There's an interesting post by Matthew J. X. Malady up on Slate right now about "fingerprint words"--words that others identify as "your" words. For Malady it is "iteration"--and yes, he knows it's not necessarily something to be proud of. What was interesting to me in the article, because of my ongoing interest in word drift, is how one's signature word tends to spread around one's group, and how we feel about that when it happens. To copy people's usage is a compliment, but to feel copied too much can feel like theft apparently.
I, perhaps not surprisingly to readers of this blog, am a bit resistant to new usage spreading around me. I noticed a long time ago that in my former workplace, I would not switch to the more casual and usually shorter form of a person's name that I had originally learned as a longer one till it had become quite common usage--Jen for Jennifer, for instance, or Mike for Michael. If they were just introduced to me as Jen or Mike in the first place, then of course I went with that. But I didn't move from more formality to less formality very quickly. And as for true nicknames, which one of my colleagues was quite gifted at coining, I don't think I ever adopted them at all.
In the same way, when everyone suddenly started using the word "referenced", as in "I referenced that", I very deliberately did not do the same. In a workplace, there's quite a high rate of "infection" of that kind. And I do sometimes catch the bug of something, but I usually notice after the word has popped out of my mouth and I feel embarrassed. It's a little bit like being taken over by something that is not your own thought process. One that springs to mind is that there was someone in my sphere that used to say "Excellent" a lot. Or maybe not a lot, but the things he was referring to did not always deserve that response. Still, it's slipped out of my mouth a few times since then.
As for my fingerprint words? Well, actually--no, those are my fingerprint words. "Well" and "actually". I use them too much and unnecessarily. I don't believe I have any really fancy-schmancy ones, or really idiosyncratic ones. But perhaps some readers here can tell me if I'm wrong. Or maybe they'd like to identify their own.