Posted by: philipfontana | January 31, 2018

On Language


On Language

My Pet Peeves: “Existential” & “Geopolitical”

What’s Yours?


Philip Fontana


Pet peeves.


     Excuse us for living, but no matter our age, we all have our little “pet peeves” along the way of life. It sounds petty to complain about such small things in this uncertain political time in which we live; not to mention the horrific natural disasters around the nation and the world, along with acts of terrorism and gun violence. – – I’m depressing myself just writing this.

That being said, putting all that aside (impossible), there must be things, some smaller things, that bother you. I’d be very interested to hear what your “pet peeve” is in the comments section below! You might, for example, hate bloggers like me who would better spend their time reading instead of writing! – – I’ll vote for that one myself! What I have in mind are a few things regarding language usage largely in the news media which have annoyed me in recent years. I thought the time I spend writing this “Excuse Us…” might be well spent researching them.


Philosophy Department: You are Here...But why?


My number one nomination as something that drives me nuts is the use of the term “existential,” usually “existential threat” or “existential crisis,” but never-the-less “existential…,” with this or that tacked on! – – “Existential problem, existential menace, existential pandemic.” (That last one is a whopper!)  – – You name it! It’s “existential” whatever it may be. And the egregious offenders are the news shows (that used to be called “news programs”) coming out of the mouths of the hosts and their guests, not affectionately referred to as “talking heads.”

The term “existential” is not only misused but overused and complicated by its roots in the philosophical term, “existentialism.” Such phrases as “existential threat” and “existential crisis” are used more as clichés, as intensifiers much like the misuse of the word “literally.” Use of the term “existential,” apparently, came from the German form “Existentialismus” in 1919 and came to the English language in 1941 by dropping the “us.” To oversimplify, existentialism is a 19th-20th century philosophy. It questions “how and whether life has meaning, and why we exist,” stressing the importance of “freedom and will instead of reason in confronting problems.” (Anyone remember their college Philosophy 101 or Political Theory 101 and the name Jean-Paul Satre?)

And so, the adjective “existential” does have its roots in the philosophical “existentialism.” The word “existential” can be defined as “of or relating to existence.” When, for example, the phrase “existential threat” is used in political discourse, it refers to “a threat to a people’s existence or survival.” The best I can do to sum up this discussion is to say that when the word “existential” is used on the political talk shows, it makes reference “to survival or to the meaning of our lives.” – – Personally, I still think they throw it in for flare, emphasis, as a cliché. It’s a phrase that should be used with more discretion, in my opinion, and not for verbal flourish!


C Geo Prof


My second pet peeve, again from the political talk shows, is the use of the term “geopolitical.” Now, as a student and teacher of history and political science, I fully understand what they are talking about. But clearly the term is misused and overused. Their use of the term has nothing to do with any geographic aspects whatsoever.

Strictly speaking, at the risk of oversimplification, “geopolitical” refers to “the study or application of the influence of political and economic geography on politics, national power, foreign policy, etc., of a state… or region.” Despite this meaning, speakers misuse the term to make their statements, adding a global flourish to give more importance to their words.

Used correctly, “geopolitical” as an adjective relates to that which “geographical location – – more than culture, history, or ideas – – influences political developments.” In truth, typical uses of the term “geopolitical” in the news media are most often discussing the impact and implications of something globally, perhaps. That’s as close to geography as they get! – – Considerations of geography being far from what the speakers have in mind. Yet, the term “geopolitical” is thrown around, or thrown in, seemingly, for affectation, as a cliché, here once again as in my first pet peeve!


D Size PetPeeves


Excuse us for living, but that feels better! Now I know my annoyance with the use of these terms is justified. The next time I hear them used by people on the news shows I can yell back at the TV with informed, justified confidence! HOW ABOUT YOU???!!! What is a pet peeve or two of yours? I’d be interested to know!  Let me know in the comments section below!

Comments: What is your pet peeve(s)?

Online Sources:,,,,






  1. Hmm. Where do I begin? I have absolutely no room to talk about other people’s vocabulary, I’ve been brutalizing the English language since I was knee high to a grasshopper, as my MomMom would say (And now Bryan and my brother tell me) but when someone says “irregardless” to me… I cringe. It’s regardless!!!

    I have issues with other drivers too. Especially people who don’t know what a turn signal is. My sarcasm is at 100% when I encounter these drivers.

    Speaking of 100%- If you tell me you gave something 110%- I know that you didn’t. 100% is your all- you cannot possibly give something more than 100%.

    • Great answer!!

      • GP Cox, Great answer….Heather’s I presume! Yes, she has worthy pet peeves! Phil

    • Heather Lee Wu, Good one! –irregardless vs regardless!!! Another popular complaint! –people not using turn signals! Another good one; 110% !!!! Heather, great pet peeves…all of them! Thanks! Phil

  2. Mine is constant complainers. If you don’t have a logical, workable solution – Give it up!!

    • GP Cox, COMPLAINERS!!!!!!!!!! Good one! If you can solve it, surrender it! Love the Jackie Gleason photo & quote!!! Many thanks for the comments! May all be well over at WWII in the Pacific Theater!!! Phil

  3. This is a good one, Phil! My pet peeve is mixing up two or three different languages – it’s like a trend now in my home country, Indonesia, that even a reporter wrote a news with English and Indonesian languages as title or in the news. It’s annoying to read and in the end also confusing to understand the content.

    • Indah!!! Glad you liked this! I had hoped people would step forward & talk about their gripes! Now that is a very worthy peeve on languages!!! Mixing 2 & 3 languages in Indonesia! –Certainly a reflection of a peoples culture! –Surely annoying & confusing. But I have empathy with writers like this. They must try to exercise more discipline when they write formally. It is not like conversational speech. Very good one, Indah! I am enjoying all you post!!!! Make sure I know when you return to Rotterdam. Phil

      • Yesss..I can understand if a bilingual mixes two languages during conversation but a journalist then it will be a different story.. sometimes the news reporting become nonsense and not credible. Yesss. I will let you know if we are moving back. We have no plans yet but our time in the U.S. is nearly end 😦

    • Indah, I so agree! Journalists must use a higher standard!!! Thanks! Enjoy all your time here & thanks for keeping me apprised of your location! Phil

  4. Cultural appropriation. Yet another generator of guilt. Why, if a white woman wears her hair in corn rows is it deemed offensive? Perhaps she likes the style.
    Mark you, I read recently that there have been complaints about the commercialisation of yoga on the grounds of CA, having been banned in India by the British…it would be a wonderful idea to ban yoga. On any grounds possible.

    • Helen Devries, You have me laughing about banning yoga! –Sounds like a strong pet peeve of yours! So yoga was controversial one time in India by the Brits & now in CA today. What else? You nominate “cultural appropriateness”…..That grates on me too! Very thoughtful pests for you! Thanks for all the comments! Phil

      • Yoga did not bother me before moving to Costa Rica, where it seems that every other immigrant gets off the plane and unrolls a yoga mat…or starts a ‘retreat centre’ where they charge exorbitant prices for the opportunity to make yourself look a real prat and risk a hospital visit.

    • Helen Devries, Ah, so down in Costa Rica the immigrants drove you yoga mad!!! “Retreat Centers” for yoga for big bucks???!!! So it’s all about looking svelt, naturally,& maybe hurting one’s back!!! Phil

      • And the wallet…

  5. Hi Phil
    Another good article written by the best-YOU! Your second career could have been as a journalist…lol…
    Seriously, I am bothered by people who DO NOT signal a turn! How hard is that people?
    And when you come to my town on vacation (orlando) please remember when you leave your state, please bring your brains with you as you drive around town. We all aren’t on vacation- I am now done my rant (off of soap box Phil)

    • Marg, So nice a compliment…again! Thank you! Me a journalist…ha…& thank you for thinking so! Ah, yes, people not signalling when driving! You told me & Patrick that at George’s party! Good one to rant about! Sounds like the out-of-stater vacationers are the worst offenders down there!!! I read with Geri your recent email. Hang in there, Marg, & be at full capacity in a few months. We name you on our dinner prayer list as part of grace each night. Thanks for the great comments on my post! Phil

  6. Another great piece Phil! My pet peeves…I have many. The lack of respect in today’s society…respect of military…respect of patriotism…respect of all religious leaders (while I’m at it religion as a whole)…the respect of personal morals and ethics…just respect as a whole I guess. The lack of appreciation and comprehension of history. Not being looked in the eye when someone speaks to me and someone chewing with their mouths open.

    • Padre Tatro, Eddie!!! Thanks for taking a look here! Glad you liked it! Your pet peeves TOTALLY out due anyone else in number & quality content!!! Your “lack of respect in today’s society” as a pet peeve is all encompassing as you elaborated all aspects of what you mean by that! And these concerns are at a high level of importance to most people’s response including mine. You have my whole-hearted agreement as you would expect. And history! Yes! People “don’t know what they don’t know” & sadly don’t care! It’s not a matter of, “Well, I can always look that up!” They don’t get it! And not looking you in the eye while speaking tells us so much about that person! –Chewing with one’s mouth open! That one even leads to divorces! Eddie, you had fun with this post & the greatest of comments!!! Let me know what you find out about teacher certification. Way back in 1972-1973, I was able to get mine through Fairleigh Dickinson University with only 21 credits & what was called “in-service student teaching,” that is, being observed while teaching my own 8th grade class in a Catholic School for that year. As a result, I was certified as social studies teacher K-12!!!!!!! But that was what was permitted in NJ all those years ago! Today in NJ they permit you to get certified through “the alternative route,” just with ANY BA & getting a teaching position for two years. (The principal just observes you & evaluates you end year on state of NJ forms. I know. I did this for teachers as a principal.) Maybe you should land a job in NJ for the two years to get certified. Catholic School jobs are easier to get. “Hold your nose” for the 2 years! Check out if Florida has a reciprocal agreement to accept NJ certification. OR, see if Florida has such an alternative program to certification or some nearby state. Phil

      • As always Phil you always know how to make me smile. I’m not going to pursue state certification right now, I will be happy to be a guest lecturer.

      • Padre Eddie, Guest lecturer or better yet adjunct instructor in a two college is a GREAT way to begin. It can lead to a lifetime career!!! Phil

  7. I agree! I hate the phrase, “Whatever”. Heard that one too many times from difficult students.

    • kkessler833, Kendall, Good one, “Whatever”! And it’s the way it is said with that certain, same intonation, right?! How about my “existential threat”? So overworked & the speakers don’t even know what they intend it to convey except “Armageddon”! Thanks for the visit, Kendall! Phil

      • Yes about your comment on “existential threat” and you are welcome!

      • Kendall, Ah, you must hear he overuse & misuse of “existential” too! Thanks again! Phil

  8. […] On Language // Excuse Us for Living […]

    • Ace Friends & Bloggers News, Ian!!!!!!!! What an honor! Humbled again to know you used my story, “On Language”!!! I was surprised that it’s a “fit” with what you do at ACE! Many thanks, Ian! Keep up the great work you do building your network of news & history!!! Phil

  9. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog.

    • Chris!!!!!!!!!!!! Many thanks for the reblog of my “On Language” on your The Story Reading Ape’s Blog!!! I remember way back when when I “Followed” your website but lost track following up. I saw your recent post on the WordPress news feed & found you again! It is always a humbling experience & an honor to be reblogged. I cannot thank you enough for thinking my post worthy. Phil

  10. Both the post and the comments were marvelous. Thanks guys1

    • Rae, Many thanks for the nice comment on my post! Yes, love the comments! Phil

  11. My pet peeve is English. To wit:

    We’ll being with box; the plural is boxes.
    But the plural of ox is oxen, not oxes.

    One fowl is a goose, and two are called geese.
    Yet the plural of moose is never balled meese.

    You may find a lone mouse of a house full of mice,
    But the plural of house is houses, not hice.

    The plural of man is always men,
    But the plural of pan is never pen.

    If I speak of a foot, and you show me to feet,
    And I give you a book, would a pair be a beek?

    If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
    Why shouldn’t two booths be called beeth?

    If the singular’s this and the plural is these,
    Should the plural of kiss be ever called kese?

    We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
    But though we say mother, we never say methren.

    Then the masculine pronouns are he, his, and him,
    But imagine the feminine…. she, shis, and shim!

    There are lots more where that came from!

    • Russel Ray Photos, Russel, LOVE your listing of extensive “pet peeves” re English! And put to poetry no less!!! Well done!!! And I like the ending that you have lots more. I like best the comment of my #3 son, Chef Paul, on the English language. He is not the academic type but more into nature & the trades/hands on. Yet, he has deep thoughts & interest in deep thinkers & their thoughts. On the subject of the difficulties of the English language, he said, “The problem with English is that they wrote it wrong!” I though that about summed it all up! Thanks, Russel for all your interest, “Likes” on this & other posts, & your great comments! Phil

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