Since I’m trying to talk less and listen more, I’m deleting the cheapest words I say.

I’ve stopped saying “actually.” It doesn’t actually mean anything.

It doesn’t actually mean anything when I say it and — sorry — it means even less when you say it. When you actually say it, I wonder, “What is so actual about [your] statement that [you] needed to say ‘actually’?” So I’m wondering about your use of “actually” rather than actually listening to you. Therefore it means less than nothing.

I’m not saying “actually.” If you catch me saying it, let me know. I’ll buy you a milkshake.

Same for “honestly.” Or “to be honest with you.” Or any other introductory declaration of honesty. The word (or phrase) suggests that what I said before it was dishonest or otherwise obfuscatory. (There’s a temporary national figure who is always proclaiming his honesty, amid his lies and verbal incompetence. Methinks the buffoon doth protest too much.) I’m finished declaring my honesty.

A friend recently struck “obviously” from his conversation. To him, it was self-effacing, shorthand for “of course you know this, but I’m only figuring it out.” But it sounded like the opposite: “anyone who doesn’t know a fool thing like this is a rube.”

“Does this make sense to you?”
That, too. I’ve stopped asking “does that make sense (to you)?” Because we have to pause to assess your ability to comprehend. If you are confident enough to answer “no,” then you are strong enough to stop me and say, “That doesn’t make sense to me.”

“That’s interesting.”
I’m not going to tell you what you said is “interesting.” As a teacher at the Gestalt Center of Cleveland told me, “It’s an [empty] word. It doesn’t mean anything. Tell me why it is interesting.”

Random vulgarity.
When I set out to write this post, I didn’t aspire to completely clean up my act, but as long as I’m vacuuming the car, I might as well detail it. Enough with my vulgarity. Julie Nimmons, a Vistage Chair colleague and role model, asks, “Don’t we want to be the leaders we can be? Doesn’t vulgarity betray us? Why not find the more precise word?”

It means “not believable.” I’m not saying it anymore when describing your talents. I’ll use it for what’s not believable.

“Ironic (when I mean coincidental).”
Not all coincidence is ironic.

“Iconic.” “Handcrafted.” “Epic.”
Oy veh.

“With all due respect.”
What follows is generally not respectful.

“Long story short.”
That doesn’t make any of my stories any shorter.

I never knew why I was using this word. Now that I’ve read its etymology, I’m going to retire it from my language. (See “The Racist Origins Of The Word ‘Caucasian’” by Tod Perry.)

“Drink the Kool Aid.”
Join me on this. Let’s all stop saying it as an expression of obedience to the mission. It’s roots are in the deaths of innocents. Please stop saying this as a casual phrase of corporate compliance.

“It’s a thing.”
Yes, it’s a thing. Everything is a thing. This phrase speaks only of inarticulateness.


During 2010, I swore off “no problem” as a reply to your “thank you.” I thought “You’re welcome” was more polite — rather than suggesting that I might have considered either you, or my service to you, a problem. I was — as often — certain and wrong. Most of the world says “no problem.” (E.g., “de nada.”)

Happy to be of service.

No problem.