Ups and downs

John Woolfrey writes from Canada:

Dear Mr Mangan,
I came across your site in this morning’s Montreal Gazette (Andy Riga’s column). I was immediately relieved to see that others are as appalled at newspapers’ overuse of certain words and puerile puns.

The said Gazette is guilty of both. In fact, the article just next to Riga’s in a story entitled “Elections Canada making list, checking twice.” I don’t know what happened at the Gazoo — it only starting getting really bad a couple of years ago.

I used to work for a weekly “alternative” paper as copy editor. Assignment editors there were constantly reaching for bad puns in their headlines. At least they had the excuse of their youth.

As for my pet overused word, I was surprised not to find them on your list!

Soar (“the dollar soared 0.5 cents”)

Skyrocket (“the dollar skyrocketed 0.5 cents”)

Plummet (“the dollar plummeted 0.5 cents”) It doesn’t matter how much the value of the dollar rose or fell (against the US dollar), the Gazette ALWAYS uses on of these three words. It uses it for pretty well any figure that increases or decreases.

I would dearly love to challenge all newspapers to publish for just one day without using these words.

Glad to see “literally” on the banned list. I allowed in on that paper only when appropriate, which happened in about one in a thousand instances in which writers were trying to use it. My fave was “Christmas is literally just around the corner.” I looked but couldn’t see it, so I deleted it from the copy.

My other two are one I came across in Toronto’s Globe & Mail: “Montreal is
literally sinking.” That worried me, as I live quite near the river. Then there
were the two I heard on the radio: “My blood was literally boiling.” (ouch!)
and “we worked literally around the clock.” (in my minds eye the clock is a
huge half-sphere set on the floor with the face on top in the cross-section,
around which they all toiled.)

Oh, how could I forget “ironically“! My young Hour colleagues found everything ironic, using it innapropriately as an adverb. I told them to chill.

3 thoughts on “Ups and downs

  1. My mind rejects most or all cliches like my body with an incompatable organ.
    I recall reading an issue of my High School newspaper, and, on the front page, on the first line, in bold letters, was this phrase:
    “Chesnuts roasting on an open fire…”

    My brain gave a lurch, and I felt the need to either scream, or vomit.

    It’s always soothing to know that there are people out there who are willing to halt the spread of these demons, these pestulant infections of language.

  2. While you may have become familiar with spotting others’ banality, I think you could use some familiarity with spotting your own pretentiousness.

    That aside, what do you specifically find wrong with “Chesnuts roasting on an open fire”?