Words, like clothes and food, have their fads. They are called cliches, and they drive good words out of the language until the cliches themselves ultimately wear out from overuse. Uptight remains, but who still says "it's not my bag"? And we can be grateful the power lunch is finally fading. Will get a life be next? Let's hope so.
The latest assault on American English is high profile , which definitely has a profile that qualifies as high. High profile daily tumbles thoughtlessly out of nearly every newscaster's mouth, every news writer's keyboard. We have high-profile cases, prosecutions, hearings, trials, defendants, lawyers, crime fighters, movies, even restaurant diners.
One major newspaper has used high profile 601 times already this year. Computer checks of various newspapers show the O. J. Simpson case has really opened the floodgates: High profile , to use another current cliche, is out of control.
High profile , which first came into use after about 1965, carries little specific meaning. The dictionary defines profile as "the side view of a head." Just how it got to mean so much more is obscure, but it's possibly a reverse of military advice about keeping one's profile low when bullets are flying.
The English language is rich with much more specific and informative synonyms and cognates. Whatever happened to prominent , famous , infamous , notorious , conspicuous , renowned , celebrated ? Whatever happened to good, clear writing?
As for high profile , let's give it a rest. Uh oh. . . .