This is simple

Alex Bensky of Detroit, who commented on the post below, was moved to nominate:

  • Quite simply,” as in “Ozzie Smith is quite simply the best defensive shortstop in history” or “This is, quite simply, the finest movie of the year.”

What does it add? What extra meaning does it carry? What’s the difference between “Greta Garbo is quite simply the great movie actress of all time” and “Greta Garbo is the greatest movie actress of all time?”

Malfunction junction

Linda Andrews shares:

  • My “banned for life” nominee is “wardrobe malfunction.” If I never hear that phrase again, it’ll be just fine with me!
  • Another language pet peeve that irks me is when a reporter talks about a “senseless” murder. Is there any other kind?
  • A couple of redundancies that also get my goat are “ATM machine,” or “HIV virus.” The “M” in ATM already stands for “machine,” so saying “ATM machine,” is saying “automated teller machine machine.” The “V” in HIV already stands for “virus,” so, when someone says “HIV virus,” what they’re really saying is “human immunodeficiency virus virus.” What they SHOULD say is “ATM” and “HIV,” period.
  • Another interesting language miscue, and it’s something I hadn’t thought
    about myself until I heard someone else bring it up, is when someone says, “I thought to myself...”. Can you think to anyone else but yourself?

Make it the last time

Gene Maddaus of the Pasadena Star-News posits:

“This is not the first time that…” ought to be banned, along with all its variants (“He is not the first park ranger to be mauled,” etc.)

Kudos to the diligent journalist who bothers to dig up earlier
instances of the news-making phenomenon in question. But don’t
congratulate yourself by leading into the context with a coy cliche.
Readers know it’s not the first time. You are surprising no one.

Similar context set-ups probably ought to go, too. (“The park is no stranger to park ranger maulings.” “Park ranger maulings are not unheard of…” “While uncommon, park ranger maulings are nothing
new…”)

Instead of saying what it isn’t, say what it is: “Several other
rangers have been mauled in the years since the park opened.”

Editors note: some of us have an outright ban on use of “several” if specific numbers are available.

Look back in anger

Chuck Stroup requests:

Could you please add “past history“, as in ‘the gunman had a past history of violence’ or ‘the patient has a past history of cardiac problems‘. Is this to avoid confusion with their ‘future history’? It is just history!!!! Grrrr…..

Each, yes; every, no

Gabe Goldberg avers:

Some people never use one short word when more words can take up more
space. I’ve never understood the phrase “each and every” except as an
indication that those same people don’t read what they write. Do they
think it’s more comprehensive than “all”? That it adds emphasis? That an
item might escape if the entire gaggle isn’t twice included? Beats me.

‘Single’ this one out

Gregory Harris reveals his most reviled redundancy:

“The single biggest fear of every Israeli…” “The single largest expenditure in the budget…” “The single most absurd thing I have ever heard…”

The use of “single” with the superlative, as far as I can tell, is never necessary. I can’t think of a “single” instance where it adds anything to the mere superlative. Yet this one makes it under the radar of even highly respected writers like William Safire and William F. Buckley, Jr.

I think the impulse to use it lies deep in the American love of superlatives. We glory in the biggest and the best and the most, and we are willing to stretch to absurd lengths to seem to achieve it: “The best-selling rock-and-roll record on a non-romantic theme given national distribution by a major record company between April 1957 and June of 1959.”

So when we come up with our precious superlative, we want to put a crown on its head, a purple robe around its shoulders, and a scepter in its hand. “Single” is that outfit. Ban it for life.

This denial needs an adverb

Carmen’s most hated news-media utterance:

categorically deny or categorically denied

What do they think they are implying, beyond regular old-fashioned denying? And have you noticed it is always politicians or their handlers who are doing this type of denying?

Somebody call the orderly

Chris Pat suggests:

A very over-used and misused phrase is “in order to.

“In order to” really did have a meaning — to perform tasks in the order they were given, because to perform them out of order would not allow the operation to be a success.

Example:

  1. Open box.
  2. Remove radio.
  3. Insert batteries.
  4. Turn radio on.
  5. Tune to your favorite station.

These tasks must be performed “in order” or you cannot listen to your
favorite station. Technical manuals have many tasks that must have each
step performed in the correct order or the process cannot succeed.

However, it is used far too often now, and usually without any tasks that
must be performed in any particular order. Quite often, it is with one
task, and how can a single task be performed in order or out of order?

Also, it is redundant when used in a lead-in sentence to a numbered task.
The fact that the list is numbered rather than bulleted implies a numeric
order is required. Almost all can be written without the “in order” and the
meaning is still clear such as:

Go to the store in order to get milk.

Go to the store to get milk.

Perform the tasks in this list in order to configure the router.

Perform the tasks in this list to configure the router.

Not wholesome

Bruce Ussery offers:

For months now I’ve been noticing the phrase “whole new way” used numerous times daily in TV commercials, news stories, and print ads. I guess a “whole new way” is much more exciting and newsworthy than a mere “new way”. It’s a miracle we survived so long without all these whole new ways. I just did a search for the phrase using Google – 10,600,000 hits.

(Counting Google hits also should be banned … since nobody knows what the counts mean and nobody’s gonna make sure each of those 10.6 million hits is relevant. — tm)