Five Crutch Words You Should, Like, Literally Avoid

So, um, I basically wanted to write this to, you know, tell you about crutch words. Because, well, they’re totally the worst.

You know?

No, I have not lost my sanity (yet). I’m here to tell you about crutch words. These are seemingly harmless, but very much present words that litter our everyday speech and can, in certain circumstances, weaken our sentences and makes us seem nervous and awkward. Their purpose? Well, uh, let’s see…They act as verbal (and even written) pauses, allow us time to think, and expand the meaning of our words. More often than not, we spew them without thinking.

Say someone comments, “The weather’s nice today.” What could you infer about them? Not much, really. What if they say, “So, uh, the weather’s honestly nice today, know what I mean?” Crutch alert.

The following are some of the five most-used crutch words in the English language.

1.  Literally

“That standup comedian had me literally crying! I was literally on the floor—dead.”

…says you as you relate an incident during which you neither shed a tear nor experienced the afterlife.

This literally needs to stop. This word is most commonly heard among millennials and teens, but it’s important to note that it isn’t just the young’uns guilty of this crutch word (we’re looking at you, Joe Biden). “Literally,” when not used to fluff up your sentences, refers to things in their exact form. You can, for example, say that Snoopy is literally sick as a dog. We would be less forgiving if you say that the CG dinosaurs in Jurassic Park literally jumped off the screen. We would be very unforgiving.

2. Um

“This is, um, a prized heirloom from my grandma’s side. It was probably made around, um…”

Er, this could also include “uh” and “ah” and any other word to express how inarticulate you’ve become. I’m sure we’re all guilty of this one. After all, some wise scholar once said that the common human being is likely to fill gaps in conversation with the various prehistoric grunts and rumbles produced by the primordial brain—or something. Um…don’t quote me on that.

3. Like

“OMG, you will not believe what he, like, just said to me! He was all like…”

Like, can you not? But also, like, it’s easy to fall into this trap. Most people will sprout off “likes” in their sentences where there shouldn’t be “likes,” and neither they nor the people listening will notice. The computer age version of its caveman cousin “um,” “like” is a crutch word we tend to use to give our brains enough time to produce something brilliant to contribute to a discussion or to fill gaps in conversations. It’s, like, Botox for speech, you know?

4. Honestly

 “This pizza is honestly the best thing my poor, deprived taste buds have ever experienced!”

Really? What about your grandma’s prized ice cream recipe, passed down from generation to generation (and stolen once)? What about that steak you had last summer? Was that pizza honestly the best thing you’ve ever tasted? Honestly, 99% of the time we use this crutch word, we are anything but honest. It’s a subliminal attempt at making ourselves come across as completely trustworthy and truthful. Are you, though? Are you, seriously?

5. Seriously

“Seriously, though…you gotta love Shakespeare.”

This crutch word will have some wondering whether the entire conversation has hitherto been a joke until the utterance of these four syllables. Such is the power of an orator. In some instances, people will be willing to accept your promise of seriousness, while in other instances, people will honestly give you the Suspicious Trump Face.

Seriously, though. Avoid this crutch word unless you’re literally dying with laughter and trying to convince your mom that you seriously didn’t mean to trip your sister.

It should be noted that crutch words are, well, words, and as such there are certainly right instances to use them. But for the most part, we don’t, like, need them, really.

So, um, could you stop using them as verbal fillers?

Difa is a senior in high school and has been part of her school's newspaper staff for 5 years. She considers herself a jack of all trades, master of some, with her interests spanning activities from crocheting, making animated films, and creating visual novels to learning how to create games on Unity, writing novels, and dancing--and everything in between.

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