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The final word on catchphrases

THE NATIONAL Conference of Editorial Writers – a group of savants whose erudition is matched only by their comeliness – recently engaged in a bout of self-examination. The topic: words and phrases that have outlived their usefulness or that weren’t all that useful in the first place.

Believing, as we do, that clichés should be avoided like the plague, we hereby present the results of the NCEW’s survey, along with selected commentary by various NCEW savants:

• Issues and challenges. “No one has problems anymore,” said one editor. “We have ‘issues.’ Likewise, we have ‘challenges.’... Why isn’t that a ‘problem’?”

• Faith-based. “Almost 100 percent of the time this phrase is used, the user means ‘religious,’ and they should just suck it up and use the real term.”

• Going forward. “Not with this phrase, you are not.”

• Perfect storm. “A wretched phrase now attached to every storm under the clear blue sky. ... Not every storm is perfect. Even in Lake Wobegon.”

• At the end of the day. “At the end of the day, all I’m looking for is a good martini.”

• Proactive. “Needs to be retroactively banished from the language.”

• Input, prioritize, buzz, buzz words, time will tell. “All banned in Detroit,” said Ron Dzwonkowski, who runs the editorial page at the Detroit Free Press. “At least that’s the plan as I understand it. Bottom line.”

• Declined comment. “We’re not inviting people to tea parties here. We’re asking questions. ... They didn’t ‘decline comment.’ They ‘would not comment.”’

• Closure. “An appalling word that crept out from the woodwork of psychobabble where it squats, poisoning the language, above all in journalism.”

Going forward, we will proactively avoid these buzzwords, but only time will tell whether, at the end of the day, the challenges presented by the perfect storm of the news will permit us to prioritize our input on this issue. Which brings us to closure.

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