On the ground going forward at the end of the day.

Sounds like we’re being set up for some action, doesn’t it?

No such luck.

Those of us who listen to TV commentators and political junkies of all kinds are set up every day to swallow many many earnest clichés. I’m fond of MSNBC, Rachel Maddow in particular, But sometimes I want to scream “Stop saying that like it has meaning!”

24/7 started out as an original, catchy little punctuation mark, but it’s so far past that now.

Meme. One particularly perky and undeniably smart MSNBC host just loves that word. She can’t or won’t get through an entire hour without saying it. Identity hint: we call her Danger Teeth.

It’s got to be hard to do these shows day after day.  I guess that would be 1/5 instead of 24/7. Anyway, I don’t mean to pick on MSNBC. I would prefer to pick on Fox News but I can’t bear to watch it so I have little to say on that subject except—huh?

I don’t even know what to call these dangling, useless sentence-tails. Although “at the end of the day” is more often used to begin a sentence. Something like my long-time least favorite crutch, “basically.” That’s a favorite of those who are afraid to make a solid commitment to what they’re saying.

And television journalism has misused the word “tragedy” forever. Good thing Shakespeare is dead.

Although this silly stuff is painful to me as I drink my happy-hour wine, it becomes excruciating when writers I’m teaching or working with spit them out into their manuscripts. Do I try to be kind? I do. If the student comes from an academic discipline that uses jargon as if it were English, and there seem to be a few of those, I try even harder because I know it’s a shock to them to learn these words have nothing to do with writing.

It’s important for writers to keep their ears open, to remember the way people speak. We are computer-brains, storing it all away for future use. But there has to be a spam filter in there somewhere.


4 Responses

  1. Amen, Shelley! Good post about irritating speech-tics.Though I’m sympathetic to the plight of broadcasters whose livelihoods depend on adlibbing for hours on end, they could at least get the cliches right. “Least we forget”? Shudder. “We couldn’t be remiss if we didn’t mention…” Does that even make sense?

    Throw off your crutches, ye writers, stand up and walk!

  2. This summarizes much of what’s so annoying listening to the news. I don’t feel these people have an ear for the language, and so they misuse or under use it. “Something imminent is about to happen” was one I heard on cable a while back. The worst offender is Wolf Blitzer who constantly says “if you will” the way some people use “uh.”

  3. I can hardly stand to listen to TV news broadcasts anymore because they think an -ing form of a verb can be the main verb in a sentence. A story will begin “Police now looking into . . . .” I end up yelling “Use a verb!” My wife finds this distracting.

  4. Distracting, perhaps, but instructive. My response to “if you will is “I won’t.” Yes, they do have to blabber for an hour at a time, but maybe they could come up with some literate habits, instead?

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