Throw them under the bus

One of the many interesting aspects of my job is the role of unofficial cliché and jargon czar in my part of the Columbia Daily Tribune newsroom.

“I need a cliché ruling,” city reporter Andrew Denney announced this morning. The cliché that popped up in a story he was writing: “Behind the curve.”

My immediate ruling: No.

(Let’s chase a rabbit here for a moment — oops!, there’s a cliché — and talk about the fifth word of this post: interesting. The word has become cliché simply from overuse and laziness. As in: “Election Day will be interesting.” “I don’t know who the Cardinals will try to sign this winter, but it’s going to be interesting.” “It’ll be interesting to see how much snow we get this winter.” I think “interesting” has become tired, a word we throw in to complete a sentence to avoid actually completing the sentence. I’m not suggesting we ban the word, but what do you think? Is the word overused and abused? I’ll be interested to hear what you think. I also don’t like the word “robust” for the same reason. Not everything is really all that interesting, and not everything is robust, as in, “the results of a robust study,” “we had a robust breakfast of toast,” or “we need a more robust definition of robust.”)

I mean, some words just ooze with pretentiousness. For instance, “robust.” I just don’t like it.

And did you catch my lead-in to that last sentence? “I mean.” It is NOT a robust phrase, but it is horribly, grossly overused, and is more of a nervous mannerism these days, you know? Once upon a time, “you know” was the phrase of mockery. Athletes are the worst offenders.

Reporter: “That was an incredible performance. You seemed to put your team on your back.”

Athlete: “Well, you know, it’s like this, you know. Coach says we just, you know, we take it one game at a time, you know. And that’s what I do, you know.”

Reporter: “What is it that you do?”

Athlete: “You know, I give 110 percent, you know. It’s like coach said, ‘We’re not gonna hit a five-run homer, ya know.’ It’s like that. You know.

Reporter: “But this is basketball.”

The new annoying speech mannerism is “I mean.” I so wish someone would teach athletes to stop saying it. Listening to their interviews is brutal. Maybe athletic directors can say, “Here’s your full-ride scholarship to attend our prestigious university. Now play hard and, oh by the way, never ever say ‘I mean’ again.”

Reporter: “How are y0u approaching the homecoming game against Kentucky?”

Athlete: “I mean, we know they have a great team, they have a great coach, and, I mean, they’ll be prepared. I mean, they’ll bring their ‘A’ game and we better bring ours. I mean, they won the national championship last year, so, I mean, we’ll have to give it one-thousand percent.”

Reporter: “Um, this is football.”

Athlete: “I mean — yeah.”

Clichés, repetitive phrases and jargon fill the air, and when it comes to jargon, I have quite a collection. Unfortunately, it often creeps into my reporting, especially when the topic is health care or business. “It was a win-win situation.” Another reporter heard someone at a board meeting refer to “strategic strategizing.” Today I heard a brand-new one: “It’s not either/or. It’s and/and.”

Huh?

I shared that with city editor Lora Wegman, the one who removes the jargon from my stories with surgical precision, and she immediately tweeted that “and/and” must be eradicated immediately. Now, if I can just use “and/and,” “stakeholders,” “collaborative strategies,” and “low-hanging fruit” in the same sentence, I bet I could make her head explode.

Now, moving forward. Two more and then I’m done.

“At the end of the day.” My ruling: Stop it. Just stop it.

“Moving forward.” As in, “Moving forward, we will recognize lazy speech and lazy writing,” or “How will the Cardinals react to blowing a 3-1 game lead, moving forward?” OF COURSE! we’re moving forward!

I’m done now, because no matter how much I talk about this, I just can’t wrap my head/brain/mind around it.

I mean, really. You know.

What are your favorite/most despised clichés or examples of jargon? Please comment.

 

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2 Comments

Filed under A reporter's life, Living Write

2 responses to “Throw them under the bus

  1. Lamar Henderson

    “At this point in time” to mean “now.”
    “Utilize” to mean “use.” That one just makes my teeth hurt.
    As a designer, it annoys me when people misuse “font” to mean a type family, although I can see why that happened. But abominations like “left justified” must be killed with fire.
    “Grilled to perfection.” That one was old and tired before I ever wrote my first advertising copy.
    “It all started when….” That one should really just end.
    Man, I could do this for days. I’ve become old and crotchety, haven’t I?

  2. DeuceMom

    I was recently in a meeting where “you know” was used so many times that I was, you know, left counting how many times “you know” was used and I completely missed the point of the meeting! I don’t mind a cliche here and there when it’s rarely used, archaic, adds to the meaning, or is a quicker way to impart meaning — otherwise they drive me nuts, make me a little crazy, make my head want to explode — but I’m sure you get my drift.

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