Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Words: Rare, Medium and Overdone

Trends, fads, fashions—they can be seen in so many aspects of our lives. Not just hair and clothing, but we see trends in architecture, landscaping, foods, cars and speech. Yes. Speech.

Words come and go, and we’ve recognized that before here at FITNY. (No, that does not stand for Fitness-New York! Think about it!) But now I am not referring to the new additions to our dictionaries that are announced annually. I’m just talking about usage. Well, no—I’m talking about OVER-usage.

Since I tend to use this space as a forum for complaining and kvetching about things that irk me, I’ve tried to hold back on this topic, as it could be viewed as petty. Well, petty or not, here I go.

In the Rumsfeld days, the overused phrase of the day was “connect the dots.” You could not listen to a sound bite of a single politician or public leader without them connecting the dots on one issue or another. Previously, we all reached conclusions, but that became passe’ as we learned to connect the dots. That expression is still with us, but its use seems to have abated somewhat.

The first time I think I noticed this was in the 1970s when Richard Nixon used his “let me say this about that” and “let me make one thing perfectly clear.” Well, actually, I think those expressions became overused more as a way to mock Nixon than anything else, but still…

Recently we’ve adopted “at the end of the day” as the expression du jour. I don’t know who started it, but again—you can’t sit through a newscast (remember: I am the Uber-Nerd, I still watch tv news) without hearing this numerous times. People used to say things like “when all is said and done”, or “in the final analysis”, but no more! Now at the end of the day you’ve heard at the end of the day a zillion times. It’s boring.

My current peeve has been over the extreme overuse of “iconic”. No one calls anything ‘characteristic’, well-known or ‘representative’ any more. I think Brian Williams used “iconic” forty-seven times in last night’s broadcast alone. Well, not really. But he thinks everything is iconic apparently, and since he does at least one story a night about dogs, the dog lovers are iconic, the shrimpers on the Louisiana gulf coast are iconic, their boats are iconic, the storm damage is iconic, the Joplin hospital is “now iconic”, and the rescue shelters are iconic. Really.

But the real reason I bring up this topic at all is that I’m here to predict the next highly overused expression in our society. Ready? Here it is: full stop.


Yep, in England the period at the end of a sentence is called a full stop. It’s cute, it’s quaint (to me), and I like it when I hear a Brit use it.

But Sunday I heard David Gregory use it on Meet the Press. (There’s my nerdiness showing again.) David is not a Brit, hence it was not cute. The very next day I heard an American pundit use it on the radio. I’ve heard it twice since. I foresee a spate of “full stop” usage that’s going to grate on my nerves. I expect it will become epidemic within a short time.

I’m going to have to put on my eyeshades and armbands, whip out an adding machine (yes, I’m that old) and start tallying up the usage. It’s about to explode, and I’m just saying you heard it here first.

Don’t thank me. All I did was connect the dots.


  1. Hahaha. An iconic piece of writing. At the end of the day, we'll remember we heard it here first.

  2. So true! The two most overused phrases I hear these days (and unfortunately use) are "REALLY? ....and "I'm just sayin.'" Must hear them both a hundred times a day. Just sayin'!

  3. I hate the cliche of the year...we have a little game in our family to come up with one that's ridiculous, drop it in a conversation and then get out before having to explain it.

    Two examples:

    I just want to make sure we're all petting the same dog.

    That's a whole other bag of cats.


  4. This may be "pushing the envelope" but I have to hand it to you for being "all over it" with your "full-stop" prediction. Let's "bottom-line" it with my favorite question of the day: Are you "comfortable in your own skin"?