We asked readers to propose a single English word that should be eliminated from the language. The nominations piled up, in the hundreds and then the thousands. People who like words, as it turns out, also hate words. Superfluous adverbs took a beating: people unloaded on “literally” and “actually.” One woman challenged anyone to think of a case in which a deleted “actually” changed the meaning of the sentence. But there’s reason and then there’s rhythm, and “actually” is actually useful as a useless dactyl. Other entries were conceptual: a number of readers wondered if eliminating “hate” would eliminate hate. We checked. It would not. (Nor would “war.”)
Words came in, marked for death. Popular objects of dissatisfaction included “awesome” and “epic” (pointlessly inflationary), “phlegm” and “fecund” (pointedly ugly), “bling” and “swag” (self-conscious slanguage), “impacted” and “efforting” (boardroom blather), “like” and “but” (only ever taking up space), and “irregardless” and “inflammable” (are they even words?).