Saturday, December 29, 2007

"It is what it is" and other expressions that should be outlawed

Who was the first one to say, "It is what it is?" And how did it get traction? For that matter, how did "getting traction" become part of the fabric? (See comment on "traction").

The most widely overused intruder is "like", incorporated as filler repeatedly in every sentence despite its association with the vapid "valley girl".

I bristle when words and expressions catch on, moving from person to person with the ferocity of the common cold. And why "common" cold if there's no "uncommon" cold?

Can't we limit our words to those essential to the message, instead of grabbing onto expressions that serve as the Hamburger Helper of speech, occupying space that could be better used.

Heartened by the success of the campaign to stop smoking, I'm proposing we join forces and butt up against these intruders. I'm not fool enough to go after "like", which has become embedded in the DNA of users, who might be destroyed if "like" were removed from their parlance. But we can each do our part by taking a stand against other pointless speech fillers.

Smokers, however addicted, backed off after enough of us glared, refused to work or be seated near them in restaurants. Raising taxes on cigarettes and isolating them was effective and spared us from exposure to second-hand smoke. So let's organize to protest second-hand expressions, such as:

--"Frankly" or "Quite frankly". Respond to this by asking the speaker if we should assume anything not preceded by this is suspect and less trustworthy. Penalty: ask the offender to contribute $10 to an environmental group, and, yes, that includes Hillary Clinton.

--"It is what it is". This should quickly fall into disgrace if we respond with, "And, conversely, it isn't what it isn't", underscoring the emptiness of the phrase. The fine: $10 to research for any serious disease.

--"Sort of". The current speech tic of choice among those with advanced degrees who are guests on NPR, Sunday morning talk shows and panels. Though they've been to Yaddo and law school, they hope to sound more casual by injecting "sort of" (perhaps replacing "you know") with great regularity. Starting with Candy Crowley, the penalty would be a $10 contribution to their college alumni fund.

--"Having said that". If you said it, we heard it. And if we didn't, it's too late. We can't listen retroactively. Suggested penalty: $10 to any tax-deductible cause.

--"Getting traction". "As it were". "So to speak". "All things considered". This is a democracy so you're free to add your own personal biases. Penalty: a $5 contribution to Greenpeace, a panhandler or anyone who approaches you with a clipboard and cause.

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