Watch Your Language, Pal

A constant source of irritation to me is the use of what my friend Gregg Anderson refers to as “worn-out bromides”: those sloppy catch-phrases that to me are a sign of lazy thinking and communication.

I notice them most in the proclamations of politicians and the chirping bloviators that pollute the airwaves. And, to my chagrin, I find myself rejecting the speaker’s point-of-view when I hear them.

A few examples:

  • “The reality is…The truth is…The fact of the matter is…” What follows these phrases is rarely reality, or truth, or fact, but the speaker’s opinion. Simply calling it reality, truth or fact doesn’t make it so.
  • “At the end of the day…” What the hell does this mean? At the end of what day? And when does a day end? 5 o’clock? Midnight? This is a meaningless phrase, and if you can stand to keep listening, you’ll hear it repeated ad nauseum.  A good rule of thumb: if you hear a phrase like this repeated more than twice, it’s a crutch and a signal that the speaker is just regurgitating without thinking.
  • “Let’s be clear…” What this speaker really means is, “Let me repeat what I think you should believe.”
  • “There is a hidden agenda here…” If so, how did you find out about it? (BTW, the same goes for those who clamor about those things the “media doesn’t want you to know”. I always ask how they found out about it, and usually they heard it on radio or TV. That’s a pretty lame conspiracy. Most of my friends in the so-called Media readily admit they their organizations couldn’t conspire to have a surprise birthday party, much less a systematic control of information.)

Finally, and the one that gets me the most, is when a speaker poses rhetorical questions and then proceeds to answer them. Do I hate that technique? Yes I do. Does it indicate a certain lack of sincerity? Yes it does. Is it a sign that the person cannot be trusted? It certainly is. Am I able to overlook it and focus on the speaker’s message? No, I am not. Does it get very, very annoying the longer it continues? Oh, my yes.


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