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.

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.

End this daymare

Silas Prophet (seen previously here and here) offers the most convincing denunciation of this one to date:

It seems I can turn nowhere without hearing the phrase “At the end of the day“. I don’t know if this is a recent banality or if I’ve just become aware of it. It’s being used in newspapers, magazines, sportscasts, newscasts, talk radio and interviews. Most frequently it appears to be a substitute for “ultimately”, as in “At the end of the day, what really concerns me most is how we interact with our fans…” (LA Times) or “But at the end of the day they were just a pop band.” (Independent)

Usually the use of the phrase is superfluous. In the examples below the cliche can be removed without effecting the meanings of the statements:

  • “It does not surprise me… at the end of the day that some of his teachings seem to go unheeded.” (Kansas City Star)
  • “That may have been a contributing factor, but at the end of the day, this is probably more about leadership.” (CBSNews)
  • At the end of the day, the financial institutions need to settle with each other.” (BankofCanada)

This expression is spreading like wildfire; my recommendation, at the end of the day, is to ban it!

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”

Get going

Nancy Christie of Portland, Oregon, opines:

My nomination is “coming up on” as in “It’s coming up on 10 minutes after the hour” as spoken daily on National Public Radio. We know time is passing. The observation that an exact time might be 10 or 15 seconds in the future can be expressed with the word “almost” or simply state the time. Unless we’re timing an experiment, we don’t need to know the time within seconds. (I grudgingly accept “after the hour” when the program broadcasts in multiple time zones.)

Argue this

Avril Dell vents accordingly

I just spent way too much billable time looking for ARGUABLY on your Banned for Life list — and it ain’t there! Kindly add ARGUABLY, for those who believe it means conclusively. It don’t. An issue only remains arguable when there are enough legitimate differences to prevent conclusion. That’s what makes something arguable, ya gomers! Where did the arguable blitherers get the idea they could point to one side of an argument as its conclusion?

I think what they mean to say is that they hope or believe their readers or
listeners agree with their conclusion; or that they’re asserting a fact in
a wussy way, so they can withdraw it if someone objects. Something like that.
but the “arguable” habit is just too goofy. Slippery and illogical.

    Runners up:

  • METEORIC RISE. Huh? As in “blaze briefly on the way down”?
  • NOT UN-whatever. I find this one not unstupid.
  • GOING FORWARD. Used by homo corporatus everywhere, to mean “next”
    or “in the future” or “from now on”. It can always be lopped off the statement,
    with no change in meaning. “This is what we’ll be doing, going forward” can
    become “This is what we’ll be doing”– as the statement has “future” built
    into it. When did anything ever occur “going backward”?
  • ADDRESS THE ISSUE .Ttell ya what: just deal with it, ok? Just
    do it, fix it, trash it, move it, buy it, sell it, fire it, change it, TAKE
    THE ACTION. don’t bother addressing the issue; say what you’re going to do
    and then do it. Period.
  • TOUCH BASE. Do NOT touch my base, EVER. I’m serious.

What’s at stake

David M. Fishlow declares:

In the jargon of the day, a “stakeholder” is anyone with even a remote interest in some matter. Such interests, however speculative or supposititious, are usually described as “vested.”

But if I know you will cheat, and you know I will cheat, we will seek out a neutral, disinterested, presumably honest party to hold the stakes in our wager. Hence a stakeholder is a disinterested party, not an interested one. Stakeholders with a vested interest in something, when they in fact are doing nothing even remotely analogous to holding the stakes, and whose interest, dependent on innumerable contingencies, is anything but vested, make me postal.

‘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”?