Some Phrases Are A BIG PROBLEM!

'No Prob' Maggie is photo-bombed by fans. Photo: Stephanie Cavanaugh

What a response! Who knew there are so many people fed up with so much bad, irritating, annoying use of language.

In the May edition of The Hill Rag I laid out The Phrases I Hate. The piece contained many of the usual suspects (maybe that phrase should be on the banned list!) such as “no problem,” “his/her own home/mother/husband,” “very first” and “you’re welcome.” Readers were invited to join the lingo debate. And did they ever!

First to respond was one of Washington’s best known journalists,Tom Sherwood. His contribution went to the core of the issue. He wrote: “It seems the word ‘affect’ has been obliterated by the use of ‘impact’.” As examples he gave: “The blazing sun and heat impacted his thinking abilities; having one too many doughnuts impacted his weight.” Tom added that while many might not find the loss of “affect” as “cringe-worthy” as he did, he gave a wry insight into how it’s affected him. In a final example he said: “Worrying about the word impact replacing the word affect has impacted his good humor.”

Then came Larry Janezich, the renowned editor of Capitol Hill Corner, the news-blog which (along with The Rag) keeps us all up-to-date on all the goings-on that impact —oohps! I mean affect —our community. His number one irritant is “thank you for the question,” the response constantly uttered by notables being interviewed on TV and radio.

“It’s a phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it,” he told me.  “Politicians and officials at every level have started using it in press conferences and town hall meetings, from MPD Chief Contee to President Biden. I guess it means ‘Thanks for pitching a slow softball that I can hit out of the park.’ I suppose its use is meant to convey politeness and demonstrate humbleness. But to my ears, it’s patronizing and offensive.”

A reader, who wanted to stay anonymous, came up with several bug-bears. Her message read: “When did ‘gift’ become a verb? When did ‘invite’ become a noun? ‘Unique’ does not require a modifier. Something is either unique or it isn’t. No ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’; not ‘less.’ Just unique.”

Barbara Simon, a retired British government TV producer, living in London (The Rag gets everywhere!) e-mailed to say: “A huge annoyance is the use of ‘for free’. Free is a stand-alone adjective meaning free of charge, at no cost, for nothing. There’s no need to put ‘for’ in front, which then translates into ‘for for nothing’.”

Another British contributor Joanne Rika (full exposure here—she’s my niece) came up with: “One of my pet hates is when you ask how someone is and they say ‘I’m good thanks.’ I’m not asking if they’re well behaved!!”

Also from Jolly Olde, David Tattersall, a retired editor of Moffat, Scotland, wanted it known that “at the end of the day” drives him nuts. Capitol Hill resident Barbara Rich, a media-consultant for a biomedical research group, nailed the reason why the non-stop use of this phrase should cease. While listening to an interview with a National Republican Committee official, she wrote a message. It started with: “Just heard a woman, representing the RNC, being interviewed saying ‘at the end of the day’ four times. Basically it is never needed, just say what you mean period. Oops, she said it again, 5x!! in a 3 min segment.”

Other words making people despair are: “pop” and “popping.” Nothing to do with popcorn or a soda. All about “pop” it into the oven, “pop” it on the table and “popping” into the shop or round the corner.  What happened to “put” and “going”?

Then we have “circle-back.” Sounds like a square-dancing call. It’s taken on a ridiculous life of its own because White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki can’t bring herself to use common-sense speech and say: “I’ll get back to you.”

As for, “at this moment in time”? What happened to “now”? And don’t get me started on the highly used “so fun” and  “very fun”. It’s nothing more than abuse of the spoken word.

But —judging by the responses— the number one stop-it-now, mindless, hated utterance is the senseless “no problem,” which I highlighted in the previous article. The total stupidity of its ubiquity is perfectly summed up by Stephanie Cavanaugh (my friend and fellow-writer well known to Hill Rag readers) who sent me the following transcript of an encounter with a “customer service” person.

“We were leaving town for a few days and needed to stop home delivery of The New York Times. Finding the website incomprehensible, I phoned customer service. ‘I’m having trouble putting my paper on hold,’ I told a cheerful young woman. ‘No problem,’  she said. ‘When would you like it to stop?’ Friday, I said. ‘No problem!’ she said. ‘When would you like it to restart?’ The following Monday. ‘No problem!’ she said, just as perky as can be. Would you tell whoever about the website glitch, I asked. ‘No problem!’ she said. ‘Is there anything else?’ Yes, I said. Would you please stop saying ‘no problem,’ my ears are beginning to bleed. There was a brief pause . ‘No problem,’ she said.

Enough Said!

Maggie Hall’s latest book: All Things Dracula: An A-Z of the Count Who Refuses to Die is on sale at Groovy DC (321 7th St. SE).