Jon Rathbun lends fame to the following:
I hate the use of terms like “well-known” or “famous” in celebrity obituaries. When I read the daily deaths on the Associated Press wire I figure that if a famous (fill-in-the-blank) were famous, I would not need to be told of this fame. It seems that including the term is AP’s way of telling you that you have never heard of the deceased.
Angelo Young sends these from Mexico:
I couldn’t find (on the Banned for Life page):
“shark-infested waters off the coast of…” or,
“comes on the heels of…” or,
because I live in Mexico, this one pops up on my radar: “drug
czar.” Since he’s fighting drug use, shouldn’t it at least
be ANTI-drug czar?) or
any use of “ubiquitous“
And here’s a couple about my current home, Mexico City:
Any variation of “the polluted, crowded, crime-ridden metropolis”
“ubiquitous green taxis“
and, in Mexico travel writing, get rid of any variation of “…the
hibiscus spills over the walls of…”
Rick Palkovic sends a few that were missed by previous contributors:
Literally: I’m hearing this used as an all-around intensifier,
usually when the speaker means just its opposite: figuratively. I
once heard political commentator say: “Congressional leaders
literally held a gun to the President’s head!” Don’t we have
laws against this sort of thing?
Et al: Everyone seems to be using this when they mean “etc.”
They seem to think it sounds more intelligent. Better not to use either,
of course, but use “et al.” for people; “etc.”
World-class: A term favored by PR flacks when a more accurate
description is usually “barely competent.”
Endangered species: When all the loggers in the Northwest
lose their jobs, they just have to find other jobs — they aren’t
dead, and neither are their relatives, much less the whole human race.
Casual metaphoric use of this phrase trivializes the enormity of driving
a species into extinction.
Rachel Sauer issues this call for freedom from the skies:
Relating to your “rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of…” I really hate it when reporters go on and on about the sky.
“Under a clear blue sky…” or “The sky
overhead was an ominous gray as the people gathered…” or
“Under a blood red sky…” or whatever.
Aren’t we always under the sky? Anyway, that’s my pet peeve.
Anyone who says “the wave of the future” is clearly “mired
in the past,” says retired English professor Helen H. Gordon, who
defines a composition teacher as one who, for the love of good writing,
reads more bad writing than she’d ever have to read in any other occupation.
The Professor submits these choice annoyances:
“the bottom line”
“last but not least”
“couldn’t care less” (or erroneously, “could care
“man’s best friend”
“whose ox is being gored”
“man (or woman) who needs no introduction”
Calvin Cahan unloaded these with an eloquence
born of bile (editor’s note: “tumbrel” is the cart the French
used to haul people off to the guillotine; I know because I had to look
it up): I’m strongly opposed to capital punishment, but in the case of the
following terms, I say, “Make haste! Load them on the tumbrel!”
“Give back to the community“: Give what back to
the community? What did the “community” ever actually give
that is subject to being returned? What, in fact, is the “community”?
How broadly should it be defined? This is a desiccated cliche that
signifies nothing, although it does serve to point out that one of
the chief characteristics of contemporary life is that there is precious
little sense of community.
“Empowered; empowerment“: A term that has been so overused and applied so indiscriminately that its initial meaning
has been diluted to the point of extinction. For example, a politician
who promises to “empower” a particular group just about
ensures that the group will remain powerless.
“Closure“: If Diogenes were alive today, he no
doubt would be searching for closure instead of for an honest man.
This mind-numbing, reductionist piece of psychobabble trivializes
the richly variegated range of human feelings and emotions. Oh, how
I fervently desire to closure the door on this noxious example of
Karl Witter sent this voluminous list of suggestions along:
The intrepid reporter standing at a beach’s high-water mark in the onslaught of a hurricane or other coastal storm. I’m waiting to see a wave crashing over the reporter, and, after subsiding, the
camera op reeling in a snapped cable with no mic or reporter attached.
The transitional bantering in which news anchors, meteorologists and sports anchors appear on screen together for several seconds.
Banned words (not including spillover from the corporate lexicon):
“And you’re not going to believe this…”, “Get
ready for this…”, or similar, prefacing a TV news story which
will shock us with needlessly tragic human suffering or bureaucratic
“Grow” as a verb done by the subject to the object. One grows neither the economy nor a dog. One can feed a puppy, house-train it, and take it to the vet. Then it grows.
“Random violence” isn’t; lightning is. The phrase
seems to have been invented for contemporary street and blue-collar
crimes, and gangs. Old-fashioned American shootouts, from the Old
West to the Roaring Twenties, needed no such distinction for the accidental
shooting of non-involved bystanders.
“The mother of all…” is this decade’s mother
of all cliches.
“Abortion clinic,” “abortion doctor“. Hmm…nobody’s called John Salvi’s victims “abortion receptionists” yet. Hey, I’m just glad the press hasn’t adapted the right-to-lifers’ terminology and started calling women’s health clinics “fetus
farms”! (Half-kidding but barely.)
“xxx-ly correct” when one really means “just
plain accurate and right.” Included uses of note are geographically
correct, historically correct, and, the winning stretch-of-phrase,
“Politically correct” applied ex-post-facto to
anything. Someday a journalist will describe the Underground Railroad,
the Pure Food and Drug Act, or the Taylor Act as “P.C.”
Actually, “politically correct” is a “feely” word
with no definition anymore. Restrain its use to the original higher-education
meaning and trash it in other arenas.
In honor of Oscar Night (March 24, 1997), Craig Sonnenberg nominates
“The feel-good movie of the year.”
So-and-So…”delivers the performance of his/her career“
So-and-So “gives a triumphant performance that is sure to
be remembered at Oscar time.”
Other banishment nominations:
Reporters pronouncing the word “nuclear” as “nucular”
“There’s more bad news today for (The White House, O.J.
Simpson, Timothy McVeigh’s defense team, whoever)…”
“The latest (CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, USA Today, NY
Times, Gallup, etc.) poll is out, and it’s not good news
for (President Clinton, Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, The First Lady,
Kim Welch suggests these words/phrases:
wonk (as in policy wonk, as in virtually every story on Clinton appointees and hires).
mosh pit (enough already).
virtually (see above); virtual reality (seriously overused)
paradigm shift (gag).