The Most Controversial English Words From A to Z

Some words conjure up strong feelings, whether it’s due to varying opinions about their (mis)usage, strange spelling, or some other argument-provoking attribute. I selected the most controversial word for each letter of the alphabet, and they are as follows:

A lot
Now hold on…isn’t this supposed to be a list of individual words?

Biweekly
Twice a week and every two weeks are both too often to spend trying to decipher this one.

Canvass
If to “assume” is to make an ass out of you and me, I can only assume to “canvass” is to make an ass out of whoever decided “canvas” wasn’t good enough for handing out flyers.

Data
The data show(s) that most people don’t care whether you treat data as singular or plural.

Enormity
Of all situations which warrant the invocation of “enormity,” how people choose to use “enormity” is certainly not one.

Flammable
I shouldn’t blame “flammable” for the confusion caused by “inflammable,” but when you play with fire, everyone gets burned.

Gonna
Is this a real word? You’ve probably been told at least once that it isn’t.

Hopefully
“Hopefully, attempts to disparage a perfectly valid use of the word ‘hopefully’ will soon fade into non-existence,” I said, hopefully.

Irregardless
Excluding insults and slurs, this is probably the word that upsets people the most. Powerful stuff. Use wisely.

Judgment
There’s no way that’s how you spell it. Who deemed this to be a good idea?

Kinda
Wait, we already had “gonna” for “G.” Isn’t that sorta duplicative?

Lay
You can lay something on the bed. You can lay someone on the bed. You can say you lay on the bed yesterday. But apparently you can’t lay on the bed…unless you produce an egg.

Mediums
Annoyed when people pluralize “medium” as “mediums?” I’ll alert the media.

Nauseous
I find debates about this word both nauseous and nauseating.

OK
It’s okay to spell it OK…I think.

Presently
I am presently banning debate on the usage of “presently.” Interpret that to your liking.

Queue
On queue: not cue. Four of its five letters are silent and it’s used exclusively by Brits and computer scientists. If that’s not controversial, I don’t know what is.

Restaurateur
Yes, I promise that’s how it’s always been spelled. Just like the Berenstain Bears and Febreze. I don’t like it either.

Shall
Shall we just skip this one for now?

They
Anyone who thinks the singular “they” will stick is out of their damn mind.

Unique
Being a stickler about the usage of “unique” doesn’t make you unique. Unless, of course, you were somehow the only one.

Vacillate
We already have “fluctuate” and “oscillate,” so changing it to mean “to put Vaseline on” would be a much more efficient use of our lexicon.

Whom
As to “whom,” it may concern many of us.

X’ed
I’m gonna guess you never considered how this was spelled before and are now finding yourself displeased with all the available options.

You
Whether you’re team “y’all,” “youse,” “yinz,” or any other coinage, the plural “you” is the original sin that led to your squabbling. And I mean all of you.

Zed
It’s the last letter of the alphabet. What’s so controversial about that?

New Yorker, Yale ‘18, programmer, musician, writer, occasional stand-up comedian

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