Freeze these out, please

This just in from Zoltan Toth in Toronto:

Hi Tom,

I stumbled upon your site a few weeks ago and have enjoyed browsing through it on my coffee breaks on an almost daily basis. I live in Toronto where we just got hit by a rather sudden cold spell, complete with a few inches of snow. This morning on my way in to work I caught a headline in Metro, the city’s free commuter rag: Old Man Winter Strikes Again!

Why is winter old? And why is it a man? But who really cares, can we just banish this tired old phrase? And while we are at it, can we throw in “2 inches of the white stuffî too?

Ah, I feel so much better now — thanks.

Glad to oblige!

For the blacklist

Casey Crookham shares:

Thanks for this forum to let me vent, my wife is tired of hearing me bitch about something I have no control of. Here are some of my pet peeves I hear on the news channels as reporters try to fill time and try to sound intelligent.

  • “if you will”: Broadcasters seemingly use this phrase to soften a colorful or slang phrase, that otherwise would have great impact, in order to sound educated or worldly. In my opinion, it makes them sound mealey-mouthed and pompous. It is interesting that when interviewee uses this phrase, theywill no doubt repeat at least once more during the segment.
  • “the ‘so called’ black boxî: Every time a plane crash occurs and NTSB crews search for the Flight Data Recorder or Cockpit Voice Recorder, a reporter refers to them as “the so called black boxesî. Since the accurate names of these devices are so self explanatory, and much publicity has been made that they are not painted black, why do these idiot reporters perpetuate this trite, inaccurate expression?
  • “Routine training mission” or îroutine traffic stopî: I seem to never hear these phrases without the world “routine” at the beginning. I doubt anyone in military leadership would refer to any training mission as routine, they all have an objective and challenges. Police trainers are constantly emphasizing to recruits to have a high level of awareness on any traffic stop and none are routine.

Other unnecessarily wordy phrases:

  • “first and foremost”
  • “way, shape or form”

‘Nother one

From Gina Shatney:

I nominate the verbal phrase, “a whole nother,” as in “That’s a whole nother ball game.” Its stupidity is clear the second you try to write it down. What the heck is a “nother”?

Good cause to tune out

Robert Parson of WUFN Albion, MI, shares:

The two leads I hear on a regular basis that I can’t stand are

  • The City Council met last night.” This is simple Day 1 Journalism 101 class: City Council meets regularly. It’s not news. What they did is news.
  • We first told you last week about….” I don’t want to know what happened last week. I want to know what’s going on now. And I especially don’t care that you were the one who told me. Leave the puffery to your promotions department.

This is war

Edith Rudy would ban:

War broke out.
I guess we keep it in a cage somewhere? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the news on any channel use any phrase other than “War broke out” when announcing the beginning of hostilities anywhere.

Answer her this

Lynne Sherwin of the Akron Beacon Journal opines:

I just HATE HATE HATE it when a tragedy of some kind takes place and the survivors are always described on TV as “searching for answers.” “Friends and family are searching for answers tonight after Wile E. Coyote was crushed by a falling anvil.” Just what the hell was the question?

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.


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.

They feel terrible, OK?

R. G. Harris of Detroit,
Michigan, read the proceedings below and passed the following along:

I agree especially with the criticism of broadcast journalists
and would add that they should also be forever forbidden from asking
inane questions of crime or disaster victims. Does anyone really doubt
how one feels when they have seen their home destroyed (totally destroyed
to the reporters) by fire, flood, tornado, etc. Or need they ask how
the family of a murder victim feels?Many other words or phrases should be eliminated. Among them:

  • A real team player;” “Ready to hit the ground running;”
    a “self-starter;” and “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team‘.”
  • We should also stop “doing lunch” and “taking meetings.”
  • As a retired police supervisor, I also have strong negative feelings
    about many cases of “cop-speak.” I once heard an arresting
    officer testify as follows:

    “I observed a male subject exit a red colored vehicle and
    proceed on foot in a westerly direction.”

    Wouldn’t it be easier to see a man get out of a red car and walk
    west? A “red-colored” as opposed to a red-flavored or red-shaped?
    A “westerly direction as opposed to a westerly size?

  • Do we ever sound so stupid as when we try to sound smart?

    Senseless slaughter

    Jay Kelly wonders:

    Television interviewers, especially Wolfe Blitzer, often ask,
    “What is your sense of the situation?” Or, “What is your
    sense of the problem?”
    Wouldn’t it would make more sense to
    ask the the interviewee what he thinks or feels about it, or what
    his reaction or his opinion is?