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Home » Books & writing

Five Phrases That Should Be Permanently Retired from Reviews

Submitted by on April 5, 2010 – 1:46 am 12 Comments

Happy Monday! Hope you survived all the chocolate eggs and ham, or Pad Thai if you celebrate Songkran.

Since it was Easter weekend, I didn’t do much work. Read plenty, slept and ate even more, but didn’t quite get around to finishing my reviews.

In thinking about them, though (I’m much more productive in my head), I came up with a Top 5 list of words/phrases that make my eyeballs roll when I see them in reviews. If you ever see these in mine, you have permission to send me hate mail.

  1. “A roller-coaster ride.” Seriously, have you ever said this in your life after seeing a movie or finishing a book? Besides, I hate roller-coasters. They make me sick.
  2. “America’s Sweetheart.” This label has been slapped on everyone from Julia Roberts to Sandra Bullock to Meg Ryan to Jennifer Garner to Reese Witherspoon. Shouldn’t the correct phrase then be “one of many members of the America’s Sweethearts Club”? Plus, who determines this status? Sometimes I’ll look at someone labeled thusly (not anyone mentioned above) and think, “She’s not my sweetheart.”
  3. “Best movie/book of the year” when it’s March. ‘Nuff said.
  4. “Breath of fresh air.” I thought this was stale first time I heard it.
  5. “Unputdownable.” I just hate that word, and not because it’s not a real one. I’m all for new words being coined and it was (maybe) cute the first few times, but after the 2,927th time, I’m done.

What about you? Is there a hokey phrase that will guarantee you won’t buy a book if you see it on the cover?



  • jenforbus says:

    Ugh, I’m completely with you on “unputdownable.” I haven’t ever been able to stand that word. It’s like nails on a chalkboard for me anytime I hear or see it. Yuk!

    I don’t refer to anything as best of the year until my best of list…or rather, I term it, my favorites list. I have a bit of a problem seeing myself as enough of an expert to say anything is the “best.” And up until I make my favorites list, a book might “be in contention for” my list, but that’s about as much as I’ll say…even in November. I just never know what’s going to happen when I go back and look at the books I’ve labeled as contenders.

    “America’s Sweetheart”??? Ugh. I don’t believe I’ve ever said that except when referring to the movie by that name. I think I usually wrinkle up my nose when I say it then, too! 😉 I don’t think I’ve heard “Breath of Fresh Air” used very often thank goodness.

    I have to admit to using the “roller coaster” analogy. It was with a book that had a roller coaster name for a title…do I get a pass on that one? Or should I prepare for the hate mail?

    I have to admit I probably don’t read enough reviews to know what is overused or not. I try very hard not to read reviews of anything I intend to write about myself to avoid letting anyone else’s opinions influence mine. I’m a lot more likely to go back later and read a few from voices I respect, but I think they’re also less likely to overuse words and phrases. But feel free to whack me upside the head if I’m starting to sound like a broken record on anything!

  • HA! Unputdownable!! That’s in one of the quotes on the cover of my first book. I didn’t say it…someone else did. I was like, “Is that really a word?” Well, word or not, it’s right there on the cover. Hilarious.

  • Diann Shaw says:

    I absolutely agree, Elyse. “America’s Sweetheart” is particularly annoying. In addition, the words that I wish would disappear from movie trailers forever are the following: In a world where blah blah blah, blah blah, blah, one man blah blah blah, blah blah blah…

  • READER#9 says:

    The one that always gets me is the one movie reviewers use too much. “Must See” just kills me, especially when it is combined with “Must See Of The Year” and it’s only January.

  • Poncho says:

    “Unputdownable”? Really? Do people use that word (or rather, collection of yuxtaposed letters)? I’ve got to be grateful I’ve never heard/read that word before this post. I think it’s rather stupid to use idiotic ‘words’ to describe what is supposed to be something intelligent; except perhaps “Mary Poppins” which can ONLY be described as “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

    Anyway. I don’t read reviews often -at least not ‘professional’ ones-, since I rather hear/read whatever people whose opinion I value think about something.

  • EIREGO says:

    I have always been a fan of “A Thrill Ride A Minute”. LOL! It covers roller coasters, bumper cars and driving with your big brother.

  • le0pard13 says:

    Those are good ones for the retirement home, PCN. I’m guilty, too, of the roller-coaster analogy use (I know I’ve written it somewhere). I also know now that I’ll catch myself whenever I recall this post. I think unputdownable should automatically draw the same ire as the use of the word, irregardless. That one bugs me whenever I hear it. Thanks, PCN.

  • I could never send you hate mail, PCN ~ irregardless of your turns of phrase. {Sorry, leOpard13, I laughed so much when I read your comment, I couldn’t resist!} You chose some truly irksome gems, PCN. Oh, wait ~ is “gem” a potential addition to the list?

  • Pop Culture Nerd says:

    Jen—I don’t read reviews before I write one, either, and often not even before I read/see something. But I’ll read them after my review is done to see what everyone else is saying. And yes, you get a pass for “roller coaster” if it’s in the title!

    Brett—Haha! Lucky I like you and will still read The Cleaner. But see that it doesn’t happen again.

    Diann—I can hear that line in my head and just got annoyed.

    READER#9—That doesn’t really bug me but it comes close to another phrase that does: “If you only see/read one thing this year…” I want to say, “You’re wasting your breath because that person’s a hermit!”

    Poncho—I envy the fact you live in a place where “unputdownable” doesn’t exist. Yet.

    EIREGO—Let me think about that one…nope, doesn’t annoy me much. But it doesn’t really make sense. If a movie’s 90 minutes, I’ve just experienced the equivalent of 90 thrill rides by the time I leave the theater. That’s too much.

    le0pard13—Don’t get me started on words like that! We’ll be here all year. My teeth hurt every time I hear “I could care less.”

    Shell—Your teasing remark at lp13 is a gem!

  • Katiefornia says:

    Popping by for the first time via Shell’s blog. Looks like I’ll have lots of fun checking out your archives! Phrases I dislike in movie reviews are performances that are “pitch-perfect” and any sentence that includes “human spirit” especially when paired with “triumph of the”.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Hi Katiefornia,

      Welcome! Since you’re a friend of Shell’s, you must be good-looking, smart and have excellent taste in chocolate. I hope you do get all up in my archives.

      I’d bet most of the people who use “pitch-perfect” to describe an acting performance wouldn’t know a middle C if they heard it. And I think “triumph of the human spirit” is a euphemism for “I have no idea what to say but this sounds blurb-ready and vaguely uplifting.”

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