About this site

The Banned For Life list has been around since late 1996, when I issued a call for insufferable media cliches to the readers of Charley Stough’s BONG Bull, the newsletter of the Burned Out Newspapercreatures Guild. Their replies formed the foundation of a project that has survived seven years of fits and starts.

On Feb. 14 of 2004, it occurred to me that I should rebuild the list under the umbrella of my Web site at tommangan.net. One of the problems with the old list is that I neglected to post dates on when the entries were posted, so there’s no way to know how old they are. Best I can tell you is that everything dated Feb. 14 arrived between December 1996 and February 2004.

Fortunately, these cliches have become such bulwarks of the langauge that the ones we loathed seven years ago remain in wide release today. Next time it rains on the Macy’s parade, see if the newscasters don’t say “Rain didn’t dampen their spirits.” Next time CNN parachutes a news crew into my hometown in downstate Illinois, see if they don’t say how well the latest Beltway follies are “playing in Peoria.”

As for me, I’m a newspaper editor working at the Mercury News in San Jose, California. I’m the keeper of a blog for newspaper editors called Prints the Chaff, and have accounted for some of my misadventures at my home page.

Cliches are like suckers: there’s one born every minute. If you spot one, please send it along and I’ll post here.

Tuning out

From Sohel Imroz:

I would like the following phrase to be added to your web-site: when the TV news readers tell the viewers to “stay tuned“. I feel like turning the power off the TV every time I hear this phrase.

In no uncertain terms

From Bob Ferguson:

I’m surprised not to see “in terms of” in the to-be-banned list. What can be worse than asking “What is the weather like in terms of precipitation?” instead of “Is it raining?” These three words should be chopped from any sentence in which they occur.

English has more tenses than some languages and seems to be expanding in terms of tenses (see what I mean?) . Along with the present continuous we now have what I call the “airline emphatic present”. For example: ” Attention passengers, now at this time we are commencing boarding from rows 1 through 12.”

Are we not species?

From Peter Musial

I think you should add “the male species” to your list. Males
or females are not species in themselves. I hate constantly reading
this phrase.

World-class pains

From Ed Geithner

When I was doing PR, I got into an argument with a client who truly
believed that the words “world class” placed before her product (software that helps design semiconductors) added some meaning. She
thought the same about “best of breed,” which I thought was confined to use by the American Kennel Club. Hmm, maybe she meant her software was a dog. She won both arguments when the check cleared.

My nominees for banning:

  • “(Fill in the blank) went terribly wrong.” It probably did,
    but I’ll strangle the next TV newscaster who says it.
  • “His life (or something else) was changed forever.” We’ll
    never know, since neither the subject nor us will be around to find
  • “A broad/wide range . . .” Ranges must be something else,
    if only writers take the time to find out what.
  • Sporting chances

    Dear Tom:
    Something for your “I hate cliches” list. When I was in college, a bunch of folks used to get together to watch old reruns of the Bob Newhart Show (the one where he’s a shrink) and play a drinking game called, “Hi, Bob.” Any time someone said “Bob” on the show meant one of the TV watchers had to take a drink. If someone
    said “Hi, Bob,” it was two drinks.Anyway, there is an ESPN sportscaster — Stuart Scott — who has inspired a new generation of the “Hi, Bob” drinking game. For want of a better title, let’s call the game “Stuart Scott Sucks.” Scott has developed a whole series of pet phrases, then proceded to overuse them in such a way they’ve become more old and tired than most cliches. While airing the day’s sports highlights, Scott might note that someone “must be better because he’s on a roll,” or “is as cool as the other side of the pillow.”

    He’s got dozens of these things, including one where he drops into the voice of a revival preacher and says “The Lord says you’ve got to rise up,” whenever a team starts a rally. I recently had some contact with a couple of college campuses and found out there are frats using Stuart Scott’s cliches for a drinking game similar to “Hi, Bob.” When this happens, I believe it’s time to find some new pet phrases.

    About the only thing I’ve heard that compares to this, is the bar that played Seinfeld Bingo for the final Seinfeld episode. The bar put together a list of 15 recurring characters (Soup Nazi), 15 pet phrases (New-man), 15 gestures (Kramer coming in a door), 15 guest characters (Keith Hernandez) and 15 episodes (masters of their domains) and gave them all Bingo numbers. They passed out Bingo cards and gave prizes to the players who filled their Bingo cards first as the references appeared in the show’s final episode.

    Take care,
    Charles Bingham
    Juneau Empire sports editor

    P.S., I don’t know if you can find it, but in 1988 or 89, USA Today ran a story about a left-handed pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies named Don Carman. This guy wrote up a list of about 50 sports cliches — “We’re just taking it one game at a time,” “There’s no ‘I’ in team,” etc. — and gave them all numbers. He posted the list above his locker with a note reading, “You saw the game, pick which ones you need.” When some poor scribe caught up to Carman for an interview, he’d answer the writer’s questions with numbers from his list. At least he had fun with it. I believe this took place before the famous scene in Bull Durham where Crash Davis is teaching Nuke Laloosh his cliches.

    Close the book on closure

    From Linda Demaree:

    I am sick of any phrases using the word “closure“, i.e.,
    “they need closure”, “they finally have closure”,
    etc, etc.

    Another fun one is “infrastructure“, which seems
    to be the popular byword today. The only problem with it is that
    everyone is using it, and using it and using it, ad nauseam- and
    largely incorrectly.

    I am not a member of the media in any way, however, I felt the need
    to add a couple of my “pet peeve” phrases to your list of expressions
    which should be banned for life!I hope that someone from the media will think to add these to the list, because quite frankly, when I hear them used or see them in print, I have a tendency to shut out the rest.

    Thanks for letting me vent.
    A Consumer Victim Who Has Finally Found Closure By Being Allowed to
    Vent About The Sad Media Infrastructure Which Allows Such Expressions
    To Be Used To Excess!


    From Mark Gallo:
    I still can’t stand orientate, but now computate is popping
    up. Hearing it in the US is one thing, but to hear it used at a professional
    conference in England was somehow saddening. When did a sale become a sales event? It must have looked good
    to somebody: now we have a made-for-television movie event. Shortly
    after the weatherman became the chief meteorologist he had to jump in
    with tornadic activity event and winter precipitation advisory
    I swear I am not making these up.

    There’s probably more of this kind of inane pretense at the local
    station level than the national–When Dan Rather leaves they’re going
    to retire the trophy–but what’s the deal with the anchor (I prefer
    the technical term meat puppet) who says, “And now let’s go to the
    newsroom for a live report
    from WXXX’s Joe Dummy,” a wraps up with,
    “Thanks, Joe–great job with that exclusive live report.” How exciting!
    A live report from the next room! From an employee of the station who
    doesn’t moonlight on other stations! (Where I live the CBS and NBC affiliates
    continually claim to be the news leader, and the number one news channel
    in the area. The area is #172 in the US TV market ranking; the ABC affiliate
    doesn’t even bother to do news programs.)

    In the background there is a faint humming noise: the sound of Edward
    R. Murrow spinning in his grave like a lathe.