9 Words That Don’t Exist

Ian Lurie

I’m taking a brief break from internet marketing pondering and prognostication to vent a bit about words. Specifically, words that aren’t actually words:
Irregardless. Wait, so is that the opposite of ‘regardless’? So, regardful? With regards? Oh, wait, it’s not a word!
Nuculer. Our wonderful President, as well as Jack Bauer, seem to know about a whole new form of energy. It’s not ‘nuclear’, it’s ‘nuculer’ or ‘nooculer’ or whatever the hell it’s supposed to mean. Not a word!
Like.. Like is actually a word. But it’s not, like, supposed to be a, like, conjunction, you know? I abuse this word, too, but I, like, stab myself with a spork every time I do it, y’know?
360 Degrees. Again, this is actually a phrase. But it’s been misused to the point that I think we should strike it from the language. I actually heard a CEO say “we’re going to turn this company around 360 degrees”. Okay. So you’re going to make me dizzy, yet accomplish nothing?
Brang. The fact that I hear adults use this phrase makes me weep for the species.
Ain’t. I like this non-word myself. And it’s actually been added to the dictionary. But it still makes me sound like I fell headfirst off a truck as a young child.
Performant. I don’t even know what the hell this ‘word’ is supposed to mean. But a developer threw it at me in an argument about SEO standards when he said that my changes would make the site ‘non performant’. I retired from the battlefield, realizing that my opponent couldn’t feel pain. That would require brain function.
Non-defunct. Yet another attempt by people to sound smarter by creating double negatives. Backfires horribly when the listener realizes the speaker could have said ‘alive’ and saved some oxygen for the rest of us.
Anti-opposed. I’m opposed to this word. seoxyzabcgh
I’ll stop now.

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  1. I would like to add another word to that list. How about “non-professionalist”? I don’t even think I need to double check on that word even being legitimate…. I’ve heard that one a few times around the old work place. How about unprofessional? geesh.
    Like, don’t people, like, have, like, a, like, half, like, decent, like, vocabulary, or, like, something?!

  2. My favorites are anyways and preventitive. Anways, maybe we can, like, turn this 360 degrees and anti-oppose these words with some preventive proper english. Where you at?

  3. THANK YOU. I have been stewing over the irregardlessness around me for ages. The other ones were funny too. “Non Performant” is, if I may say, a perfumant argument, or maybe odorifant. It stanks. You have to be dumb to win arguments that way, because if people know you are smart and you used non words like that, yer credibility would be shot; they’d never discuss things with you again. Life would be easier if I was dumb.

  4. My personal favorite is funner, As in that was funner than a roller coaster. Ugh…
    Found your post via stumble upon!

  5. The Jack Bauer thing drove me nuts. I think it was after Bush started talking a lot about nuclear arms. I couldn’t believe our leader was up there saying “nuculer” over and over again. And then Jack Bauer started saying it. At that point I was thinking about emigrating to Canada.

  6. I can’t find the strip, but there’s a Dilbert with Dogbert pushing his new book, “Clues for the Clueless.” Ratbert says he used to be clueless, but he turned that situation around 360 degrees. The payoff is Ratbert reading the page in “Clues” on conversational geometry.
    Are you, like, anti-opposed to telling client CEOs that their conversational geometry ain’t performant?

  7. I’d like to add Impactful. My god what a dreadful construction.
    Brang, not a phrase, but also, I’ve never heard it. Being from east Tennessee, I’ve heard someone say Bring and it sounded like brang due to an accent, but not sure what brang is.
    Ain’t is and has been a word for centuries, was once the preference of the upper classes in England, but has since gone the cycle of being left behind by the mainstream and only surviving in pockets in england and among lower classes in the US South, then came back strong with the Black/Southern diaspora in the US and as a bit of faux working-class chic starting in the 60s.

  8. Nuculer is just differnt pronuciation and it’s not just Bush who says it that way. i have heard several physists do the same, including one who worked on the manhattan project. It might be the wrong pronunciation to so is tamato.

  9. Brilliant. I hope you ask anyone who uses 360 degrees to indicate change how going in a circle is useful.
    One that makes my skin crawl is “nosy” as a verb. As in “I’m going to have a nosy at that website now.” Sorry? Nosy is an adjective.

  10. I nominate tunafish. If that’s a word then I’d like to order a chickenbird sandwich or a steakcow with a baked potato.
    Elton…Check the definition. Nyoo-kyoo-ler isn’t just different, it’s incorrect. It’s transposing syllables and any physicist who mispronounces it should have their slide-rule confiscated. Who ever heard of “tamato”? It’s either pronounced
    tuh-mey-toh or tuh-mah-toh and both are considered correct.

  11. For educational purposes only, I have copied and pasted the following from m-w.com (the dictionary).
    Main Entry: ir·re·gard·less
    Pronunciation: ˌir-i-ˈgärd-ləs
    Function: adverb
    Etymology: probably blend of irrespective and regardless
    Date: circa 1912
    nonstandard : regardless
    usage Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its fairly widespread use in speech called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927. The most frequently repeated remark about it is that “there is no such word.” There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose. Its reputation has not risen over the years, and it is still a long way from general acceptance. Use regardless instead.]
    Aha! There IS such a word! lol

  12. my favorite is the phrase “these ones”/”those ones”. as in i hate it so much it makes me twitch every time i hear it.

  13. We don’t call boats BOOTS – unless you’re talking to someone from Newfoundland, in which case they say everything very differently than the rest of us. When a Newfie, as we call them, gets going I have NO IDEA what they are saying.
    I am guilty of the occasional HEY or EH – as in “Great summer we’re having, hey?” But I am Canadian, eh!
    The one that drives me crazy is dethaw. If you are dethawing something aren’t you actually freezing it? Or unthaw… same thing…

  14. Elton is right on that one–“nucular” (or however you want to spell it) is simply an accent, not a different word. Elitists just show their ignorant provincialism when they make fun of it.
    Speaking of making fun of, my copy of Webster’s dictionary disagrees with you on “irregardless” and makes fun of people who think it’s not a word. I’ve never heard of “brang,” but expect it’s like nucular–see ignorant provincialism remark above. “Like” belongs on a list, but not this list. I’ve never heard of most of the others. 360 degrees is probably used by failed math students to mean 180 degrees (they just figure if 180 is good, 360 must be double good, and Ian’s 720 is double plus good).

  15. Wrong.
    While irregardless is nonstandard, it is indeed a real word documented in the dictionary.
    Merriam-Webster: The most frequently repeated remark about it is that “there is no such word.” There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose.

  16. Another one: “proactive.” It may be a word but it is often used when “active” is the word you’re actually looking for. Let’s be proactive about getting our point across! Ugh.

  17. Like it or not, “like” as a conjunction is becoming a real part of the English language. Linguists have taken note of it, and apparently people who use it do so in a very consistent way. It’s not random, and it will likely be an official part of the language in a relatively short time (though, it will likely take longer to become a part of written English than of spoken English).
    As for “brang,” what the hell is that supposed to be? I’m guessing it’s a terrible mispronunciation of “brain.” Am I correct?

  18. @Lauren Sounds like it got into the dictionary because enough people repeated it. Still not a word! Can’t hear you! LALALALALALALA…

  19. @Julie I gotta disagree on the ‘Boot’ thing. My in-laws are maritimers – wonderful, smart people. But they can’t pronounce ‘boat’ or ‘house’ to save their lives. It’s all boot this, hoose that…

  20. You hit two of my top pet peeves – irregardless and 360! I suspect offenders will not respond to this post but I know they’re reading so please STOP now! Just for the record, in case you’re still not sure 360 is a full turn, so if you are implying a new direction, try 180 or 90 or even 45!

  21. Actually, according to dictionary.com, Performant is in fact a word, it just doesn’t mean what some people think it does.
    Webster’s New Millennium™ Dictionary of English – Cite This Source – Share This Main Entry: performant
    Part of Speech: n
    Definition: a performer
    Etymology: based on informant, etc.
    Webster’s New Millennium™ Dictionary of English, Preview Edition (v 0.9.7)
    Copyright © 2003-2008 Lexico Publishing Group, LLC

  22. One more: “going forward”
    As in: “What we intend to do with this company going forward…” Used incessantly on tv by finance wizards, this phrase is always redundant and just plain stupid.
    And another: the absence of the past tense in tv news. “The Russian president telling us that…”
    When he really said it yesterday. This crap is also missing the modal auxiliary (is/are). I’m not referring here to legitimate subordinate clauses, but to an indefensible attempt to make everything sound like it’s being scooped right now. Although Keith Olbermann is otherwise my favorite commentator, he is the worst abuser of this practice. He’s been watching way too much Fixed News, where I believe the practice began.

  23. here’s another one for ya… stupider … believe it or not it doesnt exist… (or so i’ve been told.. i didnt check before posting this, and even though i realize it, i still refuse haha) more stupid is the correct way to say it…
    “one person is more stupid than the other person”

  24. I’m a little late joining in, but top on my list are:
    “flustered” or “frustrated”, but NOT “flustrated”
    “boughten” as in, “I should have boughten that pistol..”
    Regarding “non-performant”: Considering the context of the conversation, I’m betting at some point you uttered the phrase “standards compliant”, and they were probably itching to throw an equivalent back. At least it was “non-performant” and not something worse like, “nonsensicalant”!

  25. Great post – the ones I dislike the most after “like” and “ya know” is how in the U.S. people must end a question with “at”. Where are you at? The other bothersome one is sports writers and announcers who write/say the team must get untracked meaning headed in the right direction – they should say “on track”

  26. I know I’m shaking my fist at the tide, but I’ve bristled at “wellness” since I first heard it. It seems never to be seen alone, but always arm and arm with “health.” It’s almost as if someone thought the word health was lonely, and needed a sister. b

  27. there’s something about the way American’s say aluminium and Antarctica…
    it’s not a-lu-mi-num it’s A-LU-MI-NI-UM
    and maybe this doesn’t apply to all of America.. but I was watching ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and I kept on hearing an-arc-ti-ca… WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ‘T’?!?!?! it’s AN-TAAARC-TI-CA

  28. Like, my high school physics teacher in, like, 1966 said noo kya ler, but then, like, he was also the wrestling coach.
    I don’t think that misuse of “like” will catch on in writing, it’s, like, too hard to keep typing all the time.
    Oh, and while the Gore campaign was making fun of Bush’s language troubles, I heard Gore’s campaign manager Bill Daley using the word “blithefully” at a press conference. I don’t think I saw him in front of a camera after that.
    His brother Richard is still mayor of Chicago. Richie’s press conferences are always entertaining, especially when he’s angry. I recommend the whole Daley family if you’re looking for some fresh non-existent words.

  29. @David Yup I shouldn’t just pick on Bush. While he turned it into an art form, even Jimmy Carter couldn’t pronounce ‘nuclear’, which continuously amazes me.

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