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'Whatever' wins crown for most annoying conversation stopper

December 16, 2011 | 11:13 am

Clueless, the movie in which the characters were, like, whatever.
You know, just sayin' “whatever” is, like, the most annoying word or phrase in casual English conversation. Seriously. 

At least, that’s the finding in the latest Marist Poll released on Friday. “Whatever,” that ubiquitous part of speech, won the contest for the third straight year.

In the race to the bottom of the linguistic heap, "whatever" drew 38% nationally as the most annoying, beating out “like” with 20%; “you know” with 19%; “seriously” with 7%; and “just sayin' ” with 11%.

Though it is hard to believe, 5% of the respondents said they were unsure which was the most annoying formulation, a recognition, perhaps, of the English language’s abundant number of impediments to the verbal exchange of ideas.

It is hard to beat “whatever” in any contest over annoying because the word is so versatile. It can be used as a pronoun, an adjective and an adverb, making it a triple threat in any conversation.

It is also exceptionally flexible in meaning, running the gamut from indifference (whaatever) to disdain (You think what? Whaaaatever!). There is also the icy whaateeevere, signifying, well, whatever.

"Whatever" beats out the other parts of speech in all geographic, demographic and other subcategories, according to the poll.

The South, at 40%, is most annoyed by the term compared with the rest of the country. Baby boomers, at 43%, dislike it more than Gen X, at 37%. And 40% of women are bugged by "whatever," compared with 35% of men.


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Photo: "Whatever" was a catchphrase in the 1995 movie "Clueless," starring Alicia Silverstone. The film even had a special "Whatever!" DVD edition. Credit: Elliott Marks / Paramount Pictures