The Worst Words Ever

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“What word do you hate and why?” 

That was the question posed to poets this year at the Ledbury Poetry Festival. Answers ranged from chillax (ugh) to redact (yuck) to appall. And Phillip Wells’ explanation of hatred for the word “pulchritude” was just outstanding:

“(I)t violates all the magical impulses of balanced onomatopoeic language – it of course means “beautiful”, but its meaning is nothing of the sort, being stuffed to the brim with a brutally latinate cudgel of barbaric consonants.”

I hate the word utilize, which I know makes me sound like grammar school teacher circa 1984. But I don’t only hate it because it’s unnecessary and pretentious. It’s also that the z looks like it doesn’t belong, with all those pointy, tall letters around it. And it’s impossible to smile when you you hear someone say it.


Seth Fischer’s writing has twice been listed as notable in The Best American Essays and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize by several publications, including Guernica. He was the founding Sunday editor at The Rumpus and is the current nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. He is a Dornsife PhD Fellow at USC and been awarded fellowships and residencies by Ucross, Lambda Literary, Jentel, Ragdale, and elsewhere, and he teaches at the UCLA-Extension Writer’s Program and Antioch University, where he received his MFA. More from this author →