There’s a neurological condition called misophonia, where sufferers can’t stand certain noises like the sound of chewing or swallowing.

I’m one of those sufferers. Breakfast-time is torture when my partner is munching muesli. I either want to punch someone – anyone – in the face or get up and sprint as fast as I can out the door. (Luckily I have managed to suppress this urge, so far.)

I’m convinced there’s a similar condition to do with language.


It is as yet unknown to science, so I’ll take my place in history and give it a name – I’ll call it misoverbia (from ‘verbum‘, which Google Translate tells me is Latin for ‘word’).

It’s where you have a real, visceral negative reaction to certain words or phrases.


A writers’ Facebook group that I belong to recently did a mini-poll to find out which words people hate the most. Turns out that the word ‘moist’ us the most unpopular (among English-speaking copywriters, anyway).

I don’t have a problem with ‘moist’. Especially when it’s paired with ‘cake’.

But I do feel queasy when I hear the following phrases:




Before you utter this word, stand in front of the mirror. Look yourself square in the eye. Now ask yourself, are you really, honesty, ‘passionate’ about content strategy?

Still not sure? Ask yourself:

‘Do I not merely enjoy content strategy but want to rip my clothes off and have hot, steamy sex with it?’

The answer, I’d guess, is ‘no’.



This is a bit London-specific. Transport for London started using the phrase ‘There is a good service on all other lines’  in their announcements a few years back. It used to be ‘normal service’ but they must have decided that it wasn’t ‘positive’ enough. Probably after a session with an expensive branding agency.

What they mean by ‘good service’ is a service that’s running on time, as advertised, without any incidents or delays. In other words, a normal service.

Do they now think that the old-fashioned normal service wasn’t good? That by simply providing a standard service that we’re paying (bloody) good money for, they should get a gold star? Good compared to what? Who says it’s good?

Stop it, TFL. You’re better than this.


I’ve left this one till last. As in ‘If you want any more information, reach out to me on this number’.

This is what I picture when I read or hear this phrase: thousands of ghostly arms and slimy fingers stretching out to me from the darkness. I want to curl up in a ball.

What’s wrong with ‘contact me’? Or even the jauntier ‘get in touch’?

As an FB meme once wisely said, ask yourself if you are a member of the Four Tops. If the answer is no, then you have no business with the phrase ‘reach out’.

There are many more of these sick-inducing phrases, but these are the three that come to mind right now. Am I a lone sufferer of misoverbia?

Do certain words and phrases make you want to cringe or punch someone? Or is it just me?

“Reach out” with your comments.