A clutch of cliches

Somebody who won’t share a name will share these annoyances:

  • Insurgent: Apparently, “terrorist” is not politically correct enough
    for the news.
  • Opposition: What is wrong with calling them what they really are—enemies?
  • Campaign trail: What on this green earth is a campaign trail? (Besides
    journalistic nonsense, of course)
  • Innocent bystander: If they’re not innocent, then they’re not bystanders,
    are they?

  • Last legs: Whoever says something is on its last legs deserves to
    have no legs at all.
  • Conflagration: For when “fire” isn’t grand enough.
  • Modalities: No one should ever use “modalities” instead of modes.
    On second thought, no one should ever use “modes” either, except when talking
    about mathematics.
  • Linkage: “How do we say ‘link’ and make ourselves seem well-educated
    and intelligent?” “Let’s slap on a redundant -age ending to provide an extra
    syllable.” “Brilliant idea!”
  • Capital murder: Unless you’re in a courtroom, you have no need to
    ever use this phrase.
  • Enormity: A penalty of great enormity should be put on anyone who
    says “enormity”.
  • Fighting chance: I started to hate this phrase when I heard it three
    or four times in one episode of the show Babylon 5.
  • XXX years young: This hackneyed “inspirational” phrase is used on
    any old person who isn’t dying right in front of the reporter.
  • The King’s English: Thou shalt not use archaic English in a trite
  • Expert: Whenever a journalist says ‘expert’, he really means ‘talking
  • Professional: The word professional used to mean that one did something
    for a living. Now it means almost anything the user wants it to mean. Professional
    car: A hearse by any other name…
  • Funeral director: Wasn’t “undertaker” enough of a euphemism anyway?
    Now people are euphemizing even further and calling these people “grief therapists”.
  • Suspected: Why not just say “accused” instead?
  • Lay the Groundwork: Someone needs to lay the groundwork for this
    phrase’s removal from English.
  • English Language: A poetic and highly overused way to say “English”.
  • Manhunt: Another one of those words borrowed from “policese” by journalists
    that has infected the vocabularies of millions.
  • Like the Plague: Avoid this phrase like the plague.
  • Assaulted: Fortifications and cities are assaulted in war. People
    are hit, or shot, or stabbed, or raped.
  • Suffer a(n) : If you have a disease, how can
    you not “suffer” it?
  • Wardrobe malfunction: Whoever came up with this one ought to have
    an existence malfunction.
  • Think outside the box: This is the cliche I hate the most, no doubt
    about it. It means nothing. It serves no real purpose. It SHOULD NOT EXIST.
  • Safe haven: Is there such a thing as an unsafe haven?
  • Nucular: We’ve had 60 years to learn how to pronounce “nuclear’ but
    people still keep screwing it up.

15 thoughts on “A clutch of cliches

  1. Buddy, you need to lay some ground work for thinking outside of the box, or at the end of the day, you’ll have nothing to say.

  2. I have another…though I have not read the site entirely and do not know if it is listed: “reverse discrimination” -ugh-
    Does that not truly mean without discrimintion and therefore nondiscriminatory, rather than what it is often used to describe?

  3. On “reverse discrimination” – there’s a similar term for those species of birds where the female is larger than the male, “reverse sexual dimorphism”. Used to irritate me no end.

    The problem is that it does concisely convey the meaning, while nonetheless being semantically and worldviewically(!) misleading. Maybe “atypical” instead of “reverse”? But this could be painfully ambiguous in speech.

  4. Some of these are bad English, but others are not.

    Why must a bystander be innocent? If I convince you to hit Tom over the head, and I then stand off to the side and watch you do it, I’m a bystander, right?

    People may be hit, or shot, or stabbed, or raped but the ones who perform those acts are often charged with “assault”. That would mean that whatever the specifics of the attack, it is indeed an assault.

    The English language actually is something different from the English, isn’t it?

  5. If I have an argument with my partner, he is the opposition. But he is not my enemy.

  6. I wish your anonymous correspondent would concentrate on incorrect usages or the more widespread overblown phrases, rather than on things like “manhunt” and “like the plague,” both of which seem to me to be acceptable attempts at picturesque speech and, importantly, are not particularly overused.

    Anyone working against an established order may claim the label “insurgent,” including many people who make important contributions without resorting to anything remotely like terrorism. For example, Bloodshot Records in Chicago calls itself, with total justification, a purveyor of “insurgent country music,” very UNlike the elevator music coming out of Twang Town, Tennessee, but no one could call it “Terrorist Country Music.”

    Thinking “outside the box” means stepping outside boundaries which exist only because we have convinced ourselves that they do. The phrase is useful because it can be illustrated via the famed 9-dot Puzzle.

    A “suspect” is someone with whom the authorities would like to have a conversation or eight; a suspect becomes “the accused” when she or he is charged with commission of a crime within an indictment. You may think the terms are interchangeable, but I would much prefer to be a suspect than to be The Accused.

    I have never heard the term “Grief Therapist” used as a euphemism for “Funeral Director,” a phrase which has been around for all of my 60+ years. Grief Therapists are psychologists or social workers who help the grief-stricken cope with some very overpowering emotions to which they are unaccustomed and for which they are often unprepared.

    I wish to nominate for your BFL list the verb “decimate(d).” Decimate means to reduce my one-tenth. Thus, a football team “decimated by injuries” should be in pretty good shape for a game, unless all four of their injured players are key performers. To refer to New Orleans post-Katrina as “decimated” by the flood is to understate the damage as if one were trying to sound like an evasive, incompetent President.


    The correct term for “at this point in time” is “now.” Similarly, “at that point in time” is perfectly conveyed by the word “then.”

    Can anyone explain the difference between a “market” and a “marketplace?” I can’t.

    To Judi Burger:This collection of words and phrases that deserve to be banned is fun, but should I need to use it for some purpose and choose a multi-syllable substitute for “use,” I think I would spell that word “utiliZe,” not “utiliSe.” Even if I didn’t make that choice, my computer would make it automatically.

  7. “I have another…though I have not read the site entirely and do not know if it is listed: “reverse discrimination” -ugh-”

    I agree. Discrimination is treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality or prejudice: racial discrimination; discrimination against foreigners.

    Another definition: The ability or power to see or make fine distinctions; discernment.

    Regardless of race, religion, or culture, if one hates the other it’s discrimination in my book.

    Furthermore, reverse means to turn around to the opposite direction. Or moving, acting, or organized in a manner contrary to the usual.

    They’re saying when black people hate white people that’s contrary to the usual? The term is still flawed in my opinion.

    “Why must a bystander be innocent?”

    Because a bystander is a person who is present at an event without participating in it. If you convince someone to hit Tom over the head than you are no longer a bystander. You may stand by and watch the outcome, but you’re involved and therefore not a bystander.

  8. I have one to add, don’t know if it’s been posted though. I despise when the news says “alleged” whatever. When we have a killer on tape, or with a confession, the news still tries to be “unbiased” and say the “alleged killer” when everyone and his brother knows he did it. Why the PC with killers, etc.??

  9. We like to maintain the pretense of that quaint little notion called “innocent till proved guilty.” Having said that, I recognize that many a suspect is tried and convicted in the media long before the first juror is chosen, and this reality seems to make “alleged” redundant. But this is one annoyance editors insist upon so you’re gonna have to hold your nose and read past it.

  10. The King’s English: Or currently the Queen’s English refers to a dialect of English spoken in England. Generally proper UK English as opposed to Webster

  11. Finally someone mentioned “Nucular”!! I can not express my deepest hate for this rediculous mispronunciation, of a simple %&^$%$# word! Especially considering our own President can not seem to say it right! My own children, corrected the speech the President was making. It is really hard to convince your children that the “system” ( forgive the phrase ) can work, when our own President makes himself look less educated than the local 13 year old middleschooler!!!
    ( is it just me? )

  12. “Insurgent” is not a politically correct term for “terrorist.” They are completely different things.

    The current tendency to apply “terrorist” to anyone we don’t like notwithstanding, it refers to someone who uses specific tactics, generally involving violent attacks against civilians. “Insurgent,” on the other hand, refers not to tactics but rather to which side the person is on — namely, the side opposed to the current government.

    An insurgent can commit terrorist acts. But a person can be an insurgent without being a terrorist or be a terrorist without being an insurgent.

  13. Magic bullet
    Silver bullet

    Interchangeably used :the thing that nobody has one of.

    I miss panacea.