Friday 7 November 2008

Irritating Phrases, Anyone?

Basically, with all due respect, at the the end of the day, I personally don't entirely agree with the contents of this fairly unique list (at this moment in time). 'I personally' can function as a minor intensifier, and be practically useful in, for example, distinguising a personal opinion from an official one - it's not rocket science (I personally prefer the phrase 'It's not rocket salad', coined by David Renwick). 'With all due respect' is useful when dealing with people you loathe, in as much as it means the exact opposite. 'Shouldn't of' is just plain wrong, but hardly matters in spoken use (at the end of the day). And so on - I'm sure many of you out there have a few issues with this list - that's what these things are published for (at the end of the day) - and will have suggestions for phrases to add to the list.
Mine would include two that are very popular with politicians and other devotees of the weasel word - 'Going forward' and 'Issues around' . Also, for some reason, the noun 'heads-up' annoys the hell out of me...
Any more for any more?


  1. Here in the land of lost causes and bitterly disappointed SNP politicians, a frequently used phrase is "hello there", there? are they speaking to me? if so sir / madam that is most definitely not my name.
    Back in the mid eighties the bright eyed bushy tailed young things in the computer industry started saying "brilliant", to everything, "morning, young computer person," "brilliant".
    I agree with you Nige "going forward", silly thing to say and typical of the Cooper, Balls, Smith, Campbell, Blair tribe.

  2. Hmmn, "the top ten ..." is pretty irritating in itself. I hear "know what I mean?" a lot (usually the only answer is "no"). "Added bonus" is popular, as is "You have to admit" (no you don't). "Firstly" for "first" is a bugbear. "We take very seriously ... " has become corporate-speak for "We've been caught red-handed" or "We like bullying our customers".

    Top of the bill at the mo are all the questions the staff ask one in Starbucks or other coffee bars - "tall" and "grande" for small and very small, etc - and in particular "Anything with that?" repeated five times.

  3. Yes, I've noticed 'issues around' popping up.

    A few months ago I was at a seminar on 'Workplace Diversity' which wasn't nearly as bad as it sounds, though still prettty bad, and the lady said 'issues around' approximately ten billion times. Since then I keep noticing it.

  4. That's reminded me of a few things - 'Second of all' after ' First of all'. 'How are you today?' as employed by cold callers. (I even had a bank manager once who greeted me with 'How are we today?' He was soon groping under his desk for the panic button...)
    'Inappropriate', the ultimate weasel word?
    'The reason being' as a noun - as in 'the reason being is'. Surprisingly common.

  5. "In the wake of recent events", HMS Recent Events docked at Southampton yesterday.

  6. There's an episode of NYPD Blue where a perp keeps using 'You know what I mean?' between every phrase. In the end, Sipowicz grabs him by the lapels and snarls ' Listen pal, if I don't know what you mean, I'll flag you down.'

  7. "Make mine a small one", the mother in laws favorite response, when asked would she care for a brandy, roughly translated this means anything less than a large one, and I will tear your face off.

  8. I recall the TalkSport DJ Mike Dickins disconnecting a caller who used 'obviously' or 'basically' twice.

    Politic talk must be the worst. The enthusiasm with which bobble-headed pundits embrace vacuous buzz-words still amazes.

    Flip-flop/U-turn and change are prominent offenders now.

  9. From the early appearance of ''having said that", feels like 20 years ago, I tried to add a bit of spice via the slightly more stylish "that having been said", but discovered in the years that followed (in London anyway) that the stretching (yeah) and misuse of words (absolutely) was far more irritating than the phrases.
    Why has this tsunami overtaken us? Malty has a point with the clipped reports since the mid-90's from Blair's Babes (look, I'm doing it); the computer/text world must shoulder a lot of responsibility, and the Americanisation of far too much of our national life is another burden, bringing with it the dread telemarketing-speech - if it arrives after the first cup of coffee I try to be pleasant - it is a crummy job, and they might be decent coves after work - and to respond in a fair and original way ("How are you today?" - "Wait a moment, I'll check"). But it is another blight, and we all know this.
    A recent growth area seems to be the pre-record message, a holiday in Bali or a ton of money that is yours if you can pop along to a seminar in Leicester Square on a Tuesday evening next week to collect. I guess one poor sod in 500 will make the trip.
    What a world.

  10. I have a friend who, when he wants to be sure I know he's sincere, says, "I'm not blowing smoke up your ass." I love it. Anybody have any idea where the heck THAT phrase came from? My pal is a working-class dude from Northeast Philly, age 51.

  11. i call this 'Inglish'. It's a way of talking without actually communicating anything, except the fact that they don't want to communicate anything. They may as well be shouting 'bar bar bar bar' as saying 'the strategic directives implemented by the central management in view of the feedback performance' - it has no human content. It is language divorced from the human. Perhaps machines dig it, who knows.

    i see a very close correlation between language and the mind and self. For example, if you see someone trying to use a register that is fundamentally at odds with their self, it instantly rings false. When Broon talked about fighting terrorism on the streets, on the beaches, etc., it was risible, not merely because it was a lie but because he isn't Churchill. Likewise when i tried to write Lit Theory for my undergraduate exam (i HAD to!), it came across as a hideous parody.

    So i'd see the rise of these dead phrases and dead words as rather troubling rather than just annoying. When you talk to someone and 1/3 of their words is meaningless, "know what I mean?" and "f*cking", it bodes ill for the state of their minds & selves, and in turn for a culture where this is common and accepted.

    i feel vaguely outraged when cold callers ask how i am. i realise it's just their spiel but it feels fundamentally wrong to misuse language in this way. i automatically react by either putting the phone down, snapping back 'who are you?', or telling them how i am in grotesque detail, which they deserve, the swine.

  12. I'd add that my particular bete noire is 'frankly speaking...' much used by politicians. As a pedant, my immediate reaction is that presumably on other occasions they don't speak frankly.

  13. Footnote, where does the use of language in The Wire fit. Tribal dialect, regional difference, new millennium Anglo Saxon, modern American?
    More importantly, is it with us for good. Hear what I'm saying bro?

  14. It's known as "ghetto," Malty. As my kids would say, "tru dat."

  15. Well, all things being equal, given enough time, Murphy's Law will prevail to the point where we're all thinking outside the box; and, I'll have you know, it may not be common knowledge here but, Marshall McLuhan originated the Top-Ten List (which David Letterman off-ripped from him years later). That was in the fifties or sixties, the good ol' days when a man's word was as good as his bond, after all; but, when all is said and done, McLuhan was born in 1911 and died in 1980; and, since then, as you well know, the phrase has been hanging around several neighbourhoods in the global village for a decade or a few; it's also been around the block a time or two, if you get my drift.

    Thus, if it's all the same to you, I think I've become immune to the slaughtering of the language; and, instead, focus on mangling it myself to the point where everyone else drops right royally dead from that, you know, "Oh, No, Here We Go Again Kinda Sorta" dread.