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.

Grave condition

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…”)

This just in

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.

Freeze these out, please

This just in from Zoltan Toth in Toronto:

Hi Tom,

I stumbled upon your site a few weeks ago and have enjoyed browsing through it on my coffee breaks on an almost daily basis. I live in Toronto where we just got hit by a rather sudden cold spell, complete with a few inches of snow. This morning on my way in to work I caught a headline in Metro, the city’s free commuter rag: Old Man Winter Strikes Again!

Why is winter old? And why is it a man? But who really cares, can we just banish this tired old phrase? And while we are at it, can we throw in “2 inches of the white stuffî too?

Ah, I feel so much better now — thanks.

Glad to oblige!

Cut it out

John Sturgill relates:

I find it really insipid when hair salons use a word play based on the word “shear

  • Shear Fantasy
  • Shear and Shear alike
  • Shearly gorgeous
  • Shear Illusions

Normally I wouldn’t post non-media expressions that annoy people, but this goes out to any headline writers hoping to be clever with the next story about hair styles they have to handle: if it’s lame on a shop window, it’ll be lame in your publication.

Get lost

Warren Rathbone nominates:

This one was old even before the film came out, but now it seems any time any person of any position dealing with any government or organization of any other nation becomes suddenly “lost in translation” the minute there’s even the smallest hint of unforeseen delay or error. Here’s to hoping that future headline writers who think of this outrageously clever turn of phrase “lose their fixation.”

Play this

Pragya Madan writes:

Hi Tom,

I am absolutely and completely tired of seeing the headline “Child’s Play” or “No Child’s Play” for any story related to child psychology or bringing up children. Are newswriters so busy these days that they can’t think creatively any more? Or have they lost the need to do that?

‘Roid rage

One from yesterday’s mail:


I loathe the use of the phrase on steroids” to denote an abundance or excess of something.

Can’t think of a quote at the moment, but you’d know it if you heard it used again and again, as it has been overused during the past two years. Come to to think of it, any use of this detestable idiomatic (and idiotic) expression constitutes an overuse.

Brian Kulesz