Thursday, June 12, 2014

Annoying Expressions

     Expressions are, of course, a pretty fundamental part of language.  And when particularly interesting and/or amusing ones are coined, and begin to be used, they often become popular.  Then, the next step is that they sometimes become clichés.  And let's face it, many clichés just become done to death, and irritating.  Deciding this is obviously subjective--one person's witty comment may be another's dull and lazy expression.  Here are five that I find particularly annoying.
     1) "It is what it is."  Determining who came up with (or most popularized) an expression is sometimes quite tricky, like figuring out who came up with a joke.  This one is obscure.  I read about many candidates for it.  Some of these were a 2001 movie of this name by Bill Frolick, a 2007 autobiography title by David Coulthard, and going way back, a 1982 album title by the Australian rock band "The Hitmen."  Personally, I've only noted it in the past 6-8 years or so.  But it's become entirely overused in athlete's interviews--it seems like every other player uses it, sometimes more than once in a single piece.  There has to be a better, more creative way of getting across the sentiment that a particular object or circumstance is unable to be changed.
    2) Speaking of yourself in the third person, instead of using "I."  Using "I," especially repeatedly, can be rather arrogant. But somehow referring to oneself by one's name is even more arrogant.  I learned that a person who does this a lot is called an "illeist."  I think the best example (or worst practitioner) was baseball player Rickey Henderson, who played for many teams (but mostly the Oakland A's, the New York Yankees, and the Toronto Blue Jays) in the late 1970's up until the early 21st century.  Don't get me wrong--Ricky was a spectacular player, who holds the all time records for runs scored and steals, and is (almost) inarguably the best leadoff hitter ever.  But in interviews he came across as being insufferably conceited.  Other serial illeists are hip hop artist/reality show regular Flavor Flav, the wrestler The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson), actor Mr. T., and puppet Elmo.  Although most of these examples came across as more comical, and therefore less bothersome.
     3)  Using "barometer" as a metaphor.  An example would be "Grammy awards are a good barometer of a musician's success."  My friend Vince brought this one to my attention, and I can see his point.  For the record, a barometer is a device used in meteorology to measure atmospheric pressure.  Why it's used as a catchall for comparisons is strange.  As long as you're using scientific measuring devices wrongly, why not use others?  Why not "thermometer," or "Geiger counter," or "tire pressure gauge?"
     4)  Saying that you'll give "110%."  Again, athletes are some of the worst users of this. I understand the point they're trying to make, but it's lazy, and makes them sound moronically stupid.  Were they sleeping during elementary school math classes?  By definition, 100% is the most you can give--period.  If you find yourself trying harder, and having more success in a subsequent game, or series, or season, it doesn't mean you gave 110%, it means that before you were only giving 99% or worse.  And why 110%?  As long as you're making up impossible numbers, why not 120%, or 150%, or 100,000%?  In short--if you don't understand basic numbers, just say, "I'm going to give my all," or "I'm going to try my absolute hardest."  (The "Simpsons" addressed this opinion well in their second or third season episode about softball, wherein a hypnotist futilely tries to get the players to give 110%.)
     5) "I could care less."  This is probably the expression that annoys me the most, because it actually expresses the opposite assertion that a person is trying to make (and almost always, not in a fun, sarcastic way).  "I couldn't care less," is a fine expression--kind of bitter, and it gets the job done.  But being careless and saying "I could care less," means you're saying you care at least some, since you could care less.  The "not" or "n't" is vitally important in this case.  Incidentally, this (correctly said) expression evidently originated in England, and crossed over to the U.S. in the 1950's.  And we "Americanized" it to the incorrect "Could care less," by the 1960's.  As in previous examples, I realize what people actually mean when they use this incorrectly, but it still really sticks in my craw for some reason.

     I know a lot of people my age or older are particularly annoyed by internet and texting abbreviations, like "YOLO," and "LOL," or by emoticons.  Since I don't text, these don't bother me that much.  I invite readers to share their own hated expressions/sayings--I'm sure there are many examples that I'm forgetting.

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