Posted by: foodtalker | March 20, 2010

ticking all the boxes

Certain expressions should be banned. Tops on my list would be “How’s it going?”. My son says it all the time. “It? What’s It?” I ask. “My life, my car, my sanity, my wrist watch?” He thinks I am being pedantic. “You know,” he says “it as a whole”, giving me the Gorgon stare.

He’s looking for some general overview I realize, but how to summarize the specific answer to each – lousy, broken, cracked, stopped – and come up with the sum of the whole in a single word for all the possible its? I know a bland, non-debatable response is all that’s sought – if one at all. But there’s never time to do an assessment of all the conceivable “its” before the question itself has become obsolete. I’ve asked him to be more specific.

“Basically”. That’s another one. Once someone uses this word I can no longer concentrate on what they’re saying or writing because I am bracing myself for the next inevitable recurrence – basically.

“Frankly”, “actually” and “if you really want me to be honest”, are all teeth jarrers. Well frankly I actually only basically ever want you to be honest! Who in the world wants to be fed a bunch of fibs? Just by suggesting that on this occasion your statement will be honest, by default indicates that on all others you’ve been a lying toad.

And then there’s “literally”. Have you ever noticed how people will say things such as “I quite literally died”, or “My head literally fell off my shoulders.” Really? As a word, “literally” should be used to emphasize an extraordinary case of a metaphor coming true. But no, now it literally just means something which is like, literally true!

But my pet peeves are not limited just to words, there are all sorts of expressions that are annoying or overworked.

A prime example is the saying “to think outside the box”. Anyone who says this has just demonstrated that they’re definitely not an outside-the-box-thinker.

Similarly contradictory is the saying “in my humble opinion”. This translated means “you are the most stupid person I’ve ever come across, but rather than hurt your feelings and denounce you as a dimwit, I’ll grovel instead and portray myself as a self-effacing lowlife with such a small intellect when in fact I know all the answers and am a superior being in all things.”

Of course, the classic expression that everyone hates most is “at the end of the day” and yet, people still say it. I think they can’t help themselves. There should be interventions for people who are unable to control their cliché usage. If you say more than three hackneyed sayings a day, you go to cliché rehab where you’ll be surrounded by other people walking around saying things like “are we on the same page?”, or “it’s not rocket science” and “we’re not in Kansas anymore”. They can best each other for hours.

But for me, I’m not going to lie, at the end of the day when the rubber hits the road, this kind of yuckspeak doesn’t cut the mustard. So you can run that up the flagpole and see who salutes it.


  1. Love it. no other cliche possible.

  2. Ah, Kate! More catsup. It’s a mellowing agent.

  3. What fun! Expressions people choose say so much about them and I’m outta here before I say anymore. Kx

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