A discussion of overused expressions.
MCKNOTES ON THE MANNER OF SPEECH
Have you ever noticed that certain phrases creep into our patterns of language from time to time and become overused? Like, when a person is describing something and says it’s, like, really pretty and like, totally rad, (read radical). It’s like, just too, too much, and it can become, like, irritating.
Another phrase that I hear repeated ad nauseum is “Oh my god.” When I write about God, I always capitalize, but in this case, I think that would make it blasphemous. It’s difficult to find a sitcom on television that does not punctuate most reactions of characters with that phrase, but some have shortened it to “OMG,” in deference to LOL and other acronyms so commonly used in the language of computers. If brilliant television writers can come up with intricate plots and complex sub-plots, I wonder if it’s necessary to rely on such a phrase so often.
This sort of phraseology is not new. In fact it has probably always been around. I remember way back when during the Watergate hearings when the phrase of the day was, “At this point in time.” Lately I’ve noticed that political pundits and even elected officials use a technique that I find most annoying. Is that the practice of asking and then answering their own questions to make a point? I believe it is. Do I mind hearing that technique used on occasion? Of course not. Do I want to hear a string of questions and answers all from one speaker? Not really. Do I find this technique annoying? Yes, I do.
Our culture has so overused the word love that it no longer has much meaning. I’m especially frustrated when I hear a panelist interview some performer and start out by saying, “We love you.” Who is we? I really don’t know who they’re talking about sometimes. The word “amazing” so often used to describe just about everything that it’s, well, amazing. If everything is amazing, it’s really no longer amazing. It’s like music. If there is no contrast, there’s no loud and no soft. It all becomes flat and without character. The beauty of a quiet passage is made even more special when followed by a loud section. I guess it wouldn’t be good television for an interviewer who had just seen a movie featuring a particular star and then opening a conversation with that star by saying that they just saw their movie and it was….mediocre. Surely there are adjectives between mediocre and amazing.
All kinds of words are used these days in ways that are contrary to their original meanings. I’ve heard people refer to race cars as “sweet.” Does that mean baklava is fast? It begins to make no sense at all. These days, when someone says a particular thing is bad, that often means it’s good. There are many examples of this, but I don’t really get them all.
Another phrase that makes no sense to me is, “I always give 110%.” Excuse me, but that doesn’t make any sense. I don’t watch a lot of competitive reality shows, but almost everyone says, “This means the world to me,” or some variation of that idea. It just loses significance when every single contestant says the same thing. They also seem to frequently repeat that they really worked hard to get to this point. I should hope so. I have even less desire to watch people who didn’t really try at whatever it is they’re doing to walk away with the grand prize.
Even the talking heads that bring us news of world events and entertainment fall into this habit. These days, it seems that everything is “iconic.” If there are so many icons, it’s no longer a very special tag. Perhaps this comes along with twenty year old performers writing their life story. I have been twenty years old several times now, and life is barely started at that time. I think life stories belong to people who have put in a bit more time. It also might be a good idea to look up the meaning of “icon.”
Everybody doesn’t need to be a great orator, but I would like to think that people who manage to get themselves into a national spotlight could express themselves with some originality. I’m not going to go on and on about this topic. I’d probably fall into the same trap and start using already overused expressions. Over and out.