You Keep Using That Word

Lately I’ve noticed a couple of words being used in a certain way to communicate a certain thing. I’d like to put a stop to that.

I believe words have meaning. And by that I mean that specific words mean specific things and we shouldn’t hijack them and use them to mean something else.


One of the words in question here is objectively. I have nothing against this word or anyone using this word as long as they use it as intended. Here’s the usage that I do have a problem with:

“That movie is objectively terrible.”

I think people that use the term like this are trying to communicate an extreme preference. I suppose that’s ok, but I feel they take it too far. Usually its used in this manner to say there is no doubt and please don’t bother having a differing opinion.

Google gives this as the true meaning of objectively: in a way that is not influenced by personal feelings or opinions.

It seems most people use this word primarily when they are expressing a strong personal preference for or against something. Oh, the irony.

Let’s not, ok?

Violent agreement

This is more of a phrase, not a single word. I do have to give people some bonus points for creativity here. The phrase violent agreement is a nice oxymoron and perhaps therein lies the appeal for most users.

“Oh, trust me, James and I are in violent agreement on this.”

It’s quite a funny term actually. Is this some sort of what to say that we are in such violent agreement that if someone does disagree with us we will beat them up? Or, did we have a very violent argument about something before we ultimately came to an agreement? Strange.

Don’t bully me with your words

My biggest beef with both of these examples is they are used to subvert disagreement. They are conversation stoppers. They leave no room for opinion or nuance. They force a dualistic position.

In the case of “objectively”, it’s just a case of pure misuse that seems to have spread into the common vernacular. “Violent agreement” seems like one of those terms used in the business world like “disruptor” or “growth hacking”. Someone used it — maybe as a joke — and it caught on.

We’re just supposed to be ok with this? I think we can do better.

About the author
Bitmoji image of author: Chuck Mallott
Chuck Mallott

I write about design and UX, family, religion, sports, mountain biking, and dumb observations. I'm a web, mobile, UX, and product designer living in Colorado.