How cliche

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We hope to perform a public service by calling attention to a few cringe-worthy turns of phrase that have been cluttering up the language in recent years. A compendium follows.

To fewer cliches and more clarity in 2008!

Too much information. Overused the second time it was uttered. And no, “TMI” is not acceptable either.

Blue-ribbon panel. Has there ever been a red-ribbon panel?

It’s all good. Is it? Really?

My bad. Yes.

Perfect storm. In 2007 alone, perfect storm was used to explain the troubles of race-car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., a slide in the stock market and an uptick in the use of crystal meth. Any trope that elastic is suspect.

Think outside the box. In effect, this says “do your best to be original” in the least original way. That’s worth thinking about.


How about abolishing the practice of using periods after each word. For. Emphasis? Super. Annoying.

Why do they hate us? Maybe it’s our cliches.

The reality is. Trying to make “the fact is” sound fancier, Rudy? It’s not working.

No worries. This concept started with Alfred E. Neuman, and should have ended there.

Community. Fine as a description of an actual place, but nonsensical as journalistic shorthand -- as in “the sports community.”

Support the troops. As a reminder to back brave women and men, OK. As a call to political conformity, enough.

WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). Our guess is that, among other things, he’d be amused by people who presume to know what he’d do.

YouTube generation, MySpace generation. How about “young people”?

Make no mistake. This is a favorite of President Bush. Whatever one thinks of the president, no one mistakes him for a wordsmith.

Internally displaced persons. We realize the word “refugees” doesn’t accurately describe those forced to flee their homes within their home countries, but this is hopelessly jargonistic. How about “the uprooted”?

Unprecedented. This word appeared in more than 600 articles in The Times last year alone. But it doesn’t mean what we’ve used it to mean: “unusual” or “for the first time.” It means that there is no precedent, for which there almost always is.

Transformational change. Pure redundancy.

Slippery slope. Whether it’s “socialized medicine” or “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, whatever’s at the bottom of the slope can’t be as bad as this phrase.


Existential threat. We think this means “really serious threat,” but we’re not sure. We suspect that many people who use it aren’t sure either.

Post-partisan. Given that there’s no evidence for this phenomenon, perhaps we can drop its description.

It is what it is. We defy anyone to explain how this phrase contributes anything to logic or language.

At the end of the day. No great improvement over “when push comes to shove,” unless it really is the end of the day.

Optics. This euphemism for “spin” -- as in “getting the optics right” -- is big in Washington. We hope it doesn’t make it to Los Angeles.

Metrics already has, and that’s bad enough.