Let’s hear it for those annoying phrases we’d like to see gone. (Now, if only we’d stop creating them!)
November 16, 2009
“You said it not me.”
Recently, I came across a list of “annoying phrases we’d like to see gone.” Unfortunately, I can’t recall who the “we” is. My apologies. Lists are ubiquitous in popular culture. Top ten. Bottom ten. And everything in between. We love our lists!
On this list I recall one phrase in particular. It happens to be a phrase I like and use and, honestly, would be sad to see go away. The phrase: “perfect storm.” For the record, a “perfect storm” is when circumstances collude forming an ideal environment for a particular event or phenomenon. The phrase is based, of course, on the best selling story of an ill-fated fishing expedition caught unawares by a terrifying storm.
I like this phrase. Adore it even. So I was saddened to discover it on a list of things we can do without. To me the perfect storm is an edgy, poetic and timely way to make a certain point. Or at least it was!
Funny, I can’t recall any other phrase or expression that was on this list. But there is one I wish was: the hackneyed summation clause, “at the end of the day.”
I once had a boss (who shall remain nameless) that used this expression every time she spoke. It drove me bonkers. I became obsessed. In meetings, I would wait apprehensively for her to utter those words. I did not have to wait long. At the end of every comment she said it: at the end of the day. She was like a parrot: Bawk! At the end of the day! Bawk! At the end of the day!
Granted, part of my problem was with the messenger. But to coin another hackneyed phrase, What are you going to do?
I bring all this up because advertising copy often employs, and sometimes even introduces, such phrases into the lexicon. I was part of the team who launched “Not your father’s Oldsmobile.” A week doesn’t go by where I don’t see a variation of this line. Has it worn out it’s welcome too?
I make it a point to avoid such catch phrases. I once thought they implied ignorance in the user. I’m not so sure anymore. I know plenty of very smart people who are stuck on certain statements. We all know people who overuse words like “like” and “you know.” Just as pervasive are the adverbs “basically” and “frankly.” I tend to think we use these banal terms to buy time when we’re speaking, like, you know, to get our thoughts in order. I also notice people applying them when they’re speaking to an audience, when such quirks are least desirable. Unfortunately, nervousness tends to breed the use of clichés. We get anxious. We want to say just the right thing. And we can’t. The perfect storm.