Got a phrase the folks in the news are driving you batty about?
Click on “Comments” and plug your contribution in there.
Remember, this site is to intended to help professional news people correct bad habits that show up in their work — published or broadcast. If it isn’t in the paper or on the nightly news, it’s not Banned for Life material (which is not to say it shouldn’t be banished, just that it shouldn’t be highlighted here).
David Malacari from Down Under avers:
ABC Radio (www.abc.net.au) is particularly bad at overuse of the word ‘alleged‘. I hear it all the time and it drives me to distraction. While you could probably argue that the usage is technically correct its superfluity, in most cases, is maddening. For instance:
Nuttall, Talbot granted adjournment in alleged corruption case
… surely it is a corruption case or it isn’t a corruption case. The allegation would be that Nuttall and Talbot acted corruptly. There is nothing alleged about the case itself.
Driver contacts police after alleged hit-and-run
A driver has handed himself in to police after allegedly hitting a male pedestrian before fleeing in Adelaide’s north east this afternoon. The crash happened in Redwood Park just before 4:00pm. The car was found abandoned in a nearby street soon after. The teenage pedestrian has been taken to hospital with leg injuries.
I would concede the use of ‘allegedly’ in the body, but not in the title. Technically any crime or misdemeanor is only alleged until the moment of conviction, however in practical terms we would normally accept that a crime has been committed and that the allegation refers to suspect’s role. In other words either it was a hit and run or it wasn’t. The allegation is that it was committed by person A, not that it happened.
These are only a couple of examples I found just now on the ABC web site. I am driven mad with newsreaders saying that someone was charged with allegedly doing something. The ABC is rife with allegations!
Silas Prophet returns with the following:
I would love to find a way to exorcise the word “superstar” from our collective vocabulary. The word has lost all meaning and significance, if indeed it ever had any. Is there any person in the fields of entertainment or sports who hasn’t been tagged, at some time in their careers, as a superstar?
Even politicians (Heaven help us) are now granted superstardom. An NPR interviewer recently introduced Barack Obama as the “superstar senator”. This is a clear sign we’ve gone way too far.
And please don’t get me started on “supermodels“. According to the popular media there is no other kind of model. When I hear of Tiger Woods (or any other “superstar”) and his “supermodel wife” it takes me an hour to unclench my fist, jaw and sphincter.
Until some singer, actor, athlete or statesman appears in blue spandex and red cape with a big “S” on their chest I refuse to acknowledge the “superness” of anyone.
Except, of course, my supervisor.
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.
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!
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.
Rachael Bradford writes:
This is used enough to make the list: Even some who respond here overuse the phrase “roll over in his/her grave“.
What dead person was important enough to be disturbed by what some random person is doing now to wake up and “roll over in his grave”
Really? When will this happen? I have got to see this one!
(Editor’s note: too many writers think they’re clever saying “that rumbling you hear is the sound of xxx rolling over…”)
Eric Zorn of the Chicago Trib is told to give “kerfluffle” a rest. And readers weigh in with tons more loathsome media utterances, most of which have been covered here, though this is a new one:
The one I hate is “decadent.” Why is it that this word is only used to describe chocolate? To prove my point, I just looked the word up on Answers.com and the sponsored links on the side were for brownies and chocolates. Are we really that unoriginal that we can’t think of any more than one use for a perfectly good adjective?
Here’s the ironic part: “decadent” is defined as “self-indulgent.” In a society where half of us are 300 lb., oversized-SUV-driving, workaholic narcissists, there are oh so many many opportunities to use this word.