Friday, February 6, 2009

A Rant about Language

One thing I really loved about George Carlin was his understanding of language and all its nuances. He clearly had a love for linguistics, that guy, and a clear disdain for people who abused words.
Carlin was on my mind recently, when I saw a headline that read "Woman survives fatal car crash." Carlin would’ve loved that one.
He was also a great one for heaping scorn upon clichés or self-important “power phrases”. Man, I really wish he was still around to lay into some of these assholes, don’t you?
Phrases like: “Thinking outside the box.” I’d like to know, and I’m sure Carlin would have to, is exactly what fucking box are we talking about? How about, instead of thinking outside the box, we think outside the stupid, meaningless cliché?
Or (and I know I’ve mentioned this one before) “Failure is not an option.” What sort of dumb-ass thing to say is that? Last I checked, option means choice, and who chooses to fail?? You can’t stop someone from failing just by telling them that it’s not allowed, can you?
Here’s one from a store window: “Everything UP TO 70% off, or MORE!” It’s either UP TO or MORE, right? It can’t be both, man. The most distressing thing about that one is that it was in the window of a bookstore, where you might suppose there’d be more emphasis on literacy.
Here’s a few from the headlines, and I swear I’m not making any of these up:
“Cold weather linked to temperature.”
“War dims hopes for peace.”
“Man refuses to work after death.”
“If stalemate isn’t settled soon, it may last awhile.”
But the news sources aren’t the only ones guilty of talking nonsense. People are always walking around using words and phrases that are completely devoid of any real value. Some prime examples that really get on my nerves:
The word “Guess-timate”. Oh, for Christ’s sake. People, stop saying that already.
“Let’s come together as a team on this one.” Fuck you.
“…in that regard.” People say that when they need to fill up some empty space between other words.
“So, having said that…” Sorry, having said what? I wasn’t listening.
“Synergy”. Is that even a real word?
“Oh no you didn’t!” Usually said with a sort of fake African-American inflection.
“That’s my boy!” See above.
"You da man!" Yeah? Well, you da asshole.

Well, you get the idea. For anyone reading this, leave comments and tell me what you think are some of the more annoying catch-phrases, words, or mis-uses of the language that you can think of. I’m gonna go work on my novel, ‘cuz failure to finish it is not an option!!


  1. Mine aren't necessarily so blatantly stupid as just annoying, overused, or simply sounding of the moronic. Most are from the wild, wacky world of business:

    power tie




    At the end of the day

    Fairly unique

    I personally

    At this moment in time


    Low hanging fruit

    Win - Win Situation

    Give 110%

    Hit the Ground Running


    800-Pound Gorilla (or MC 900 Foot Jesus!)


    Reaching Out to the client

    Bring Your “A” Game

    Paradigm Shift


    Touch base, as in "Let's touch base on this tomorrow"

    Going forward, as in, "Going forward, let's not use so many dumb clichés."


    There is no "I" in "team."

    Radar screen, as in, "I'd like to get on your radar screen for a meeting next week."

    Bleeding edge, as in, "This is bleeding-edge technology."

    On the same page

  2. That's a terrific list, thank you! Why is it that the most annoying catchphrases all seem to come out of the self-important corporate world?