Been here before

Pat Curry’s all-time pet peeve:

It was deja vu all over again.” Deja vu is the sensation
that you’ve been, done or said something when you’ve haven’t before
(as so wonderfully described in the Diana Ross song of the same name).
I’m forever seeing stories in which people who did something 20 years
ago reunite and the experience is described as deja vu.

Prior restraint

Larry Sommers
of the Public Affairs Office, Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs,
shares three of his pet peeves:

  • “Prior to” – Military memo writers never say “before” when they can say “prior to.” It’s always something like, “Be sure to move your vehicles from the north parking lot prior to 1600 hours, when
    the night crew will be be plowing.” This manner of writing creeps
    into military journalism, e.g.: “Sgt. Kevlar is seen here polishing
    his boots prior to reporting for duty.”
  • “Tragic death” – On both local and national television,
    and in quite a few newspapers as well, it seems death = tragedy. We
    know, of course, that only a few deaths (Oedipus, Hamlet, Buddy Holly)
    are actually tragic; some deaths (Gauguin, Chuckles the Clown) are
    banal; some (Osama bin Laden, the Crocodile Hunter) might be satisfying;
    and ALL THE REST – roughly 99.9 percent of all human deaths – are
    just deaths, no adjectives need apply.
  • “Yada-yada-yada,” So-and-so added/ noted/ explained/ commented/ remarked/ pointed out. Fortunately, more typical of
    student journalists than of professionals. More than nine times out
    of ten, “said” is the better choice. It is the exception to the rule
    that we should look for more lively verbs. One would usually prefer
    the smack and tang of the quote itself to draw the reader’s attention,
    without being upstaged by some fancy-schmancy verb-of-assertion hovering
    just beyond the quotation marks. Of course, that assumes the writer
    has been able to discover an interesting and relevant quote somewhere
    amid the speaker’s ruminations.
  • You say it’s your anniversary

    Samantha Lynn declares:

    The thing that’s been driving me most berserk lately about the deteriorating educational level of the talking heads is this sudden habit of saying
    five-month anniversary” of things. After all, “anniversary”
    is from the root “annum”, meaning YEAR… The only thing that bothers
    me more is when the same idiots compound their stupidity by saying
    “first-year anniversary” of things…

    Utility, futility

    Jeanne Yocum, public relations practitioner, suggests:

    If a lowly PR person can be allowed in here: When/why did “utilize” become preferable to the simpler and…..errrr….highly useful “use?”

    A pox on whoever started this nonsense.

    So-called style

    Eric S. Harris calls the following shots:

    Although I’m not a professional producer of journalism, just a steady
    consumer of it (and sausage), I’d like to make a suggestion for your
    “if I see this one more time I’ll scream” list.The word is “so-called,” when used in front of a legitimate
    technical term or bit of professional jargon. It gives the impression
    that the thing in question is not really a whatever-it-is.

    Preceding it with “so-called” is essentially putting it in quotes,
    like someone is trying to pull a fast one. Just because a term is not
    widely used (yet) doesn’t mean it has no meaning to anyone. For some
    reason, computer terms seem to get this treatment more than others:
    so-called routers, so-called compilers, etc,. but not so-called NSAIDs
    or so-called MAO inhibitors or so-called multi-vehicle accidents or
    so-called meth labs or the so-called Drug War.

    How unique can you get?

    Kenneth D. Williams is uniquely suited to state as follows:

    The absolute, number one misuse of a word that I have ever seen or
    heard is that of the ubiquitous “unique.”If something is unique, it is by definition the only one of its kind. It cannot be “very unique” or “extremely unique” or have any other word there to describe it.

    It is just “unique.” One-of-a-kind is one-of-a-kind,

    Number two would be nauseous. “I’m nauseous,” people
    say. Do they really mean to say that their looks make other people want
    to throw up? I believe the word they are looking for is “nauseated.”

    Also, I think you have forgotten a few phrases that should be banned.
    Not necessarily written ones, but phrases that I hear misspoken every

    Under his gun

    Robert Markle finds the following in his crosshairs:

  • As an avid target-shooter, I am amazed when I hear television reporters
    explaining that during a particular melee, “shots rang out.
    I have never heard a firearm, irrespective of manufacturer, “ring!”
  • Then, he turned the gun on himself.” What’s wrong
    with “he shot himself?” After all, turning a gun on oneself
    might legitimately describe the act of readjusting a holster.
  • A free pool of blood

    G. Wong offered the following

    Some words and phrases are blithely used in the local media without
    a second thought as to their sensibilities.

  • Free gift: a gift is free by definition
  • Pool of blood: as in “The man was lying in a pool of
  • Action…. against: a catch-all term to mean punishment without
    saying much. Sometimes the paper, radio or TV stations will proffer
    the details but often won’t, leaving us to read between the lines.
    eg “Action will be taken against Anwar Ibrahim.”
  • Nabbed & transparency: as in detained, and public accountability
    _ the latter often used in govt.-speak to urge agencies or businesses
    to be more transparent.
  • Percentages: often misused when percentage points up or down
    are meant. Telekom Malaysia’s pre-tax profit was down 12 percentage
    points from 48 percent. Hardly the same as a 12 percent reduction.
  • Rot in the newsroom

    Dave Miller sent this in:

    We finally got an official newsroom stylebook, published not in print
    but on our SII system, and I eagerly took a look (I’d been here less
    than a year). The ‘book contained an entry for “badly decomposed,” noting that would anybody ever describe a dead body as “well decomposed”? The next day, a front-page story told of a woman who had been found dead in her apartment. Her body was — you guessed it — “badly decomposed.” A follow-up story a month later repeated the gaffe.

    A good thing her house didn’t burn down — we might have had the cops “sifting through the rubble.

    Wretch a sketch

    Luke Seeman (easily one of the coolest guys on the planet) sends these along:

  • Sketchy,” as in, “kinda sketchy.” What
    the hell does it mean?
  • Issues” when people mean to say “problems.”
  • And of course “enough said” and its cousin, “’nuff
    said.” People who use them invariably mean, “There is more
    to be said but I can’t think of it now.”