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August 4, 2003 10:47 PM   Subscribe

The 100 Worst “Groaners”. A “groaner” is a hackneyed, overblown, stuffy or just plain silly cliché that turns up time after time in news scripts. Groaners show laziness on the part of writers, disrespect for the folks watching, and a general contempt for lively English. Here are some of the worst offenders. You’ll recognize them immediately, so get ready to groan!
posted by madman (95 comments total)

 
I, for one, welcome our new groaning overlords.
posted by homunculus at 10:55 PM on August 4, 2003


For The Second Time In As Many Days - Bad enough we bore folks. Now we’re making them do math. Ten years ago, someone must have thought this phrase was clever. Overuse has taken care of that.

Yesssss. That one makes my blood boil.
posted by Succa at 10:58 PM on August 4, 2003


Hudla hudla, homey.
posted by angry modem at 11:21 PM on August 4, 2003


Killing Spree. Webster’s says a spree is “a lively frolic.” Mass murder is not a “spree”. It’s mass murder.

For the victims, maybe.
posted by cohappy at 11:23 PM on August 4, 2003


Area Mefite refutes allegations..... Bah.

The Onion can use "Area" anything. Only the Onion.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:32 PM on August 4, 2003


*groans*
posted by dg at 11:40 PM on August 4, 2003


I work in the press office in Scotland Yard and so many of these examples are everyday copy for our press releases it is depressing.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:26 AM on August 5, 2003


I think the BBC TV news reporters use just about every one of these. Thinking about it, so do the ITN and Sky News reporters. They should have a cliché box. Use one of these phrases, add £100 to the box. That should do it.
posted by salmacis at 12:40 AM on August 5, 2003


Im feeling kinda beleaguered by that list.
posted by MrLint at 12:42 AM on August 5, 2003


I swear if I hear the phrase 'sabre rattling' one more time...
posted by Dagobert at 12:58 AM on August 5, 2003


Most of these are bad, some I don't see a problem with, though. What's wrong with "fell to his death?" "People fall down and are killed," the writer says, but that suggests two seperate actions to me -- he fell, and then was killed.
posted by CrayDrygu at 1:32 AM on August 5, 2003


Personal bugbear: 'Only time will tell...'
posted by humuhumu at 2:00 AM on August 5, 2003


An American list and perhaps thats why it doesnt have 'community leaders'.
posted by biffa at 2:07 AM on August 5, 2003


Minutes after the news broke a couple weeks ago that a councilman had been shot to death in the council chambers, someone on CNN said the killing had "sent shock waves across New York City." Minutes after.
posted by planetkyoto at 2:09 AM on August 5, 2003


Well technically, CrayDrygu, when people fall and die it is two separate actions. Actually, it's three separate actions.

Step One: Fall; Step Two: Land (hard); Step Three: Die

"Fell to his death" rather implies that Death as an entity, or worse, His Death, as a concept, was waiting for the poor SOB down there on the ground. And oh, if only he'd fallen three feet to the right, then he may have only fallen to His Grave Injury instead.

You're right, however, that the suggested alternative is clunky. Perhaps "died from injuries sustained in a fall" or "died after a fall" would be more apt, especially in news broadcasts where further details are likely to be offered which will paint a(n all too vivid) picture of exactly what occurred.
posted by Dreama at 2:20 AM on August 5, 2003


From: Journalism for Women: A Practical Guide. Arnold Bennett. London and New York, J. Lane, 1898.

As this book does not happen to be a guide to style, it is impossible here to discuss every point likely to arise during the aspirant's self-education in the art of literary expression. But there are several scarlet sins against which she must be briefly warned.

The worst of them is the sin of using trite expressions--phrases, figures, metaphors, and quotations; such as--not to mince the matter, took occasion to, won golden opinions, the cynosure of all eyes, mental vision, smell of the lamp, read mark learn and inwardly digest, inclines towards, indulge in, it is whispered, staple topic of conversation, hit the happy medium, not wisely but too well, I grieve to say, reign supreme, much in request, justify its existence, lend itself amiably to, choice galore, call for remark, hail with delight; and forty thousand others.


Against the backdrop of history, tritness is a moving target; and reportedly, the proper application of the word 'hackneyed' has sparked a flurry of debate.
posted by Opus Dark at 2:49 AM on August 5, 2003


i find all these euphesmisms rather appropriate, maybe because i'm so familar with them. i have absolutely no problem with folks using them, because then i understand exactly what they mean.

maybe that's how language works.

i must take offense to the fact that they dislike "authorities say", but yet recommend "police say" rather than allegedly. i mean, come on, which one do you want?
posted by fishfucker at 3:13 AM on August 5, 2003


"NOBODY, not even cops and district attorneys, NOBODY in real life says “allegedly” in regular conversation. "

*Sigh, typically American-centic* :)

Since the word was used in the BBC tv program "Have I Got News For You" (prime-time news comedy) so often, to avoid litigation, and in a humourous way, the phrase has found common usage in the UK.

Allegedly.
posted by Blue Stone at 3:53 AM on August 5, 2003


I think much of this is off the mark. I don't buy the idea that because a word or phrase is rarely used during "normal" conversation, it's somehow inappropriate.

Why must the words we write match the words we speak?
posted by davebush at 4:00 AM on August 5, 2003


What's not as clear as it should be here is that this is for TV writers, where a conversational style is important. Many of these examples seem appropriate for print copy to me.

The real problem with TV news is the hideous lack of verbs. "Real people" aren't too busy to throw a verb in now and then.
"New in the headlines, reporters talking like this."



That said, the worst thing I ever accidentally put in the paper was "Bob Dole was stumping in Iowa yesterday....."
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:24 AM on August 5, 2003


Can't see what's got the guy's goat myelf.

His dictionary references all seem to ignore the meaning that he doesn't like, e.g. Spree, where he ignores all but the first meaning.
posted by daveg at 4:29 AM on August 5, 2003


"Pedestrians - DMV babble. They were people before they stepped off the curb."

Nope, they were pedestrians the minute they started walking rather than use a car. Pedestrian. From the latin. So we know they were on foot and not in a vehicle. Makes perfect sense to me.

Don't have a problem with Officials say, prompted, marred or motorists either, but one that really annoys me that isn't there is "at this point in time".


posted by ciderwoman at 4:37 AM on August 5, 2003


Personal Bugbear #2: "At this point in time"
posted by nofundy at 4:42 AM on August 5, 2003


My personal bugbear (apart from "bugbear") is co-worker. What's wrong with colleague?

Eh?
posted by garyh at 4:59 AM on August 5, 2003


Also missing is, "he turned himself into police" for "surrendered to police."
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:05 AM on August 5, 2003


What doth MeFi, if not chronicle the groaners of the world?

This reminds me of a radio piece I heard about terms which are kept alive in English almost entirely through journalism, like "roil" -- often seen in the past tense.

There's also the special brand of tortured English practiced by the dedicated artists of tabloid headlines, which I personally find to be a contribution to the language, as opposed to mere doo-dah-ism.
posted by BT at 5:11 AM on August 5, 2003


If demonstrators are shouting something important, say what it is.

Yeah, like that'll ever happen It's all about pointing at and mocking the dirty hippies, after all.

Personal bugbear: 'on a daily basis'. Give me an example where just saying 'daily' doesn't fit just as well and I'll show you an over-reaching example.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:14 AM on August 5, 2003


Major Breakthrough. Seems some folks can’t write a medical story without this little bit of redundancy. By definition, there’s no such thing as a minor breakthrough, any more than there’s such a thing as a miniature Sumo wrestler.

Miniature Sumo wrestler
posted by peterbaer at 5:16 AM on August 5, 2003


White Stuff.....Is there some law against saying “snow” twice? One enlightened Executive Producer in Los Angeles put out a memo forbidding writers to use this term.

Are they getting that much snow in LA that this mandate was warranted? This is new to me. Although in LA "white stuff" probably refers a different kind of snow, if you catch my drift (ha ha, drift - no pun intended).
posted by boomchicka at 5:26 AM on August 5, 2003


A few years ago I worked as a copy editor/online editor for the NBC affiliate in Richmond, Va. My job was to take the Teleprompter scripts, edit for grammar, spelling, clarity, etc. and post individual news stories to the web site.

Teleprompter scripts are usually written (in my experience, anyway) with little regard for the things I was supposed to clean up. If you wanted to report about a grisly murder, none of the viewing audience would know that the script had you saying "grizzly" instead. I can't tell you how many times I had to correct that one.

Other ones that got on my nerves:
Neighbors: "Neighbors say..." Whose neighbors?
Meantime: I know it's technically a synonym for the adverb meanwhile, but for some reason meantime without "in the" before it really grates on me.
posted by emelenjr at 5:34 AM on August 5, 2003


I would like to see the same things for television/movies (probbly out there but too early in am to do work...).

My contribution: "I ran away from home when I was 15... and I've been runnin' ever since."
posted by SNACKeR at 5:38 AM on August 5, 2003


The absolute worst is the one that finds its way into every interview in every magazine and show.
"We caught up with (famous person) at"
I always picture the interviewer chasing after the interviewee
posted by Outlawyr at 5:56 AM on August 5, 2003


Bleh. Some of these are good points, but in far too many places the argument seems to be 'oooh, big word, viewer stupid, no big word' or an attempt to be folksy and conversational. I bet that if I asked everyone I met today, all of them would know what an arraignment is and I don't want a newscast that sounds like water-cooler chatter.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:56 AM on August 5, 2003


I work in ... Scotland Yard...

I love how on MetaFilter people say things like this, and no one bats an eye. :)
posted by Marquis at 5:58 AM on August 5, 2003


NOBODY in real life says...

no one in real life ever says...

they’d never, EVER use it at home or anywhere else...

Poppycock. I use some of these conversationally. All of a sudden, I'm nobody, then?
posted by paisley at 6:00 AM on August 5, 2003


they’d never, EVER use it at home or anywhere else...

Poppycock. I use some of these conversationally. All of a sudden, I'm nobody, then?


This has taken a slight Cartesian twist...
posted by Dagobert at 6:12 AM on August 5, 2003


Using a big owrd over and over that is not generally used by people outside of news can lead to people haveing a slight or great misunderstanding of what the word actually means, which is the root of this list's annoyance with them, IMO.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:19 AM on August 5, 2003


And another one: oftentimes. Give me sometimes, er, always.
posted by garyh at 6:19 AM on August 5, 2003


From Google...
Searched pages from metafilter.com
for "aftermath". Results 1 - 10 of about 64
for "area residents". Results 1 - 7 of about 10. Search took 0.10 seconds
for "Clean Bill of Health". Results 1 - 5 of about 8

Anyone got one of those fancy shmansy google API things so we can see just how hackneyed we really are. And can we then compare that to other sites. Plastic.com for example or the site that must never be mentioned
posted by seanyboy at 6:23 AM on August 5, 2003


Grenades (and mortar shells) are always lobbed, tanks always rumble, and throats are always slit, usually from ear to ear. Those are my (un)favorites.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:24 AM on August 5, 2003


Here's an idea:
If you are going to hold forth on "groaners" in written language, you might like to try doing it from a website that isn't wall-to-wall design "groaners". eg, double-spaces following full points (periods), multiple exclaimation marks (!!!), double-asterisks either side of titles (yes, we can see them already 'cos they're centred in the middle of the f*cking page) and too much centred type badly ragged (line breaks). As for those stupid pencil icons as bullets, jeez. At least we should be thankfull that they're not blinking.

I could go on but I won't.
posted by i_cola at 6:29 AM on August 5, 2003


Newscasters always say that an explosion rocked an area, and I picture everyone in its vicinity throwing the devil hand sign into the air and sticking out their tongues when they really have no business doing so, say as if they were at a Bon Jovi concert.

Shots always seem to "ring out" too. That makes them sound so romantic.

This doesn't happen so much in newscasts but on magazine/newspaper kickers: Celebrity Name talks about ________, __________ ... and _________! Blanks one and two are usually filled in by something serious or timely, and blank three is filled in by something wacky or seemingly irrelevant-but-it-will-all-make-sense-once-you-read-the-story.
posted by kmel at 6:31 AM on August 5, 2003


Bugbear? Sounds like we got us some Euro-peans on this here board! Honestly, though, I had never heard the term "Personal Bugbear" before today- can anybody confirm that this is only a UK thing?
posted by crazy finger at 6:32 AM on August 5, 2003


Did a big scan through the list and in most cases I don't see anything violent reason why the words shouldn't be used by TV broadcasters, only nitpicking on part of the author. On the other hand, this thread brings to mind a conversation with a friend where we were discussing how the sheer frequency of certain types of news broadcasts (such as the war on terrorism) leads to hitherto unused, and sometimes unwieldly, words creeping into our daily lexico.
posted by lunadust at 6:34 AM on August 5, 2003


A "groaner" is also a hackneyed joke used in stage improvisation. It's considered cheating, and is a foul in ComedySportz. Here's a list.
posted by basilwhite at 6:35 AM on August 5, 2003


eg, double-spaces following full points (periods),

I don't get this. It would seem to me that a flaw in the original HTML specification that required browsers to eat extra spaces has mutated into a new design norm. All I have to say is: yuck. Thank you.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:35 AM on August 5, 2003


Damnit, MeFi even ate my oh-so-clever  's.

/goes off and reads a real book with real typesetting.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:36 AM on August 5, 2003


Also on the magazine end: "The Write Stuff" as a headline for anything related to books or writing. "She's Got the Write Stuff!!" Retch. That really goes for any pun title, unless it is exceedingly clever.

Also, "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes" (a la David Bowie song) as a headline. It seems to be the default headline for every article I see that announces some staff turnover or what have you.
posted by kmel at 6:45 AM on August 5, 2003


My personal bugbear (apart from "bugbear") is co-worker. What's wrong with colleague?

"Colleague" implies that a person has some level of respect for the people he or she works with and considers them equals. So the term is not widely applicable in the world of work.

I don't get this. It would seem to me that a flaw in the original HTML specification that required browsers to eat extra spaces has mutated into a new design norm.

This is not a flaw. Basic typographical rules mandate a single space between sentences when using proportional type. This has been the norm in books for as long as movable type has been around.
posted by kindall at 6:49 AM on August 5, 2003


Honestly, though, I had never heard the term "Personal Bugbear" before today- can anybody confirm that this is only a UK thing?

Um, no, it's not only a UK thing.
posted by kindall at 6:50 AM on August 5, 2003


...a hackneyed, overblown, stuffy or just plain silly cliché that turns up time after time...

How about political groaners? My personal favorite is "giving government back to the people."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:53 AM on August 5, 2003


Bugbear? Sounds like we got us some Euro-peans on this here board! Honestly, though, I had never heard the term "Personal Bugbear" before today- can anybody confirm that this is only a UK thing?

Well, I'm a UK-er and I used it near the top o'this thread. Dropped it in as another example of a cliche, but maybe 'twas a regional thing. A few explanations:

Bugbear: It's a bugbear is used to describe a burden or problem, often one producing fear or anxiety. In olden times a goblin was also known as a bug and the saying probably comes from the English folklore goblin (bug) who was said to be in the shape of a bear and who ate children. source

Webster's (1913) have 'bugaboo' as a synonym - do Americans recognise that one? 'Bugaboo' sounds more American to my ears:
Bugaboo, Bugbear
Bug`a*boo" (?), Bug"bear` (?), n. [See Bug.] Something frightful, as a specter; anything imaginary that causes needless fright; something used to excite needless fear; also, something really dangerous, used to frighten children, etc. Bugaboos to fright ye." Lloyd.
But, to the world no bugbear is so great As want of figure and a small estate. Pope.
The bugaboo of the liberals is the church pray. S. B. Griffin.
The great bugaboo of the birds is the owl. J. Burroughs.
Syn. -- Hobgoblin; goblin; specter; ogre; scarecrow.


And this quaint little scan believes it's from the Welsh bwg for 'goblin' or 'sprite' - which ties in with the first one.
posted by humuhumu at 7:00 AM on August 5, 2003


Most of these phrases would be acceptable once or twice as a source of variety. The problem is that news writers forget the "variety" part. They steal each other's phrases and never seem to stop recycling them. Once upon a time "up from the grass roots" was a novel ear-catching metaphor; now it's a tedious political term, beaten into a miserable, unimaginative pulp by sheer overuse. Alternate wordings can add variety, but there's a reason they are alternate ways of saying the same thing; when your text fills up with these things it becomes frothy, awkward, and graceless.

I cringe in advance when I hear a politician's quote with some catchy new metaphor, since news people who cover politics seem especially vulnerable to this syndrome.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:10 AM on August 5, 2003


To clarify:

Double-spaces should only be used after sentence-ending full points in a monospaced typeface eg, like wot a typewriter has. [Which is where the practice originates.] Courier & Monaco are monospace typefaces too.

The idea is that as all of the characters in a monospace font occupy the same width-space, a double-space at the end of a sentence makes sure that the reader sees the new sentence.

There are specific rules regarding spaces in certain specialist typesetting areas eg, legal documents.
posted by i_cola at 7:18 AM on August 5, 2003


I think we all agree groaners exist, and I applaud the impetus behind this page. But its author seems to have thought of about a dozen really cogent ones, then thought he/she had to have a definitive compendium (is there any other kind of compendium? Oh, shut up) and started padding with lesser examples, to the point of trashing "fell to his death," which I defy you to say more succinctly with the same meaning. Whether or not there's a silly way to interpret the words is irrelevant. Everybody knows what the phrase means, and in a sense his death was waiting for him on that spot because it was his falling right there that caused his death. "Fell and was killed" or "died after a fall" do not convey the tight causal relationship - he died from hitting the ground after falling - that "fell to his death" instantly conveys.

Additionally, a lot of the carping about inexact language results from police reports that must be inexact when facts are missing. "Vehicle" is most often, and rightly, used when the exact kind of vehicle is unknown. What, the newscasters should guess at it and specify just to please this guy?

Lastly, anyone who's getting so nitpicky about words should avoid groaners of another sort - e.g. "(not to be confused with Hekyll and Jekyll, who didn’t write too well, either)" Oh yeah? Neither do you, pal.

I know, I'm just hekylling at this point.
posted by soyjoy at 7:20 AM on August 5, 2003


Hear hear, CunningLinguist. I HATE it when reporters leave out the verbs. I once complained to one of our top-level executive producers about a particularly clunky script that was riddled with those (and what's worse, the tenses often changed halfway) -- his response was that "sometimes you'd rather be colloquial than correct." Bah. You can be both, quite easily.

Also really really hate "shots rang out", "rocked", "temblor" as a second reference for "earthquake", "pontiff" as a second reference for the Pope, "white stuff" (when I did radio, we were forbidden to use the phrase), "campaign trail", and "little [child's name]".

But I think "allegedly" shouldn't be on the list. People understand it, and journalism should have stricter standards than normal informal conversation. There's a specific reason to use it -- you want to point out that charges and allegations are just that, and not necessarily undisputed fact. It's far worse to say something that would go toward convicting someone unnecessarily (even if only in the court of public opinion) than to use the word "allegedly."
posted by Vidiot at 7:21 AM on August 5, 2003


And why are catholics always devout and prostestants always staunch?

Well they are in the UK news anyway.
posted by ciderwoman at 7:26 AM on August 5, 2003


I use the word 'Allegedly'. Whats the deal with this list? Why should everything in the world be dumbed down so a red-kneck trailer trash peon can comprehend it?
posted by delmoi at 7:29 AM on August 5, 2003


Alternate wordings can add variety, but there's a reason they are alternate ways of saying the same thing; when your text fills up with these things it becomes frothy, awkward, and graceless.

Heh. This and all the "second reference" variations remind me of the line from the Monty Python sketch (it was on one of the records, but I don't remember seeing it) where Graham Chapman finds himself having to repeat once again that they're waiting for the eclipse of the sun and says "waiting... quite... superbly for the eclipse of the, um... Sun-like Object."
posted by soyjoy at 7:36 AM on August 5, 2003


Military and police people always annoy me with their weird cliches. There are no people, for instance, only "individuals." You don't drive fast, you drive "at a high rate of speed." (Wtf?)
posted by callmejay at 7:37 AM on August 5, 2003


i'm an attorney (in america) and i hear people (cops, state's attorneys--we don't have district attorneys in this state--PDs, corporate lawyers, witnesses and judges, too) use "allegedly" routinely. it's proper because while it might not be in doubt that the event happened (the bank was robbed, the victim stabbed or the documents shredded) the person accused of it is only alleged to have done it or the nefarious motive is only being assumed.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:38 AM on August 5, 2003


The list is missing my all-time linguistic nemesis, myriad - the archetypal prose inflator. (What, many too pedestrian for you?)

I hate it, and, momentarily at least, anyone who uses it.
posted by gottabefunky at 7:38 AM on August 5, 2003


What about "Tech Heavy Nasdaq" - like it's a bad thing =)

"profit-takers caused the drop" or whatever. They have NO idea.
posted by djspicerack at 7:55 AM on August 5, 2003


why are prostestants always staunch?

Actually I think this is now reserved for Orangemen (I don't think its cropped up in the gay bishop stories for example) and seems well on its way to being a synonym for obdurate bullheaded asrehole.
posted by biffa at 8:00 AM on August 5, 2003


Honestly, though, I had never heard the term "Personal Bugbear" before today

[singing]
Your own.... personal.... bugbear
Something to give you a fright, a needless fright....
[/singing]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:01 AM on August 5, 2003


It seems they missed the "in these difficult/dangerous/terrorist-fearing days"
posted by whatzit at 8:02 AM on August 5, 2003


Military and police people always annoy me with their weird cliches. There are no people, for instance, only "individuals."

The one that bugs me is how cops call people males and females. I wonder why they're not good enough to be, I dunno, men and women.

And don't get me started on the stupidity of ten-codes, which seem to serve only a purpose of obscuring communication.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:05 AM on August 5, 2003


When I was a police reporter, I was constantly having to deal with hilarious (but annoying) police-ese: "The suspect left the dwelling carrying the weapon, entered the vehicle and departed at a high rate of speed."

This applies equally to a 19-year-old wifebeater jumping off the roof of his trailer with a machete and taking off in a stolen caddy as it does to Prince Charles running out of Buckingham Palace carrying a broadsword and speeding off on a tricycle. But just try getting a cop who doesn't like the press to fill in some of the pesky details.
(/minirant)
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:21 AM on August 5, 2003


Bugbear.
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:41 AM on August 5, 2003


During news coverage of the Special Olympics reporters always use the phrase: "But everyone here is a winner." I understand the sentiment, but why can't they come up with something original.
posted by Quinn at 8:47 AM on August 5, 2003


Double-spaces should only be used after sentence-ending full points in a monospaced typeface eg, like wot a typewriter has.
...
The idea is that as all of the characters in a monospace font occupy the same width-space, a double-space at the end of a sentence makes sure that the reader sees the new sentence.


This implies that proportional fonts add the extra space after a period by using a different wide space instead of the same space that is used between words. While this might be true in typesetting, it is not true of any computer font I've used.

Or are you suggesting that the ends of sentences are generally easier to find in proportional type and so proportional type does not require the extra space between sentences? I would think the wider space to be more necessary in proportional type.
posted by ringmaster at 9:02 AM on August 5, 2003


NOBODY, not even cops and district attorneys, NOBODY in real life says “allegedly” in regular conversation

uhm.. I do.
posted by carfilhiot at 9:15 AM on August 5, 2003


Not mentioned on the list so far is my personal "favorite".

Tragedy.
The word tragedy is so overused it's beginning to lose any real meaning. If everything's a tragedy or "tragic", then what does it really mean? Nowadays tragic=bad. The word has lost all context.
posted by jeremias at 9:33 AM on August 5, 2003


Also "miracle."
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:49 AM on August 5, 2003


As an erstwhile journalism student now employed in the legal field, I'm glad to see people defend the use of "alleged" and "allegedly." You have to use it or you're opening yourself to libel charges. What else are people to say? "We are speculating while awaiting confirmation of facts when we say that the man killed his neighbor with a crowbar..."

I mean, that's like saying that scientists shouldn't use the word "beaker" when "glass tube with measurement marks on the side" would suffice just as well.
posted by jennyb at 9:53 AM on August 5, 2003


Or are you suggesting that the ends of sentences are generally easier to find in proportional type and so proportional type does not require the extra space between sentences?

Exactly. Do you ever have any trouble reading books?
posted by kindall at 9:54 AM on August 5, 2003


Seems to me like the writer is eager to dumb down language. Why not encourage our on-air talent to make even greater use of the rich variety of our language? Perhaps it will even spill over into general conversational usage.
posted by mapalm at 10:03 AM on August 5, 2003


I don't agree with the notion that newsreaders should talk like the man in the street, because the man in the street is usually an ignoramus.

"The blokes at Number 10 said that said that that Kelly fella was a 'Walter Mitty' whatever that is. Then some people said that wasn't very nice and then the Number 10 blokes said they were sorry. In other news, Canada's gone up like a christmas pudding"

Reading the list was like reading the lyrics to 'Rocked By Rape' by ECC
posted by dodgygeezer at 10:33 AM on August 5, 2003


my 'groaner' is the word 'seminal' since almost every music journalist around can't seem to help using it.
posted by cadence at 10:40 AM on August 5, 2003


aren't "top 100" and "best of 'foo'" lists groaners themselves?
posted by bluno at 11:40 AM on August 5, 2003


mapalm, I don't see any "dumbing down" about it. Rich variety and clever phrases are not a problem, but once-clever phrases that have become tiresome, periphrastic clichés are irritating. There's nothing wrong with most of the entries on this list, by themselves, but simple overuse has made them as boring as the phrases they were designed to replace. Now that the novelty has gone, they are merely dull circumlocutions.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:32 PM on August 5, 2003


My personal bugbear (apart from "bugbear") is co-worker. What's wrong with colleague?

I prefer cow-orker.
posted by jaded at 1:10 PM on August 5, 2003


<table ... width="800" ...>

This is a groaner all by itself. I didn't read the rest of the site. madman, where was the warning about bad web design?
posted by anewc2 at 2:39 PM on August 5, 2003


Damn, I use a lot of these in my writing. It's a tragedy.
posted by feelinglistless at 2:58 PM on August 5, 2003


Yeah sure. Some of these make my flesh crawl, too. And I did have a client who insisted on keeping their phrase "proactively responds" (used to describe something their software does). But I don't see how avoiding some of these affects the liveliness of the language.

Broadcasters' and reporters' intonation bothers me much more. They all have that same oh-so-enticing cadence. Imagine talking like a local news reporter to your friends. Funny.
posted by micropublishery at 3:05 PM on August 5, 2003


Seems to me like the writer is eager to dumb down language. Why not encourage our on-air talent to make even greater use of the rich variety of our language? Perhaps it will even spill over into general conversational usage.

Dan Rather sure does. The Evolution Control Committee lays some of his choice samples over the opening riff to AC/DC's Back in Black to produce Rocked by Rape (mp3). I had no idea this guy had such a way with language. I've been using phrases like "fraudulent assassins" and "the hidden nazis next door" in conversations for months now. Well, actually not.
posted by euphorb at 3:06 PM on August 5, 2003


Bus plunges are my favorite.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:46 PM on August 5, 2003


I dunno about the bad-web design bit - it seems as though the tables are there just to keep the number of words/line constant. The text's easy to read, and the navigation's solid. Sure, the site didn't need to use tables, and it could have used better graphics and a non-horrible repeating background - but hell, it was made in frontpage. You can't expect a normal person to tweak HTML so it conforms to the sensibilities of the average nerd. Yeah, there are better ways of doing the page in HTML that'd be more efficient, but in the age of broadband and multi-gigahertz computers, hand-coded HTML really doesn't matter all that much. I've seen much, much worse.
posted by Veritron at 7:47 PM on August 5, 2003


I wasn't complaining about the tables but about the width. I loathe and despise any web site that makes me scroll horizontally. And it's all text! It could wrap to any width! ...




Sorry. Sometimes I get carried away.
posted by anewc2 at 9:11 PM on August 5, 2003


I hear there are still some good positions for language police in France.
posted by troutfishing at 9:15 PM on August 5, 2003


"Estranged"?

According to his wife, with whom he was no longer living at the time, the victim had been a frequent contributor to the community weblog "Metafilter".

'zat better?

A lot of this is very silly. And from what I've read so far, I use almost all the words that "nobody uses in real life". Still, it's fun, and judging by the comments, a good time has been had by all.
posted by taz at 11:54 PM on August 5, 2003


Turned the gun on himself, Massive heart attack, Ramshackle menagerie.... SOD OFF.
posted by ed\26h at 3:19 AM on August 6, 2003


'Every parents worst nightmare' - worst case I've heard: UIlrika Jonsson (a UK celeb) used it to describe someone telling her child that Father Christmas wasn't real.
posted by biffa at 7:10 AM on August 6, 2003


Oil and honey are always drizzled, never poured. The use of "these days" and "anymore" to imply that things were different in the past. "Refer back" and "proceed forward." The use of "you" when the writer clearly means "I."

"Decimate" means to reduce by 10 percent, not to utterly destroy. A "dilemma" is a choice between two mutually exculsive options, not a generic problem. Also, when one has to choose between two things, he does not have two choices. He has ONE choice, but two options.

Gah. These aren't all groaners, I suppose. But they annoy me.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:36 AM on August 6, 2003


"Can I ask you a question?" You just did.

"The reason why is because..."

ACK. Enough.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:43 AM on August 6, 2003


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