There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to give up certain things. Like borrowing his dad’s car as his main mode of transportation. Or thinking of shorts as “business casual.” Or trying adventurous haircuts. Above all, there are certain words and phrases that you just shouldn’t be using any more. Under any circumstances.
Yes, yes, we know, we’re not the boss of you. Nobody can tell you what to do. But there’s a big difference between having a unique and colorful personality in your 40s and saying things that shouldn’t be coming out of the word-hole of an emotionally mature adult male. We wouldn’t dream of telling you what political beliefs you should have, or the only appropriate religious convictions, or even what kind of music you should listen to. We just think that a man who’s been on the planet for at least four decades shouldn’t be saying things like, “That is so sus.” (If you had to Google what “sus” means, then you’ve just proved our point.)
To create the definitive list of words and phrases that a man in his 40s should exorcise from his vocabulary with extreme prejudice, we enlisted the help of Barbara Pachter, a business etiquette coach from New Jersey, and Richie Frieman, a manners expert and author of REPLY ALL…and Other Ways to Tank Your Career. And for more things you should never say, check out our list of words and phrases never to say to a naked woman.
Frieman has a special rule for deciding whether to use a word like “amazeballs” in his adult conversations. “If the kid’s in a pre-teen drama on the Disney Channel would or have said it, I do not.”
“Does this shirt go with these pants?”
If you’ve made it this far in life and you’re still not sure how different colors go (or don’t go) together, it’s a miracle you ever leave the house in anything but a tracksuit. It was a cry for help in your 20s, but in your 40s it’s the equivalent of asking, “Should I get a Justin Bieber tattoo?” You should be able to figure that one out on your own. But fine, if you’re still confused, Frieman has a suggestion. “If you’re having trouble matching, stick to basic colors, with no stripes and or designs,” he says. “The Amish nailed that theory.” And if that doesn’t work? Well, you should consult the 20 definitive style rules for men over 40.
“How much should we tip?”
“A man over 40 shouldn’t have to ask what to tip,” Pachter says. “He should know.” Nobody really believes that you’re confused about the right amount for a gratuity. What they’re hearing is, “I don’t want to pay 20%, but I’m worried I’ll look like a dick.” And for more incredibly obvious rules of dining-out decorum, learn the biggest mistakes you’re making in fine dining restaurants.
“Don’t throw me under the bus.”
Frieman says this phrase still permeates offices across the country “like the foul odor of burnt popcorn in the microwave.” If you’re unfamiliar with it, good for you. It has something to do with being sabotaged or professionally ruined. “It also implies you can’t recover, as you wouldn’t be able to if an actual bus ran over you,” says Frieman. Using it in any context doesn’t demonstrate linguistic originality. It just demonstrates that you watch a lot of reality TV.
As Rosie Perez once said in the movie White Men Can’t Jump, “Screwing is for carpenters.” Yes, we just quoted a movie from 25 years ago. That’s because we’re in our 40s, just like you. Which is yet another reason you shouldn’t use it. “What worked for the cast of Police Academy doesn’t hold much for an adult in their 40s today,” says Frieman. “It’s not nostalgic, it’s juvenile.” (And while we’re on the topic… Here are the 30 Best Sex Toys For Enhancing Your Love Life.)
“Does that make sense?”
“What you’re really telling a person is ‘You’re a complete moron if you don’t get it by now’,” says Frieman. Stop being condescending. If you’re worried that you’re not being understood, maybe you focus on getting better at communicating. Constantly asking if you’re making sense is like constantly asking your partner if she’s sexually satisfied. And speaking of…
“Did you come, too?”
Seriously? If you’re over 40 and aren’t sure if what you’re doing between the sheets is giving her an orgasm, you have a lot of catching up to do. Start by trying any of these 25 ways to transform yourself into a sex god.
We’re no fans of grammar purists, but even they have a point about this one. When most people punctuate a sentence with “literally,” they don’t literally mean “literally.” They mean “figuratively.” Or they do mean “literally,” but they’re confused by what “literally” means? It’s a crutch word, enjoyed by linguistic amateurs who’ve just discovered a fun new toy. Saying “literally” demonstrates that you’re relatively new to the arena of expressing your thoughts and opinions out loud. A man in his 40s should be confident enough with language not to be tempted by “literally.”
The ugly stepbrother to amazeballs, says Frieman. “Is it that much of a struggle to finish the term adorable?” he asks. “It’s really not that difficult. You won’t get winded by doing it either. I have faith in my fellow 40 year-olds.”
“I don’t have time for a vacation.”
Sounds like a great game plan. It’s not like working too hard leads to cancer, or could be a risk for cardiovascular disease, or even mental problems. Just stay in the office all week, and don’t even think about giving yourself a break. I’m sure it’ll work out fine! “Are you trying to make yourself look important?” Pachter asks. “Grownups know how to work hard, and then take time for themselves.” Also, grownups make it to old age. If you need some vacation ideas, you could do worse then trekking out to the secret places the 1 percent are visiting this summer.
“Is nice!” (in a Borat voice.)
“Sasha Baron Cohen could very well be one of the greatest comedic minds of this century,” says Frieman, “but you are not. Your attempt to imitate him will only sound like you’re poking fun at every person with an accent that isn’t from England.” As a general rule, trying to recreate comedic performances—whether it’s a Louis CK bit or your favorite Monty Python routine—is best left to people too young to know better. With age comes wisdom, and the realization that nobody will ever, ever say to you, “Not only had I never heard that Chris Rock joke, you did it so much better than he ever could.”
If that sentence ever comes out of your mouth, all we have to say is, “You are just adorbs.” No, seriously, just stop it. It’s not the sentiment we have a problem with, it’s the word. “Bossy is all you have?” Frieman asks. If you’re going to accuse someone of being overbearing, there are so many word choices that don’t make you sound like a preteen. “Say it like you mean it,” Frieman suggests. “‘You’re a complete asshole!’ Now, I’m taking my ball and going home.” Though if you find yourself kicking back with someone who is literally bossy—this can only mean your boss—learn how to have a drink with the boss without losing your job.
“Don’t leave me hanging!”
If you’re waiting for a high-five to be reciprocated but the other guy’s hand hasn’t budged, that’s when you pretend you were doing something else—combing your own hair, reaching for a ceiling fan, anything at all. What you don’t do is keep your hand dangling up in the air, and implore the other person to complete the weird male ritual that you should’ve given up back when you stopped using a backpack for a briefcase.
“Let’s do some shots!”
You know what doesn’t look good on a 40-year old? Jaegerbombs. Frieman claims that when a man in his fourth decade suggests doing shots, what he’s really saying is, “I wish I was still in college.” That doesn’t sound like you, does it? Do you wish you were back in college? Of course not. Sure, the lack of real responsibility was fun, but if you recall, it also involved Jaegerbombs, which were never as much fun going out as they were coming in. For some more refined and sensible drinking, try one of the 7 drink orders that are sure to impress your boss.
The word “supposably” is to the English language what crocs are to footwear. They’re not actually shoes, but eh, whatever, they’re close enough.
Again, no such word exists. Are you really 40 or are you just using a fake ID to buy Jaegerbombs?
“Limited access to email.”
“Even in 1996, when AOL was handing out CDs with 1,000 free hours in the mail, no one had limited access to email,” says Frieman. “In a day and age where 90% of businesses rely on email, and it’s on the very device you hold dear, every single person has access to email.” If you tell somebody you can’t get back to them because of “limited access to email,” they know you’re lying. And you should be smart enough by now to know that your lie hasn’t worked since the mid-90s. And while you’re learning email etiquette, take a minute and brush up on the 15 tips for drafting a perfect cold open email.
It’s kind of like saying “Not to punch you in the face” before you punch somebody in the face. Saying “no offense” is not a magic spell that stops the offensive thing you’re about to say from being offensive. “When you say, ‘no offense,’ you’re not asking for their leniency,” says Frieman. “You’re telling them you’re about to rip into them.”
Let’s be clear, this word is never acceptable. But in your 20s, it’s at least possible that you’ve been misinformed. Maybe you’ve been influenced by older friends or relatives who are idiots. But by the time you’re in your 40s, you’ve had enough time and distance to figure it out. “Nothing in your life needs this word to amplify the situation,” says Frieman, “nor should it be used as entertainment.”
We’re not exactly sure why somebody would substitute“preggers” for the more conventional, accurate term. “It’s okay to say pregnant,” Pachter insists. Maybe “preggers” sounds less daunting and life-altering, and doesn’t immediately remind you that you and your partner will soon be responsible for a small, helpless human being? Because nothing says “I am ready for fatherhood” like using a word that makes pregnancy sound like a hypoallergenic dog breed. Though if you want to say, “I am ready for fatherhood,” it wouldn’t hurt to learn the 5 ways cool dads make family dinner a (healthy) blast.
“Yello-o” (as a phone greeting)
“And buh-bye,” says Frieman.
“I’m gonna sit this one out.”
In your 20s and 30s, skipping on the chance to do something fun is no big deal, because odds are you’ll be right back in the game tomorrow. But in your 40s, declining invitations to go out with the boys, or go to a show, or join in a pickup game, or take a crazy road trip for no reason is the first step towards giving up completely. Of course it’s easier to stay home and veg out in front of the TV, but that’s how your muscles start to atrophy. Don’t give your body permission to be an old man. Put on some pants and get out there!
Back when you were younger, calling the Internet “the Interwebs” was funny, because you were pretending to be some dense old dude who couldn’t understand modern technology. “Can I get that information on the Interwebs?” Ha ha! That’s totally not you! Well guess what, you’re in your 40s now, and it’s only a matter of time before some new technology comes along that you don’t quite get. It’s time to stop making fun of people who might be you in a few years.
“I need to go pee pee.”
“There are things you do to hang onto your youth, and then there are things you do to make it look like you’ve never grown up,” says Frieman. You know what sentence has never been said by anyone ever? “Oh, that Tom is so cute when he says peepee, isn’t he?” Even if your prostate is flaring up, you don’t have the right to say this.
The only people allowed to use the word “ma’am” are old Southern gentlemen in white suits, anyone enlisted in the military (because all soldiers are just intrinsically polite), and guys in their teens or early 20s. Everybody else should know better. Calling somebody “ma’am” is making a rude assumption about her age and/or marital status. A woman likes being called “ma’am” as much as you enjoy being called “Gramps.” If you need to learn what to say to a woman, brush up on the 13 sexiest things to say to a woman.
“Blow it up!”
The exploding fist bump, accompanied by sound effects and wiggling fingers (to simulate fireballs and shrapnel), is especially egregious behavior among older men. “If handshakes were bands, then the exploding fist bump would be a mixture of Ace of Base and that Gangnam Style guy,” says Frieman. “In a world where bro handshakes can be a solid way of bonding with someone on a more down to earth level, the exploding fist bump simply says, ‘I’m trying to be cool, but unless you’re a toddler, I’m a complete goober.’”
“Is it that time of the month?”
“The answer to this question is none of your business,” Pachter says. “The question should not be asked.” Also, and we mean this in the most supportive, non-judgmental way possible, we’re shocked you’re still getting laid in your 40s. You know that every thought that pops into your brain isn’t something you need to say out loud, right?
It doesn’t matter if you say this word in anger to a woman or as an ironic term of endearment for your male friends, it’s never okay. Even more so when you’re in your 40s. You’re not in high school anymore.
“[Pop star half your age] is so hot.”
It could be Lorde, or Miley Cyrus, or Demi Lovato, or Ariana Grande. The point is, she’s young enough to be your daughter. (No, seriously, crunch the numbers. One bad decision in your 20s and she could’ve been your bundle of joy.) “40 year-olds say this because they still believe that the 20-something in them would actually have a chance to sleep with said pop star,” says Frieman. May we suggest instead one of these 30 beautiful woman over 40 who are aging in reverse?
“That’s phat with a p!”
There are many reasons you shouldn’t be saying “phat.” For one thing, it’s just a way of loudly announcing, “I bought my first hip-hop record on cassette!”
Unless you’re employed by a federal agency like the FBI or the CIA, there’s no reason for a man in the prime of his life to use an acronym. OMG? As Pachter says, “Grown men express their enthusiasm using words.”
Come on now, are you in such a hurry that you can’t manage to say both “what’s” and “up”? We’ll tell you s’up, you’re probably still living in your parents’ basement, that’s s’up.
“Can we have a threesome?”
If you have to ask, the answer you’re hoping for—“I thought you’d never ask!”—is simply not coming. If you want more sexual adventure, try one of these 3 ways to turn your wife into a sex goddess.
“Have you gained weight?”
You may have been able to get away with this in your 20s, when asking somebody if they’ve put on a few pounds meant they’d probably skipped the gym a few days. In your 40s, accusing somebody of being noticeably more rotund is like pointing out that their hair is thinning or their beard is getting grayer. “This is a phrase that every time it comes out of your mouth, the words hang in mid air, then turn to you, give you the middle finger, and then slap you in the face” says Frieman.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass.”
What does it even mean?
Frieman is happy to complete the sentence for you. “Sorry, but… I do not care about your feelings and I will upset you.” That’s what you meant, right?
“I am not a happy camper.”
We wouldn’t be a happy camper either if we were 40-something years old and still hanging out with prepubescents at a sleepaway camp. Oh wait, that’s not “literally” what you meant? “A grown man should be able to express his anger in a more straightforward, assertive manner,” says Pachter. Like saying “I’m not happy.” Of course, if you’re truly down in the dumps, try out one of the 10 drug-free ways to beat depression.
“I’ll cut a bitch.”
The joke isn’t working. “How is this even a thing?” Frieman asks. “Unless you’re doing 20 in maximum prison, no one finds this useful. It doesn’t add to a conversation or make a situation more lighthearted.”
“To be honest…”
We know you didn’t mean “I’m finally going to tell you the truth after years of telling you nothing but lies,” but to be honest, that’s what it sounds like whenever you begin a sentence this way.
“I’m not in the place to commit to someone right now.”
Listen, Hefner, nobody’s buying it. That’s like saying “I’m not ready at this point in my life to have a full-time job with health insurance,” or “I need a little more time before I’m ready to commit to living in an apartment without three guy roommates.” What are we waiting for exactly? “You still think you have a chance at the 25 year old recent grad at your office?” Frieman asks. “You don’t, and not wanting to commit does not mean something better is around the corner. It means you’re nuts.” In other words, yes, you’re ready to commit, and here’s how you’re going to do it.
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