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

Rounding the Corner

Holidays bring out the trite in writers everywhere. What say we banish this banality for all time:

“Christmas is just around the corner.”

The fact that I removed a “Tis the season” from a story just yesterday tells me my work is not done here.

A fresh supply of irksome utterances

I’ve got a big batch of nominations to catch up on. Here are some greatest
hits from the Banned for Life inbox.

Byf would ban:

Outage: A term coined by power companies to sound like a power “failure” is not their fault.

Adam Trotter laments the Dance of the Hours:

Considering he only has thirty seconds per appearance, it’s odd that my morning TV weatherman wastes 10 of them on:

  • “around the noontime hour
  • “through the morning hours
  • “during the peak commuter traffic hours

and so on. If I had all the hours he implies, I’d have time to bake my own  bread for my breakfast-hour toast.

Himitsu disdains:

  • Evil: Evil seems to get the most play when used to mean “people our government doesn’t like, and thus doesn’t want you to like.” The term rarely gets used to describe the “friendly” countries/regimes that have
    tremendous records of blatant human-rights violations.
  • The Superlative: The news is full of the biggest, best, smallest, fastest, strongest, weakest, most horrible, etc. It’s one thing if the thing in question has been carefully measured, compared to all others of it’s ilk
    and demonstrated to be the most X, but quite often the superlative is used just to add emphasis. This situation is made even worse when you realize that it’s often applied to utterly subjective or otherwise unmeasurable terms,
    such as “most corrupt,” or better yet, “most evil.”

“These make me puke,” Fred Bradford avers:

  • juncture
  • “at this juncture
  • 24-7
  • “24-7-365
  • slippery slope
  • ‘”Christian” anything — implying “good anything”

Judi Burger shares:

I would like to put forward my pet hate: utilise. When did “use”
become insufficient?

Lyle R. Rolfe muses:

What ever happened to said? Now people say “I went” and “he went” and “I go” or “he goes“, for said. And to make it worse, journalists are quoting people saying this. If the reporters don’t do it, I believe editors should pull the quotes and paraphrase with said when they see these quotes in a story to keep the bad habit from being repeated. And it’s not just the youths, but highly educated people who talk this way.


Silas Prophet returns with this annoyance:

As a retired Federal employee I’ve been subjected to endless variations of Gov-speak, but one that I now see often in other milieus is “buy into“. Whenever new processes or production strategies were introduced, managers were instructed to get the workers to “buy into” the new concepts. I’ve always felt the phrase was a bit condescending, as if the workers were pieces on a game board to be surreptitiously manipulated.

Oftimes that phrase is heard in reference to sports, as in “Phil Jackson had to get Shaq and Kobe to buy into his ‘triangle offense'”.

I would be pleased to see us buy out of that cliche.

(previous Silas contribution here)

How clever

Ben Hunter shares these irksome UK expressions:

  • It’s not big, and it’s not clever,” so goes the cliche, but it doesn’t bother me quite so much as its mutations do:
  • “It is big, and it is clever,” is often heard during TV show about cars.
  • It’s not big, but it’s certainly clever,” is often found in reviews about pocket-sized, Japanese gadgets.
  • It may be big, but it’s certainly not clever,” is often used to describe school bullies, gorillas and anything else that is large and never graduated high school.

Just because they’re old…

Brian Baresch declares:

I was distressed to pick up my newspaper this morning and find two,
possibly three egregious cliches in display type, over a pretty good
story about a local woman who turned 108. (Interesting woman, actually
— she’s in a wheelchair, but only because she broke her hip two years
ago kicking a soccer ball.)

On a 1A blurb reefer was the headline “On her 108th, she’s still going
.” That “still going strong” is one of the worst cliches about
an old person, in my mind. And that made it past a slot, at least one
news editor and at least one proofreader to get to my front yard. (The
story itself makes a similar stumble: “Her hearing is still good”.
C’mon, drop the “still”. Otherwise, though, it avoids most of the
pitfalls involved in writing about centenarians.)

Then on the metro cover, in what looks like 60-point type: “She’s 108
years young
.” Yech. Completing the trifecta, the deck reads “She’s
lived a full life — but it’s far from over.

Humbugs beware

Jason Harris opines:

Every reporter who trots out a lame re-working of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” should be flogged. The first guy who tried it was clever, the second was marginally funny. The rest of you are boring, repetitive hacks and you should just stop.

His heart races not

Silas Prophet proffers:

One of the phrases that gets my dander up is “racing against the clock“. This time of year some city service is always “racing against the clock to get the roads salted before the next snowfall.” Political candidates race against the clock as election day approaches. Mediators race against the clock to resolve delicate issues during a cease-fire.
I can almost stomach that cliche when it’s applied in sports (except baseball, where, of course, there is no clock) although, even there it’s over-used.

A local newscaster recently reported that the mayor was “literally racing against the clock…” (the flagrantly improper use of ‘literally’ is another peeve). My overactive imagination pictured the mayor in a foot race with a life-size clock, sweating profusely and trailing by a second-hand.