Three-in-one effort

This just in from Jessica Durkin:

This paragraph is from a Washington Post story, published online and in print 8/13/07 and headlined “A modern history of White House spin.”

Writer Peter Baker manages three bad cliches in two consecutive paragraphs. How hard can it be to use simpler expression?

“As a college professor, Martha Joynt Kumar studied and taught the art of presidential communication for years. But one day, she did what few of her colleagues in academia had: She showed up at the White House, planted herself in the basement along with the reporters who covered the president and started watching the whole process up close. That was in 1995. Now we have the fruits of her labor.

After attending briefings and presidential events for most of the last dozen years, Kumar has seen the sausage being ground for longer than most of the officials and reporters she studies. Her new book, “Managing the President’s Message,” published by Johns Hopkins University Press, pulls back the curtain on the machinations and recriminations that always seem to shadow the interactions between presidents and the media.

Is he serious? Plus, these cliches got passed editors?

Editor’s note: sometimes editors have other fish to fry — like making deadline or correcting erroneous assumptions — that force us to allow such transgressions into the paper.

Wretched turn of phrase

Kate Crimson of Gibsons, British Columbia, can bear the following no longer:

Turned up dead” — how I hate that! I hear it over and over to describe the discovery of a body, especially on Primetime with Stone Philips reporting on the murder of the day.

“Two weeks later, he turned up dead.” “Nobody knew what had happened until she turned up dead.”

“Yes, she finally showed up, but she was dead,” they seem to be saying. Does a body actually “turn up?” Maybe it turns over hearing this phrase, but I doubt it turns up.

You are almost guaranteed to hear this phrase if you watch faux news shows like 48 Hours. It is a constant.

I often wonder how the close relatives of the story subjects feel when they hear “turned up dead” applied to their departed loved ones.

That’s my rant for today.

Thank you for your time.

Always a pleasure to help one spew!

Ban the balloon

Marla declares:

I am SICK of hearing this word, as in “Mary’s weight suddenly ballooned up to 185 pounds.” You can’t turn on Discovery Health Channel without seeing a show about weight loss surgery, and you can’t see a show about weight loss without hearing the ballooning phrase. I hate it. It sounds like someone stuck a bicycle pump up Mary’s butt and inflated her with pork grease, or some sort of special heavy air. How about a more realistic, less stupidly dramatic phrase, such as “Mary gained 45 pounds,” or the more verbose “Mary’s weight increased from 140 to 185 pounds, a gain of 45 pounds in two years.” Or AT LEAST consult the thesaurus once in a while for a different silly word. How about if Mary swelled, bulged, surged, billowed, expanded, boosted, or aggrandized her way to 185 pounds? How about if she waxed obese? Maybe her pounds mushroomed or pyramided, unfurled or upsurged, escalated, mounted, proliferated, pullulated, swarmed, or snowballed!

Thanks for the opportunity to let off some steam, possibly de-ballooning myself in the process.

Must every task be grim?

Writing Tools author Roy Peter Clark thusly rants:

I heard it this morning while driving to work, as I knew I would. The radio reporter described the efforts of rescue workers to pull dead bodies out of crushed cars and out of the muck at the bottom of the Mississippi River. The failure of the bridge in Minneapolis at rush hour made this “grim task” necessary.

There it was — the phrase “grim task.” Let’s kill it along with its first cousin “grisly task.” I’ve heard it and read it for more than 30 years now, and it is more tired than ever. I’s appearance is so predictable that it has become, to borrow a phrase from George Orwell, a substitute for thinking. I would argue that at a time of death and destruction, the failure of writers to craft something original is a sign of disrespect.

Clark’s blog is here.