Readers point out more tired, overused catch phrases

In last week’s column, apparently I just scratched the surface of last year’s words and phrases that many of us would like to see unceremoniously retired here in the new year. Beyond anything that has “synergistic” or “strategic” attached to it, several of you have your own verbal pet peeves.

Jim suggests “one phrase that has recently come into play that I would like to see replaced by its predecessor is person of interest.’ Everyone knows that really means suspect,’ but now law enforcement has become politically correct perhaps to side-step potential lawsuits from our out-of-control litigious society … but still … is this really fooling anyone?” Uh, good point.

Another reader, Mary Ann, is not too pleased with the term “possible war with Iraq.” She points out that as tens of thousands of troops are called up many leaving civilian jobs and their families to head overseas if we do not go to war, it will be the biggest, costliest bluff in U.S. military history. She suggests the media drop the qualifier “possible” once and for all, and tell it like it is. We’re heading for war, folks. (If not, we’ve set up a lot of military bases in the desert for no good reason.)

William thinks it’s time for the media to drastically cut back on use of the term “alleged,” as in “the alleged sniper suspects appeared in court today.” He points out that when it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck (a phrase once used by Dan Rather in a question to Richard Nixon during Watergate). William says if, theoretically, the entire world saw someone commit a crime on live television, the media would still call the guy the “alleged perpetrator” for silly legal reasons.

Samuel says one of the most abused terms of our day is the movie and TV blurb “based on a true story,” which has been in vogue for several years now. If the truth be known, he says, virtually everything ever written is based on a true story to one degree or another, since virtually all writers base their work on their own personal experiences or someone they know. The term also tends to enhance the confusion of not really knowing what is true and what isn’t, in supposedly fact-based stories.

A couple of readers had noteworthy contributions targeting more formal and often longer versions of otherwise useful words: Why “connectivity” all of a sudden? What happened to plain old “connection”? (We can thank those bankrupt types for that one.) And what’s the deal with “usability” instead of the far more useful “use”? Did you also notice “protracted” has really only protracted the word “long”? Even the good old political and corporate standby “corruption” rarely competes anymore with the more obtuse “malfeasance” (not to be confused with the Enron-like “irrational exuberance” that translates into “greedy pigs.”)

A longtime reader said he’s also fed up with the once meaningful “News Alert” and “Special Report” that now pop up so frequently on the three major cable TV channels, they’ve become mere filler for the commercials. News Alerts have devolved into hourly headlines such as “Friends Sitcom Extended for a 10th Season” and nightly Special Reports give us late-breaking details on everything from new diet supplements to the 200th day of preparations for (you guessed it) the “possible war in Iraq.” (Walter Cronkite must be rolling over in his sailboat off Martha’s Vineyard right now.)

Another reader suggests “window of opportunity” means no more than “opportunity,” and one e-mail thinks it’s obvious newspaper columnists must get paid by the word “because how else can you explain their habit of saying in a dozen words what can be said in four or five?” Sadly, I do not get paid by the word. If I did, you’d only be halfway through this article by now instead of at the end.

John Merli has been a Prince William County resident since 1984, and a Potomac News columnist since 1985. He has worked in the media for more than 30 years. E-mail him at: [email protected]

Similar Posts