No one will be nostalgic for the fetid cesspool of a year that was 2020. Along with COVID and police brutality and Donald Trump’s Twitter account, there’s a lot we should leave behind as the calendar turns — including far too many words and phrases that 2020 wrung dry. Let’s collectively pledge to abandon these overused, trite expressions back in the rotting carcass of the last 12 months. Where they belong.

“I don’t know who needs to hear this, but …” Stop lying. You know exactly who needs to hear it. Grow some stones and confront them.

“Asking for a friend.” Stop lying. You don’t have friends.

“I’m just gonna leave this right here.” Stop laying things around. Do I look like the maid?

“It is what it is.” Congratulations! You’ve figured out a way to add up five words and make them equal zero. You’re saying nothing, and sounding like a demented Popeye while you do it. This expression is used when you have nothing to say, but silence or, hell, just walking away doesn’t seem like an option. Before you utter these words, consider instead saying nothing at all. And then do that.

“That’s it. That’s the tweet.” All too often, tweeters will punctuate their tweets with “That’s it. That’s the tweet.” Standard English has 14 perfectly well-functioning punctuation marks already. (Quick: Can you name them all? Without looking them up? You forgot braces, didn’t you?) There’s nothing that these five words can do that one of those 14 marks can’t.

“Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.” Or, “I acknowledge, through my wit and savvy, that whatever I’m ranting about is not important, so I’m self-deprecatingly minimizing it while half-jokingly indicating that I want you to listen anyway.” Sure, “Thank you for coming to my TED Talk” is shorter, so you get points for brevity, but you lose at least as many points for recycling a line that stopped being funny in, like, 2018.

“This.” I’m really glad you found that quotation from Martin Luther King Jr. or James Baldwin or Josephine Baker to be inspiring. But reposting it with your extensive, insightful commentary of “This” is not helpful; it’s called virtue signaling. It is, and you are part of the problem.

“Once more for the people in the back.” You honestly believe that many people are listening to you right now?

“Y’all ain’t ready for that conversation.” This is Philadelphia, and you’re reading a grammar column. The proper second-person plural pronoun is youse. Or are youse not ready for that conversation?

“This is so me.” Grammatically, this one is interesting. So is a remarkably versatile word, having legitimate uses in five different parts of speech: It can be an adverb, adjective, conjunction, noun, or pronoun. In this sentence, me, which would typically be a pronoun, is functioning as an adjective, following the linking verb is. So that makes so an adverb modifying an erstwhile pronoun functioning as an adjective. But being grammatically interesting doesn’t make your overused sentence interesting itself.

“It me.” All of the unoriginality of “This is so me,” without the burden of a proper verb.

“Screaming.” This is a stage direction, not a sentence. Your life is not a play. If you’re using this, cut back on your drama.

“I’m not crying, you’re crying.” Get out of here with that comma splice. Throw a semicolon between those two independent clauses before your mother and I really give you something to cry about. (Note to the diligent letter writers already composing their emails complaining that I ended that last sentence with a preposition: Please stop. You’re almost as bad as the comma splicers.)

The Angry Grammarian, otherwise known as Jeffrey Barg, looks at how language, grammar, and punctuation shape our world and appears biweekly. Send comments, questions, and interrobangs to jeff@theangrygrammarian.com.

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