blog banner romeo juliet
blog banner romeo juliet

The SparkNotes Blog

Homework help made hilarious.

The 10 Worst Words in the English Language

On the whole, I’m in favor of words. They’re the only thing standing between us and a world in which everyone just points at stuff and grunts. But while some words are useful and necessary, others are just terrible, and I would rather throw myself into the sun than use any of the following in polite conversation.

“Colonel” is just an unwieldy disaster of phonetics and it spits in the face of the English language. Who slapped that L in there? Why did they do it? What were they trying to prove? If they wanted us all to be pronouncing it “kernel,” why did they put two O’s and no R?

There is no graceful way to say rural. There are too many R’s and not enough time.

The fricative “f” sound meets the perfectly innocuous “-ester” to create something that’s just abominable. I don’t think we need this word when “ferment” or “intensify” does the job just as well. I hate it. In fact, I don’t want it in my language. Get it out!

Did you know puce is pretty much pink? I didn’t. I thought it was some variety of green, or at least an ugly yellow. If I wanted to say something was “pretty much pink,” I would say that. I wouldn’t say “puce” unless I wanted to fight with someone about what color puce actually is. The resulting hours-long debate would fracture our friendship permanently and would culminate in a Google search eventually proving me right, but at what cost? Be useful or don’t bother existing, puce.

We didn’t need this word! We were doing just fine without it!

Whenever I’m forced to voice this hell month aloud, I find myself caught between saying “Feb-u-ary,” which makes me sound like some kind of witless moron, or saying “Feb-ru-ary,” which makes me sound like I really want people to know that I know the R is in there and that it’s not fooling me.

I never use this word, and I have surrounded myself in life with people who also do not use it, so the reality is that its existence doesn’t really affect my day-to-day. Still, I hate that it’s there, existing. Waiting. Biding its time.

No one says “bosom” anymore, not really, so at least we’re doing something right as a society. In fact, I have only ever encountered this word in the wild once, and believe me, once was enough. It was senior year. The class was AP Literature. A boy on whom I had a pretty serious crush was reading aloud, which is an act that is always fraught with peril, because who knows when you’re going to screw up a word and just burst into flames right there in the middle of class? The boy, however, did not mess up. He never did. He always spoke with such an easy confidence that listening to him read was always the better part of my week. But on that day of days, he reached the word “bosom,” which I think we all know is pronounced “BOOZ-um,” and he said it like “BAH-sum,” which baffled me beyond all comprehension. I had never heard of such a thing, ever, in my life. But he was so good-looking and his hair was so effortlessly casual and he read with such deep-voiced self-assurance that I had to wonder if maybe I was crazy and it actually WAS pronounced like “BAH-sum.” I even looked it up afterward in a fit of existential uncertainty, and honestly? That moment changed my life.

I pronounce the T in “often” and I know people hate me for it, but I can’t stop. It’s my only vice. I don’t bite my nails or drink fizzy sodas or watch Say Yes to the Dress. Let me just have this one thing, okay?