Phrases I'm Getting Mighty Tired Of

by C.M. Decarnin

{Surly Bitch Mode Engaged}

Phrases (& other stuff) I am getting mortally tired of star in:

        ATTACK  OF  THE  LIVING  GRAMMAR  BITCH!  Part *Uhnh*:

                       If I Were the King of the Forest

Okay this first part has nothing to do with grammar.  Nor is it about clichés.  It does have to do with received (read STOLEN) phrasing and lazyass writing.  Both of which I've been guilty of seventy times seven, but I'm trying to cure myself and like an ex-smoker, am irritably reformative.  It also includes some things that just frickin annoy me.  Deal.

heat pooled low in his belly

Every time I see the word "pool" as a verb now I want to pool my dinner on the carpet.  It's virtually meaning-free.  I might not mind it so much if these sensations pooled in his crotch once, but no.  Now clothes are starting to pool at people's feet, and so on, and I've had it!  Everybody out of the pool!

And while we're at it:

warmth gathering in his belly

Crotch.  Say "crotch".  Repeat after me.  The genitalia that feel are located in the CROTCH!  Or groin.  Not some vague spot in the abdomen, elegantly styled "belly" cuz it's literary.  (See "soap and shampoo", below.)

hitching breath

The first time I saw this I thought it was very inventive.  The second time I saw it -- in that same story -- I thought, oh, what a shame, she doesn't know enough to leave it alone.  30th time I saw it in the same author's work I wanted to strangle her.  Now I see it everywhere and grind my teeth.

toed off his shoes

I've used it, but I don't think I ever will again -- it's EVERYwhere.  Granted, slash protagonists doundress a lot... but (snaps fingers) we gotta stop sleepwriting the same phrases we see everyone else using.

scissoring fingers

I might have even inadvertently started this one.  I can't remember if I'd ever seen it anywhere in slash before I used it in "Hades".  But whoever started it, I'm rill tired of it now.  Underscores the serious need to find our OWN words... a lesson that's been a long time coming, for me, but I think slash has finally gifted me with a clue...

whimpered (or other verb) with/atThe Loss

Just, no.  Let it go.

one finger, two finger, three finger

You don't have to do thisto have gay male sex!!!!  It's a fucking OPTION for ghod's sake, not a PRESCRIPTION!  Give it a rest, people.  Especially in the hot, rough, do-me-now scenes, jeeze do NOT stop for this it really wrecks the mood.  And is bo-RING.  As for stopping to do this during a rape scene...  Trust me.  Your readers will thank you.  I will thank you.  The future of slash will thank you!

Sorry, I just hit one too many instances of pornus interruptus there...

Te is exempt.  She can make even this fuckin' hot.  And it turns out Carene LOVES this aspect of fanfic, but that actually doesn't mean we need more of it; there are at least a thousand HL fics with it already out there...  Anyone who writes this like they love it, naturally that's different.  Most just put it in because they think they have to, and it shows.  And yes:  there are gay men who prefer unlubricated sex.

dancing around each other

I hate this phrase.  I mean, it's just so undignified, wouldn't you hate it if someone said that to you or about you, in that superior tone?

over the edge (orgasm)

Not intrinsically annoying, but admit it, you've seen it at least a hundred times, right?  Actually I think it's falling out of use, RIP.

blood tasting like copper

It doesn't.  (And even if you think it does, once you've seen the phrase two or three dozen times you can officially assume it's no longer fresh and original.)  The color of blood comes from iron (attached to oxygen), not copper, and no, it doesn't taste like iron either.


For things other than speech.  Breath, touches, heartbeat, etc.  It's become popular, hence repetitive, hence obtrusive, hence irritating.  Actually it was always kind of irritating.

tasted himself in ______'s mouth

I donno.  Just so predictable after a while.  yawn.  Vary the wording?

She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

A story that shall remain nameless couldn't think of ANYTHING else for the female lead to do.  And it was a long, LONG story.  So she did it over, and over, and over, and over...  Internet publishing offers the safety and anonymity you NEED to do this.  But that author is not the only culprit who does it with female characters.  (You never see it done with male characters, except maybe Blair, who, well, I think I've made my point.)  It's a maddening and pointless piece of non-characterization and should be STIFLED.  If this is the best you can think of to do with a female character, you shouldn't be writing them; admit you can only do slashbunnies and move on.


Suddenly everybody's kissing each other's jaw.  Not a sexy word.  I think because it too readily suggests "yawning maw" and suddenly we're in another storyline altogether.  I wish there were better words for parts of the face.


I don't find the word "grunt" sexy.  Which brings us to the subject of:

soap and shampoo smells

What on earth is sexy about the smells of toiletries?  Cheap, nauseating perfumes, weird-ass chemicals...?  Eyew.  More important, almost, is that the mention of them is often kind of... like mentioning someone eating fruit and cheese.  Kind of pseudo-sophisticated -- note both are generalizations.  They don't say what fruit, what cheese; that distance is part of the lofty aloofness you're supposed to sense in it all; nor does the pov sniffer mention the fragrance, usually -- "the scent of his shampoo" -- could be anything from Apple Honey Wheatberry to that tar shampoo you use for dandruff.  If it's necessary to talk about it, NAME it.  Or, preferably, don't talk about it.  Maybe in modern life such lab-made stenches are all we get but boy is that depressing.  Surely in fantasy we can do better than eroticizing people by what products they use?

overuse of ellipses

Oh wait, that's me.

biting the jugular, or, Ghod help us, carotid, or Adam's apple

Excellent ways to end a story in emergency surgery or the morgue instead of in transports of rapture.

grin splitting a face

I mean, ew.  EW.  Think about it.

choking/swallowing back bile

What is this, a GERD epidemic?  Not many people have reflux as a symptom of rage, fear, etc., and besides, bile comes from the liver, not the stomach.

the older man/younger man/other man/taller man/shorter man

If you've been writing 25 minutes, you know this is frickin' awkward.  If you use the person's name, the repetition is not gonna kill your sentence the way "the younger man" will.  And why?  I think it's partly the abrupt change in distance.  These phrases are VERY distant indeed, and no one would EVER ever ever think of their lover that way.  Neither should the narrator.  And, side note, especially when that "man" is 16 years old?  The effect is like those cheesy old boys'-adventure novel descriptions of a fist-fight with the villain (who is always named Rankin, first name likely Lew) "receiving a strong blow to the jaw that felled the other man" and the like.  <thoroughly creeped shudder>

the brunette

Meaning Clark Kent.  See "the older man" etc., above.

dizziness from arousal

Really? Room spinning, inability to keep your balance, rising nausea?

bursts of light behind eyelids from orgasm

Really?  Always sounds more like migraine to me, which is why I don't like it.

kissing/licking pulse points

Really?  Like, the lickee can tell?

fed him lunch

Feeding is what you do to animals and babies.  It has no place in adult interactions unless you are literally spooning the pablum into his mouth.

Lex sliding/running/rubbing his hand over his scalp

Lex never does this.  Watch him.  Lex doesn't have any jittery mannerisms.


Boys.  Don't.  Say.  This.   Except enormous sissies.

Lex smirking

Enough already.  Especially from those who don't seem to know the difference between a smirk and a smile.

Carding fingers through hair

Once, long ago, this was an original phrase.


I'm reading a story in which the lovers have had FIVE HOURS to get ready for their date, and the first thing one of them wants to do when they finally meet up and start groping each other is -- take a shower.  Please.  In the classic phrase, "You should have gone before we left home."

pinching the bridge of his nose

Bored now.

And lastly:


"His cock exploded."

Dudes.  Could the next sentence ever be anything but "He screamed in agony."?  I saved this one for last, 'cause it's so common and so awful.  Sometimes it's the whole guy who explodes, and isn't that sad?  There are metaphors that work, and metaphors that don't.  I'm just sayin'.

No, "erupt" isn't all that much better.

Some of the very bestwriters do all the above; it's not like it's illegal.  But some of them also do the stuff below.  And so do their betas.


Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...


                          No One Here Gets Out Alive

Words that are just plain WRONG.  Some are suddenly becoming so commonly misused that you now often see them on tv and even in newspapers and magazines.  The premiere of "LAX" used the "pawn off" error -- even in the captioning.  On 2/5/04 I saw the may/might error on the Final Jeopardy question!  Augh.

ERROR:                                   SHOULD BE:

pouring over a page                         poring over a page

I could care less                               I couldn't care less

diffuse the situation                          defuse the situation
            (disarm, not scatter widely)

reign in, free reign                           rein in, free rein
            (both terms come from horseback riding, not royal politics)

hone in on                                        home in on
            (comes from radio-location, not knife sharpening; like
             "homing beacon")

pawn something off on someone        palm something off on someone
            (comes from magic/con game, not from pawnbrokers)

jerry-rig                                            jury-rig (or "jerry-built")
            (They have slightly different meanings.  To jury-rig means to
            cleverly rig something up from what you have at hand;
            jerry-built implies shoddy or precarious construction.)

stretched taunt                                  stretched taut

peek, peak, pique                              three different words.  look 'em up.

leeched (color from a face)                leached
           (A process in milling flour, not about bloodsuckers.)

lead (as a past tense)                        led

bicep                                                 biceps (means "two-headed" muscle)

lie/lay, sit/set                                    argh
           (The only treatment I can think of for this is to print out a
           complete conjugation of all FOUR (yes) verbs and tack it up near your
           computer.  Then learn the definition of transitive and intransitive
           verbs.  Apply as needed.  I admit this one is hard.)

may/might                                        argh argh argh argh argh
           (90% of the time -- no, 99% -- "may" in any sentence that even
           HINTS at a past tense, should've been "might".  Also most
           sentences with a future tense, and some in the present.  I don't
           know how this mistake got started but it's a fuckin' epidemic.)

breath/breathe                                  If it's a verb, add the E.
            (Okay if you don't know what a verb is:  if it has a long E
            sound, add the E on the end.  If it rhymes with "death",
            it's spelled like "death" -- no E on the end.)

lose                                                   means "to misplace"

loose                                                 means "to set free"

lightening bolt                                    lightning bolt

beg the question

This is constantly being misused lately.  On tv a lot.  Even in that Glacionauts show on PBS for ghodsake.  To beg a question means to dodge it, evade it, sidestep it; "to assume that which was to be proved in a discussion, instead of adducing the proof or sustaining the point by argument"; the fallacy with the Latin name petitio principii (postulation of the beginning) -- it does NOT mean to plead for or invite the question to be asked; it does not mean to provoke the question.  Think "beg off" rather than "beg for".  Here's a pretty clear explanation, though the site has a tendency to hijack your screen and not let go -- hit "Back" quickly 3 or 4 times to leave it:


One of the all-time great examples of this is, "We know that God exists, since the Bible says God exists."  You hear versions of that all the time, when talking to naive believers.  It never occurs to them that the Bible is not PROOF.  To everyone.  Including atheists.
For a cool site on false argumentation, go here:


But I digress.

alright                                               all right

give into                                            give in to

momento                                          memento

be fit with (as a past tense)               be fitted with

sunk (as past tense of sink)               sank; had sunk

cliché (as an adjective)                      clichéd

phased (adjective: disconcerted)        fazed

palate, palette, pallet                         I know, but try

bored of                                         with!  bored with!

wonder, wander                                 two different words

And the classic:

It's fur is soft.                                     Its
     (Like his, hers, ours, and theirs, "its" takes no apostrophe.  The word
     with the apostrophe is the one that stands for "It is.")

He's taller then Lex.                            than.  than than than.

all of the sudden                                  all of a sudden
    This is an odd one I'm seeing more and more, so I list it.

snuck                                                  sneaked

End...  for now.