Skip Navigation

The five common phrases we should really stop using, now!

By John Vandewater, '20

Ah, ordinary communication. Human beings get plenty of practice by using it daily; and yet, too often we hear ludicrous phrases that should inevitably be wiped from existence. Clichés and metaphors that undoubtedly mean nothing are commonplace no matter where we go or who we talk to. Unfortunately, most of us have accepted the fact that we live in a society where we are subjected to verbal nonsense that is neither warranted nor correct.

If you or someone you know verbalizes any of the statements below, and I am willing to bet we all do, replacing them with phrases that are genuinely meaningful will greatly benefit the English language and the whole of humankind. Here are just a few pearls of verbal delight that catch my attention daily.

"PERCEPTION IS REALITY." Actually, it is not. Truth is truth and your perception of said truth does not change that fact. What this really means is that you do not believe what someone is communicating to you is a fact because you believe differently. Fortunately, what you hear, see, and think does not matter in the grand world of evidence. STOP SAYING THIS!

"WE ONLY USE 10% OF OUR BRAINS." As it turns out, we actually use almost every single part of our brains. This myth has been widely circulated and repeated so many times it is nauseating. The fact is, we only understand about 10% of the way our brain functions and even less of those who use this phrase. And no, Albert Einstein never said this.

"WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES." Again, the truth is, we do not. Decades of research have found zero evidence to support the idea that an individual learns more effectively when teaching is tailored to a particular style. What is accurate is that we all have a learning preference and these preferences are processed in various parts of the brain. There is no evidence, however, that these areas work better in some people than others in order to determine how each person learns best.

"DON'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER." How on earth would a person know whether or not to choose a book unless the title and authors name are on the cover? You should absolutely judge whether or not to read a book based upon the cover's description. So, for the love of everything holy, please make it stop!

"WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU ONLY MAKES YOU STRONGER." This is probably the most problematic phrase commonly heard. Unfortunately, exposure to trauma and physical sickness often leads to vulnerability of mental health disorders. Hardships almost always leave a negative mark on us. Most of these blemishes are not visible and certainly do not make a person magically resilient. This statement is truly damaging and offensive to those who have lived through this sort of ordeal. Consequently, this phrase is blatantly incorrect and should never be used in an attempt to comfort another person suffering in some manner. The feelings that result from the communication of this can ultimately place an even heavier burden on the receiver. Again, please think before you speak.

Relying on these and many other overused and underwhelming phrases is uninspiring and encourages the listener's brain to fall asleep. Furthermore, the mindless regurgitation of these ridiculous and often false statements only encourages the communicant's brain to follow the same outcome. As a consequence, these nonsensical idioms can also generate an unfavorable opinion of the user's education level.

As a leader of large groups, I have always instructed my subordinates to be clear, concise, and candid when communicating with anyone. The advice I gave was as good for them as it is for all of us: words mean things! Fellow Aggies, I implore you all, please help me in my crusade to stop the verbal madness of useless expressions and meaningless communication. If not for the sake of others, choose to do so for the sake of my sanity.