…and the words the world just can’t abide

The British Council’s 75th anniversary poll of its students’ English language preferences also surveyed their least favoured words. The 10 most disliked English words were:

  1. Cancer
  2. Racism
  3. Corruption
  4. Terrorism
  5. Slavery
  6. Flatulence
  7. Killing
  8. Study
  9. Herringbone
  10. Fail

Pretty understandable choices, although flatulence seems a far lesser evil compared with others on the list.

But you can’t help but wonder why herringbone was included. Sartorial considerations? Memories of itchy tweed jackets? Or of almost choking to death on an actual bone of an actual herring?

Hotel, the 21st least favoured word, is equally puzzling to me, as is scissors, at 73. Any thoughts?

By Marian Dougan


Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

Join the conversation


  1. Fiscal, holistic,oriented (US import), crucial, unacceptable, actually.

Leave a comment

Have your say!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.