Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Today's Preoccupations: Things Not to Say

I'd like to make a series of recommendations. Here are some phrases I would like to not hear anymore:

1) “Pops of color,” used in talking about decorating: This scourge started on the proliferating home shows on TLC and those channels. Now it has infected the speech of normal people. Anyone who says this automatically sounds like a twit. Instead, just say, “I like red,” or the color in question. Or just say nothing. If you are actually being interviewed by the editors of House Beautiful, go with “I like red.”

2) A “perfect storm” of anything. It’s not that I think this phrase should only be reserved for talking about the weather. But a simple coincidence is not a perfect storm. This phrase should be kept for a truly extraordinary confluence of circumstances, like circumstances that would result in the drowning of George Clooney and Markie Mark AND that other guy from Boogie Nights. Instead, maybe say “a confluence of circumstances.” And then explain what you mean. Help us make sense of what happened by putting the different aspects of the situation in a narrative. Thanks!

3) “Drill down” on something. In, like, computer-speak or IT, this means to move from general information to specific data, like by moving deeper into the hierarchy of directories on your computer, or by querying a database. But now people use it metaphorically, it seems, to just mean getting more information. It even has a noun, “Here’s what I learned from the drilldown.” Don’t talk this way. It’s jargony. And you sound like one of those bluetooth headset guys who tries to butt in line at the airport.

4) “At the end of the day. . .”: Just never say this. What are you talking about? You’re trying to cue us to the fact that you’re about to deliver a profound summation. It is irritating. Instead, maybe just stick with, “I think. . . .”

5) Fierce: This is done. It may have always been done. But I could see it being funny in about 8 years, so we’ll reconvene then.

6) "24/7": This is tired. And usually inaccurate. But it can be saved! Instead, say, “24/7 like 7/11.” Keep your delivery arch. Then it is funny.

And what I’d like to hear more of:

1) Great Caesar’s Ghost! Or sweet sassy molassy! Or sweet fancy Moses! Or heavens to mergatroid! Try these old timey sayings. Really put some relish into them. These phrases are like the Mrs. Dash of ejaculations (hee hee)! And speaking of ejaculations. . .

2) Really any archaic vocabulary: I cannot get enough of it. If you read a lot of old novels, you probably already sound a little like a nineteenth-century social comedy. But more is even better. If, instead of saying something “makes you sick” or “drives you crazy,” you say that if gives you "the fantods," you have my full attention. And I am delighted.

3) The Eff Word: Yes, the mother of all bad words. I know people always talk about how profanity is overused and loses its impact and we’re all desensitized to it. I disagree. I think the eff word never loses flavor or freshness. The anti-profanity people will sniff, “I think using cursewords is a sign of a limited vocabulary. Can’t you construct a sentence without those words?” Perhaps, but those words are words like all our other words, so why not take ‘em out for a spin? Lighten up, Francis.

4) Fo ‘shizzle, etc: Shizzle everything, I SWEAR. It’s funny. Again, keep your delivery slightly arch and enunciate carefully. Maybe, “For shizzle,” instead of “fo’shizzle.” Once, years ago, my sister had just had her first baby and I was visiting her in Dallas. We were driving around aimlessly with her newborn baby in the back of the car, trying to ward off postpartum cabin fever. We were hoping to maybe see a movie at the neighborhood theatre, but as we drove up, we could see a long line winding out of the building and down the block. We both, without premeditation, said in unison, “Forgizzle!” (Like, “Forget it.”) A new coinage, as far as we knew. And I don’t think we have ever laughed so hard. Maybe you have to be caring for a newborn for it to be funny. But it still makes my eyes crinkle up.

So what do you want to hear less of? Or more of? Unfold, that we may attend.

25 comments:

The Dental Maven said...

Seriously? I would NEVER use the phrase "drill down." That would be REALLY BAD in my line of work.

Veronica said...

Can we please put "That being said" on the never say again list? If you say one thing, and then say "That being said,..." and move onto something completely different, THAT IS NOT A TRANSITION. That is simply avoiding the call to narrate the connections between your ideas, which is what helps the rest of us understand you. My request to avoid this one applies to normal conversation, but it applies ESPECIALLY to student papers.

On a different note, one time when a group of my girlfriends and I were on a trip to Arizona for spring break, our "midsize" rental car ended up being a Ford Mustang. We were totally excited, and dubbed it the "Fizzle Mustizzle," and referred to it as such for the entire week.

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Golly I feel like an old boring maid. I've only seen "drill down" on the computer. So it's a new moniker? Wow. And what does "fo shizzle" mean? "For sure"? My peeves are nouns turned into verbs, like "impacted," and non-words like orientate.

But for the all the phrases you list that I'm hip enough to have heard, I second you. And I'd add "the takeaway." As in, "the takeaway from the meeting was blah blah."

Summer said...

I like "Good Gravy!" and it makes my 5th graders laugh.

Casey said...

I'm with you on the 24/7 but I'm guilty of using it. I wish I weren't. Fo Shizzle is in my daily vocabulary, don't worry.

Becky said...

Yes! Good Gravy! and Fizzle Mustizzle, FUNNY.

You're right as usual, Lawyer Mom. The "takeaway" is wearing a bit thin. I am guilty of using this one.

Bren said...

Less, please: "Yum!" It's not said in conversation but appears on blogs and facebook updates after describing some food you just had.

More of: Namy Mcnamename. Referring to other people secretly by this formula. For kids, Snotty McStinkypants. For the uptight lady, Snooty McTight@ss. It never fails to make the children laugh and, really, it seldom fails to make me laugh, especially when the children do it.

SJN said...

and how about "absolutely"
I hear that word absolutely too much!

Jane said...

I'm still bitter about people using "disrespect" as a verb meaning "to show disrespect."

melondonkey said...

1) ____ is the new ____

i think this one needs a breather for a while. i personally feel the same effect can be made with an emphasized "is". pink IS black.


2) "sure" as confirmation that you're listening is a little condescending, i think.

3) shizzle is still in timeout for me

Ginny Marie said...

I like the phrase "For crying in the beer!" My mom always used to say it.

Along with 24/7, I dislike 24/7/365. It's just too much!

Michele said...

I love Great Caesars Ghost. I'm going to try to use this tomorrow. The Eff word never goes out of style.

Cassie said...

Bren, we do the Namey McNameName thing too!

I love me a well placed and unexpected eff-bomb.

The phrase "That Rocks" annoys me. Especially when I hear moms saying it at the park. True story.

If we're talking about misused expressions, it drives me nuts when people say "literally" when they mean "figuratively".

I like this list, Becky... regular feature maybe?

Hootie said...

Snoop Dogg (or Snoopy McDoggDogg, if you prefer) respectfully requests that you stop saying "fo shizzle." If you wish to pour forty ounces of your beverage of choice onto the ground to commemorate the passing of this once-cool phrase, you are encouraged to do so. Mr. Dogg concedes that you may still refer to the bargain steakhouse as, "The Shizzizzler," because that's just funny.

Kate said...

"Roll with it" or "That's how we roll" are two phrases that I both love and hate. When I find them coming out of my mouth, I feel funny and sad at the same time. Is that weird? So, I'm torn - never use them again or use them more.

Becky said...

Ah, funny and sad at the same time. There is a huge body of poststructural language theory that says "funny and sad at the same time" is pretty much the way you feel when you use language. Or after the age of 3 or so. Such is the plight of the Symbolic Realm. But I digress.

As far as "that's how we roll," try prissying it up a bit. Say "that is" instead of "that's."

And as far as stuff that's actually wrong, like "literally," that's a whole nother thing. When it comes to these, I've almost given up on the world. The barbarians are at the gate, people.

Hootie said...

But is it too much to ask that the barbarians wipe their feet before entering?

Keely said...

The eff word will never go out of style. And it's so VERSATILE.

The one that makes my teeth grind together (sorry, Dental Maven) is from designers: "I don't hate it".

Really? So do you LIKE it? Love it? Indifferent? Throw me a bone, here, people.

melondonkey said...

a friend of mine used "Obama" as a verb and i found myself wanting to use it a lot. it basically means to completely take by storm or to overwhelm the competition.

you may ask a confident friend, for example, if he's nervous about a date, to which he replies, "nah, man, I'm gonna Obama that shizzle"

it's not sexual, he just means he plans on making a very good impression and sweeping her off her feet.

Jenni said...

I've always been fond of the saying, "Have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up," but I've never had the occasion to use it. I also like Whitney Houston's "Hell to the no!" altough I suppose that one is a little tired as well.

Sara said...

I don't like the word 'nosh.'

'Fierce' is TERRIBLE. Just terrible.

And Kate I agree! That's how I feel about emoticons. I know emoticons are...are, I don't know, they can be awful, but there is some ornery part of me that uses them for that reason. Plus they're kind of handy. (lazy) :)

I like 'Hell to the Nizzo.' It's in the -izzle family.

fraught said...

Ooooh, this is so working for me.

Although don't you think that "so" is getting a little ragged around the edges from overuse??

Seriously, this post rocks!! (Heavens to Murgatroyd, and apologies to Cassie ;) Oh. And Sara.

Re: mis-uses. I have a slew of 'em that just put my ears through the wringer, but instead of listing them here I think I might just go try to find enough to post 'em. Thanks for the inspiration!!

bsouth said...

I hate it when people say "with all due respect" - it usually means they are going to show no respect at all.

I love "Great Ceasars Ghost" and will be trying to use that phrase at least once a day.

You can't go wrong with the F word really, can you?

billbon said...

I hate the term toxic asset. Legacy asset is even worse, though. The original Bad Debt seemed to work better for me, but maybe is just too hard to face up to?

Justine said...

Sweet fancy Moses! I found this post in the fantastic time waster that is Link Within. I hope you'll do another one of these. I feel that there is a lot to learn from the masses. Oh, and I add amazing and awesome to the "overused word" category. Or should I say "dreadful misuse of trendy words" category. Winky face!