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NEW YORK -- Warning to copywriters: Whatever you do, don't feature the term "whatever" in your work. In a Marist poll that asked people to say which of several words and phrases they find most annoying when encountering them in conversation, a large plurality (47 percent) picked the shrugging "whatever."
Runner-up was the ever-unpopular "you know," cited by 25 percent. Also raising the hackles of a double-digit proportion of respondents was "it is what it is" (11 percent). Few directed their greatest ire at "anyway" (7 percent) or "at the end of the day" (2 percent).
Marist also provided a demographic breakdown of results from the polling, which was fielded in August. Among respondents in the Northeast, "you know" drew almost as many accusing votes as "whatever" (32 percent vs. 35 percent). In the Midwest, by contrast, an outright majority (55 percent) picked "whatever" as the most annoying word or phrase. That was also the one region in which "anyway" scored in double digits (11 percent).
Aversion to "you know" correlated positively with income. It was picked as most annoying by 32 percent of those in the $100,000-plus bracket, vs. 28 percent of the $50,000-99,999s and 21 percent of those making less than $50,000. "Anyway" rankled more respondents in the under-$50,000 bracket (9 percent) than among the $50,000-99,999s (4 percent) or $100,000-plusers (5 percent).
College graduates were more likely than non-graduates to be most annoyed by "you know" (32 percent vs. 22 percent) but less apt to feel that way about "whatever" (42 percent vs. 50 percent).
In a breakdown of the findings by race and ethnicity, "whatever" elicited the ire of more Hispanic respondents (56 percent) than of their black (49 percent) or white (45 percent) counterparts. "You know" also had its highest most-annoying vote among Hispanics (30 percent, vs. 27 percent of whites and 22 percent of blacks). "It is what it is" had its highest tally among whites (12 percent), while "at the end of the day" drew its highest vote among black respondents (7 percent).
- Nielsen Business Media