Paddy and I happened to pick a table right beneath the television set in our usual coffee hangout. The TV was tuned to a business channel and Paddy had been watching it while I fetched our brews.
“Well,” Paddy said as I placed our cups on the table, “I think I just saw the record set for use of the phrase going forward. This turkey must have said it half a dozen times in the last two minutes.”
I glanced up at the screen to see if perhaps the miscreant was someone I knew. As the TV was tuned to an American channel, I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t recognize him. But, the bugger used the phrase again during the few seconds I was watching.
“It is an egregious phrase, Paddy,” I agreed. “Almost one hundred percent of the time it’s redundant. For example, that guy just said the new initiatives in our planning going forward will.... His organization would hardly be planning for the past. He actually just hit another of my nerve endings with the phrase new initiatives.”
“Yeah,” Paddy opined, “those old initiatives will get you every time. You know,” he went on, “now that you mention it, I can’t think of a usage for going forward that isn’t redundant.”
“You’re not apt to find one in business parlance that isn’t redundant,” I replied, but there’s nothing wrong with it in the sentence: He fell off the toboggan just as it started going forward.”
“Another one I hate,” Paddy said, “is at the end of the day. What the heck does that mean? When you leave work? When the sun goes down? One second before midnight?”
“I think you’re being a bit picky here. It’s just another way of saying when all is said and done,” I said facetiously. “Come to think of it, I don’t really mind either of these too much, but they are overused.”
“How about thinking outside the box? That one drives me nuts, too,” Paddy added.
“Yes,” I agreed, “it’s right there with ahead of (or behind) the curve. Again, the problem is that these phrases are meaningless because of their generality. When I hear either of them I always think the speaker is too lazy or too ill-informed to be specific.”
“And another one that bugs me,” I went on, “is in terms of. It rarely adds anything to a statement and could nearly always be replaced with something more precise.”
“Hey,” Paddy exclaimed, “did you hear that? He just used tipping point and tone at the top in one sentence! I didn’t think that was possible. Has he missed any?”
“I haven’t heard him use value added or ramp up yet,” I observed.
“The biggest problem I have with the use of trite phrases, Paddy, is that, though they may have been meaningful at one time, or in a particular context, they’ve become meaningless through overuse. As I mentioned a moment ago, trite phrases tend to be used by speakers who are too lazy to search for accurate, descriptive words or phrases. Trite phrases are boring; and they also cheat listeners out of a clear explanation of the message.”
"Well, now,” Paddy said, “that was a nice little lecture. But, I do agree with you.
We’ve been talking about business usage, though. What about hackneyed usage in everyday language, such as it is what is?
“Don’t get me going on that one,” I said, “every time someone uses that phrase I ask ‘and what is it that it is?’ When someone says it is what is they usually have no idea what it really is and either don’t really care what it is or are too lazy to find out.”
Wound up now, I attacked another of my pet peeves, “It also annoys me when someone uses the phrase I’m just saying. It always suggests to me that they haven’t got the facts, or maybe the guts, to back up whatever it was they ‘just’ said.”
“Speaking of redundancies, how about close proximity?” Paddy asked
“Well,” I suggested, “I suppose it’s better than distant proximity.”
“And then there’s the language of the young people these days,” Paddy opined, “phrases such as you know and the ubiquitous like; and people who end every sentence with the interrogative okay?’ What about them?”
As I got up to leave I said, “I don’t want to go there.”
Judging by the quizzical look on Paddy’s face, he didn’t get it.