Strange as it may seem, a Texas man by the name of Thomas Mitchell was convicted this week of shooting his girlfriend because he thought she was about to say the words “New Jersey.”

Yes, you read that right, because she was supposedly going to say “New Jersey.”

While the crime is certainly nothing to laugh about, the situation brings into focus something which affects virtually every single person on the planet – words and phrases that drive people absolutely crazy.

In the case of Mitchell, it’s not just hearing the name of the Garden State being uttered. Apparently, “Wisconsin” is just as bad for him, though prosecutors have not said if he ever had a bad sampling of cheese, doncha know.

“Snickers” and “Mars” are two others which set Mitchell off without warning. Perhaps he experienced some candy trauma as a child, though it’s hard to believe, since – as we all know – packed with peanuts, Snickers really satisfies. At least it was confirmed that his aversion to “Mars” refers to the chocolate bar, not the planet nor the Roman god of war. I can empathize with him on this point, since I’ve never been fond of “Milky Way” and “3 Musketeers.”

But Mitchell’s irritation got me thinking about other verbal selections which can feel worse than Taliban John’s extra-long fingernails scraping down an al-Qaida chalkboard of terror.

One of the first that comes to mind is the ubiquitous “whatever.” Who invented this word? And for the love of all that is good, why?

People voice this bland pronoun all the time in response to statements by others. Does it even mean anything? Just say “whatever” several times slowly out loud or in your mind. It really gets more obscure with each utterance. Even Lake Superior State University listed it in 1997 as one of the words that should be banished from the English language.

Recently, I found out the hard way from a friend that the phrase “That is so fun” completely enrages her. Good thing I didn’t say “New Jersey,” as that’s where she was raised, as was I.

I asked what it was about “so fun” that sets her off. She tells me it’s not good grammar, stating “so much fun” is a better alternative. I’ll have to remember that, especially the next time I wish to remark “that apple is so much red.”

The Mitchell case is now making the rounds on the Internet, as it’s been discussed on websites including Reactions have been posted from all across America, with people listing their own annoyances. Here are some of the highlights, or lowlights, depending if you’re pulling out your hair:

  • I have the same reaction when I hear the word “Clinton.”

  • I don’t like to hear [the] words “don’t go shopping” and “what’s for dinner,” but I haven’t killed him yet.

  • I am embarrassed to confess that I have almost concluded that it would be righteous to smack anyone who says “at the end of the day”or “expert/experts say.”

  • The made-up word “proactive” makes my stomach churn. The opposite of “reactive” is “active.” “Proactive” is something cooked up by the department of redundancy department.

  • How about “irregardless”? When I hear that it makes my skin crawl.

  • Bad, as in “It’s my bad.”

  • The phrase that does it for me is the currently popular “one of the only,” as in Hillary Clinton is “one of the only” people who cause me to throw my beer can at the screen.

  • Frankly, the word “Massachusetts” really sets me off. I won’t even drive through that cesspool.

  • The phrase ”You need to.” The only thing I “need” to do is breathe. After that, all things are optional.

While those entries demonstrate the public’s distaste for words already in the lexicon, there could be others even more infuriated by phrases not quite as oft-spoken. Here are a few off the top of my head, and this is your chance to stop reading now if you have any kind of high blood-pressure condition:

  • President Gore

  • Supreme Court Justice Daschle

  • The tax cut has been rescinded

  • Complete amnesty for illegal aliens

  • Ellen DeGeneres has found work.

  • “Friends” is getting another season.

  • The U.S. Armed Forces will be placed under French command.

  • and your daughter tells you “I want a pants suit just like Hillary Clinton’s!”

OK, I hope I haven’t sent any of you into an uncontrollable rage. You never know. It could happen, just like it did with Mr. Mitchell in Texas.

I just hope to remember his case, so on the remote chance I should ever meet him in life, I’ll remember to discuss only 48 states, and stay away from any mention of chocolate.

If justice were to be truly served in this case, Mitchell would be sentenced to eating Snickers and Mars candy while incarcerated in New Jersey, giving new meaning to “behind bars.”

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