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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Grumps, red words, and phrases

Why do news programmes need to have their correspondents standing outside the appropriate government department building when its incumbent head is under fire for some misdemeanour? This often happens in inclement weather, with idiots passing in the background girning and arm waving.

In those circumstances we have the prime minister uttering the euphemism invariably meaning the minister is on the way out,

 “John X has my fullest support.” 

For sometime I have been weary of the unimaginative overuse of the adjective “amazing”,  used by inarticulate sports persons, interviewed by inept presenters, and  by every other celebrity, in every other sentence,
“What did it feel like when you were crossing the line?”


"What is it like to have your first number-one?"


Chambers Dictionary gives an obscure definition of "amazing" as “bewildering” which may be appropriate in many cases.

My daughter bought a child's first book for ten month old Katie recently featuring pictures of animals with captions - I have now been christened Grumpy Camel. Perhaps I should change my gravatar?

Grumpy Camel
From time to time we are inflicted with buzz words and phrases in politico-speak that irritate me.

The hospital spokesperson, after the media have identified five hour average waiting times in A & E says,
“Plans have been put in place so that this never happens again.

 I’ll bet!

A prime minister, or CEO after a tragic bereavement,

“Our feelings are with the family and friends.”

Well that’s ok, but if he really means it, can’t he use some more personal words instead of repeating, word for word what others have said for years gone by?

The latest phrase that is now being overused, and blindly copied by officials in power, occurs when, for example the new building that has been erected has to be demolished because it does not conform in some way, and £20m of taxpayer’s money has been wasted. The official defends the organization's position by saying,

“ We now have a robust plan in place (guess what?) to ensure this does not happen again.”

One of my dictionary definitions for "robust" says "over-hearty". Hmm?


The Crow said...

Dear GC:

Did thee, perhaps, awake on the wrong side of the bed this morning?

(When I was a child [and was asked that question--quite often, unfortunately], I always wondered which side that was, exactly. All sides looked the same to me.)

I enjoyed this post, especially your new name. Did Katie give it to you? If so, she is developing a good sense of humor. Not that I think you're grumpy or camel-like, you understand, just that she thought it funny.

I would have chosen the name of a nimble-footed rock climbing creature -- were I inclined to name you after an animal, that is.

I'd better stop before I end up swallowing the foot I've put in my mouth.

Sir Hugh said...

Hi Martha

Our version (i.e. English) of the old saying is usually getting out of the bed on the wrong side, not that it makes much difference, and it still remains as enigmatic.

Would that I was still nimble-footed.

If I were to choose an animal name for you it would be the wise owl.

I will do a Katie update especially for you on the next post..

BG! said...

I suppose that the growing abuse of the repeated word annoys you as much as it does me. During the Beeb's Olympics coverage we were bombarded with statements like "I'm really really pleased to have broken my PB", "She did brilliantly brilliantly well" and "Disqualification in the relay must have been desperately desperately disappointing for you".

I've heard so much verbal duplication that I'm considering asking for a 50% refund of my TV Licence fee :-)

BTW, the "getting out of the wrong side of the bed" thing... according to my Nan, it's a sure-fire way of accidentally putting your foot in the guzunder, hence spoiling your day right from the start.

The Crow said...

Of course! The night jar! That makes sense.

(Please pardon my jumping back in, Conrad.)

Sir Hugh said...

The Crow - You are ALWAYS welcome Martha

By the way, a nightjar is a kind of bird - how appropriate from The Crow.

BG - Looks like you've opened a can of worms here, or possibly knocked the pot over.

BG! said...

On a really really really bad cliché-day you can find me with a piss-pot on one foot and a worm-can in one hand, leaning on an open door and shooting from the hip, picking off fence-sitters so that they fall into one camp or another...

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

You are not keeping up to date. The key word these days is "unacceptable" which looks, at first glance, totally placid. And that's because it is placid and is being used for exactly that effect. Thus when Bob Diamond is told to sling his hook we hear the PM or some other condom-wrapped pol saying "Manipulating the Libor rate and paying oneself £12m a year are completely unacceptable." we nod to ourselves and say sagely True, True without really having acknowledged the depth of the crime referred to.

To tack the prefix "un" on to "acceptable" suggests that Diamond has just gone a bit too far and deserves a good talking to. Over-enthusiasm, if you like.

And if you want proof of this rather subtle point, try it in another context: "Mowing down a row of primary school kids with a Kalashnikov and beheading his mother-in-law is quite unacceptable behaviour." It is, of course, but the word is wildly under-appropriate. And for the moment the s*ds are getting away with it.

Sir Hugh said...

Lorenzo - d'accord. That one has slipped me by for exactly the reason you state. I will be watching out for it now, so I anticipate more squirmy and unsettling moments during future contacts with the media.

Anonymous said...

Education, and I expect most other professions, is rife with revolting buzz phrases.
Many of them are attached to under-researched, poorly understood ideas which have some how crept up and become the hegemony. A few years ago we were all be told that we should cater for 'Multiple Intelligences' and any dissent was greeted with condescending dismissal. But the ideas were based on the work of a single Psychologist, and frankly don't stand up to a moments critical examination.
I've found that cynically sprinkling the right phrases through a proposal is a reasonably successful tactic for getting your own way.
Ho hum.

Sir Hugh said...

Hi Mark

Getting your own way in life is an art to be learned.

I am sure, that with the quality of writing on your blog you would not stoop to using the kind of cliché drivel that has been exampled in this post and these comments, but I suppose that if complying with the organisation’s invented lingo for specific programmes etc. gets you your own way, then so be it. You can still avoid all that “running it up the flagpole”, “rolling out the plan”, “proactive” , “downsizing”, “forseeable future” nonsense.

One business-speak euphemism that always makes me smile is when the employee has defrauded the company of £30k over the last two years, and they announce “we had to let him go”.

High Horse said...

Believe me Crow - Grumpy Camel is a perfect fit!!! Lol!