearly sensible one. It is a plea for help amidst the clash between the demonic left 50% of your human body and the angelic right 50% of you. This phrase announces to the world that scary little thoughts have crippled your volition in the most pathetic surrender. Please do not use this phrase near me. Please do not use this phrase at all. You can express yourself in direct language — I believe in you. 

       2. “This might be a dumb question but…”

The phrase that proves there are such things as dumb questions. Imagine raising your hand and receiving permission to vocalize the idea that was crafted within your human brain, and you begin by telling everyone else to immediately disregard your idea. You then ask your question, which may be chin-rubbingly insightful or actually dumb. However, if you had not prefaced it with the lens of dumb question, you would have only had to contend with the 50/50 odds of your question being any good. I like those odds! I will say. There are only dumb questions if you call your own question dumb or if you ask a question that is understood to be unintelligent or stupid. 

There are other variations of the “dumb question” phrase like something along the lines of “This is a half-baked idea but…” or “I’m still working on this idea but…” In other words, “I have little to no respect in what I have to say, and you should have little to no respect in my question or myself for that matter.” I recommend that you take ownership of your space in the room and have some conviction, for once, in the thoughts that you bring to the table. You might surprise yourself. 

        3. “With all due respect”

The phrase that invariably precedes a disrespectful comment. This phrase functions to give yourself social permission to insult your listener. I have never seen a sentence that followed “with all due respect” that was respectful. The only common use is in the occasion where you experience a bout of acute frustration. The words of contempt are on the tip of your tongue, but you opt to soften the impending onslaught with a good ol' “with all due respect.”  

I recommend you drop this phrase from your vocabulary. For one, I scarcely believe you think this person deserves respect, certainly not from you for that matter. Secondly, it would be comparatively less evil if you were to blatantly disrespect someone outright rather than deceiving someone into believing that you respect them and then blatantly disrespecting them immediately after. But hey, it’s your soul, not mine. 

       4. “Much love for…”

The phrase that is a social media-friendly way of expressing low-commitment affection for a person or place. Consider this distinction between its counterpart: “I love (object of love).” “Much love for…” is akin to an undesired, re-gifted present. You scramble together an anniversary present for your spouse using a reused festive baggie from the year before and rosy tissue paper that was BOGO at Party City. This year you are getting your significant other “love,” which unsurprisingly came 365 days earlier. You slip “love” into the baggie, sharpie on “much love for you,” plop the present at the base of your spouse’s front door, ring the doorbell and scurry away giggling. This is what “much love for” conveys. Impersonal, pitiful ding-dong ditching.

Do not try to challenge that you aptly use “much love for” with reference to acquaintances. They don’t make it on your Instagram! You use this phrase with reference to your closest friends, often on their birthday. Your dearest friends merit only impersonal goodwill from an unspecified source. Right. 

Do not try to challenge the apparent exception with respect to having much love for a place. Yes, of course. I too would only have a general positive sentiment toward my week-long vacation at the 5 star Grand Hotel Tremezzo at Lake Como. Tanto amore per l’Italia

       5. “I’m sorry”

The most overused phrase of all time. The reliance on this phrase in common conversation is frightening. So many times has someone apologized to me for occasions of a near collision when walking, 90% of which were my fault. Since when did “excuse me” turn into “I’m sorry.” No, don’t apologize. It’s pathetic. But it is also unreasonable. Why are you apologizing to me? I do not own this sidewalk or hallway. What am I supposed to do with your apology? Have eternal consolation that I forced someone to apologize to me when I stutter-stepped in front of them? 

Of course, there are more serious applications of this phrase, some of which might be merited. However, does the rate of your apologizing positively correlate with the rate of your wrongdoings? Is it a matter that actually requires an apology, or are you instinctively snuffing out a flame before it becomes a wildfire? Given how frequently people tend to apologize, I surmise that some apologies are used to avoid conflict rather than to actually apologize for something. 

I will close with wisdom from a former instructor of mine. During lessons, Sensei Doerr commonly commanded the meek-hearted or soft-spoken students to “Speak like a champion!” You ought to do the same. 

Jonah Tran

Jonah Tran is a sophomore at Notre Dame studying finance, classics and constitutional studies. He prides himself on sarcasm and his home — the free state of Florida. You can contact Jonah at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.