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Abused Phrase of the Day: At the End of the Day

December 19, 2018

Is there something special about 11:59 p.m.?

I get it. The end of the day is supposed to be when you reflect on everything that came before it. But the phrase “at the end of the day” seems like it’s been repeated from the beginning to the end of every day, every month and every year.

At the end of the day, it’s an overused expression that sounds as quasi-profound and vapid as, “It is what it is.”

Why do people say “at the end of the day” and not “at the beginning of the day,” when most of us are wide awake and fully functioning? Or, if you’re a light sleeper, why not “at the end of the night?”

Maybe it’s because “the end of the day” calls to mind the apocalypse, e.g., the end of days. At my age, I want no reminders of my mortality, let alone the end of civilization.

Variations such as “when all is said and done” are almost as annoying. If all were said, you would have stopped talking.

So at the end of the day, and even at the beginning of the night, when all is said and done, this needless waste of words should be removed from your written and verbal language. End its use today.

Don't Vote

November 4, 2018

This year, more than most, it’s been difficult to avoid the “get out the vote” social media posts.

The right to vote is among our most important privileges. It should be exercised by anyone who is mature and informed enough to want to exercise it.

But no one should be coerced to vote. People who are uninformed should not vote. People who are undecided should not vote. People who don’t care should not vote. People who have to be told to vote, shouldn’t vote.

Don’t vote if you don’t know who or what you’re voting for.

The Enemy of the People

August 21, 2018

Apparently, it’s OK for the media to attack President Trump, but not for President Trump to attack the media.

That’s the conclusion easily drawn from the recent editorial snit by The Boston Globe, which in a journalistic “Kumbaya” convinced 400 newspapers to join in a gang shellacking of President Trump for accusing the media of being “the enemy of the people.” It is Trump who is the true enemy of the people, if we’re to believe what they published.

The Globe’s editorial — pompous, self-serving and pretentious — calls President Trump a liar and a charlatan, implies that he’s a tax cheat and notes that his “suspicious pattern of behavior” triggered an investigation by an independent counsel … who, by the way, has turned up virtually nothing despite an investigation that’s lasted more than 15 months.

It even seeks to compare President Trump with “21st-century authoritarians like Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.” Authoritarians seek government control over their citizens. President Trump has been overturning the record number of new regulations created by the Obama administration. So how is he authoritarian?

President Trump is often rightly criticized for acting unpresidential. His tweets are frequently inaccurate, vulgar and bullying. But it’s hypocritical for The Globe and other American media to attack the president relentlessly and then to criticize his “relentless attack” on the media. When The Globe accuses the president of “stoking domestic division for political and personal gain,” isn’t The Globe doing the same thing?

Under President Trump, the economy is growing at 3% again, the unemployment rate is so low there are more job openings than there are people applying for jobs, ISIS is on the run and Americans being held captive by rogue regimes are being released.

And yet more than 90% of media coverage of the president is negative.

State-Run Media

Early on, The Globe suggests that, “Replacing a free media with a state-run media has always been a first order of business for any corrupt regime taking over a country.” It’s an odd point to make, given that President Trump has never suggested that the media should be run by the government.

Conversely, consider the liberal outcry that takes place anytime anyone suggests eliminating federal funding of National Public Radio. Or look to New Jersey, where the liberal Free Press Action Fund sought $100 million from the legislature to keep the state’s media afloat. It received $5 million, in spite of the state’s fiscal problems.

The Globe editorial expresses shock that two recent polls show, respectively, that 48% and 51% of Republicans believe the news media is “the enemy of the American people.” Does The Globe think that’s Donald Trump’s fault?

You would think that the results from these polls and other growing evidence of media bias would cause a bit of self-reflection. Whatever your political beliefs, we would all be better served if media were publishing news that is fair, balanced and objective. And yet the daily onslaught of negative news about Trump tweets, Russian interference with our election, his relationship with Stormy Daniels and just about everything else continues.

The media is not “the enemy of the people,” but neither is President Trump.

Abused Word of the Day: They

February 16, 2018

One person cannot be a “they.” A business or an organization cannot be a “they.” Yet they are regularly expanding the use of “they.”

We’ve all become squeamish about the pronoun “he,” but substituting “they” when you’re writing about one person is absurd. It beats he/she, but it’s best to make the subject plural whenever possible, so that “they” can be used.

He is not a “they,” she is not a “they” and your company or the organization you work for is not a “they.” It’s not even a person. It’s an “it.” Don’t write, “Banana Corporation announced that they are introducing a new version of the popular y-phone.” Write, “Banana Corporation announced that it is introducing a new version of the popular y-phone.”

There’s also “they say,” in which “they” is never defined. When someone says, “They say that salt is bad for you,” that person lacks credibility, because it’s not clear who “they” is. You know what they say: only use “they” when referring to more than one person and be sure to identify who they are first.

Abused Word of the Day: Fascist

February 12, 2018

Today, those who call others “fascists” often have more in common with fascists than the people they’re criticizing.

The word “fascist” comes from the Italian word “fascio,” meaning “group” or “bundle,” because under fascism, the emphasis is on the group with few individual rights. A fascist believes in a strong central government and has no tolerance for opposing opinions.

That sounds a lot like Antifa, the antifascist organization.

You may dislike President Trump, but that doesn’t make him a fascist. In fact, President Obama came closer to being a fascist, as he greatly expanded the role of government and set a record for adding new regulations, frequently without seeking Congressional approval.

When President Obama took office, the U.S. ranked fifth on the Index for Economic Freedom. After eight years of increasing government control through the most excessive regulation in the country’s history, the U.S. ranked 17th. In contrast, President Trump has been deregulating.

Fascism typically evolves from socialism or communism. As Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich A. Hayek wrote, “Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion.” Nazism, likewise, evolved from socialism. Hayek’s book, The Road to Serfdom, was written as a warning to the United States and the United Kingdom, which were becoming increasingly socialistic.

Keep that in mind the next time you think about calling someone who disagrees with you a fascist.

Abused Words of the Day: Touch Base.

February 5, 2018

I’m not sure where the “base” is, but I’m guessing it’s somewhere near the box that everyone is thinking outside of.

Depending on whose base you’re touching, and where that base is located, you can get in trouble for touching base in today’s workplace. Trying calling or emailing instead.

To “touch base” is to “talk to someone for a short time to find out how they are or what they think about something,” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. We’re not sure at what point “short time” becomes “long time” and touching base becomes something else entirely.

This overused construction was recently named the most loathed example of “management-speak” in a British survey of 2,000 people. Apparently, “It is what it is” hasn’t hit Great Britain yet.

Cliché of the Day: Push the Envelope

February 1, 2018

Why would anyone push an envelope? What has the envelope ever done to you? Why not pull the envelope and push your weight? 

“Push the envelope is yet another cliché promoting violence, although it’s not as aggressive as throwing someone under the bus.

You may be surprised to learn that the “envelope” in this case isn’t made of paper. According to The Phrase Finder, “The envelope here isn’t the container for letters, but the mathematical envelope, which is defined as ‘the locus of the ultimate intersections of consecutive curves’. In a two-dimensional example, the set of lines described by the various positions of a ladder sliding down a wall forms an envelope - in this case an arc, gently curving away from the intersection of the wall and floor. Inside that envelope you will be hit by the ladder; outside you won’t.” 

Does that clear things up for you? Me neither. Math was my best subject growing up, but that was a long time ago. 

Envelopes, whether they’re containers for letters or loci of ultimate intersections of consecutive curves, should not be pushed without just cause. 

Abused Word of the Day: Literally

January 29, 2018

When Merriam-Webster gave “literally” two seemingly opposite definitions, its writers noted that some readers were not happy about it. The definitions:

1) in a literal sense or manner: actually
2) in effect: virtually

This led readers to leave comments such as, “This is literally the stupidest thing I've ever read. 

Most often, the first definition is the desired one. And, most often, the word is literally unnecessary. It’s typically used for emphasis, as in, “I’m literally down to my last dollar.” In this case, as in most others, the sentence is stronger without it: “I’m down to my last dollar.”

You can extract the word from your vocabulary and never notice that it’s missing. But you may find that it is occasionally handy. 

Last week, I had to explain to a friend that he literally couldn’t buy a house on the water.

 

Cliché of the Day: Give 110%.

January 25, 2017

Sure, it’s important to try your hardest, but it’s impossible to give 110%. It’s even impossible to give 100%, unless you give up breathing, eating and other important functions that have nothing to do with your job.

If your boss asks you to give 110%, ask for 110% of your salary in your next paycheck. Giving 110% doesn’t add up. 

Abused Words of the Day: Social Justice

January 23, 2018

“Social justice” isn’t a group of people sharing family photos in a courtroom. It has nothing to do with social media. This lofty sounding term is being used ad nauseum by academicians, activists (another abused term) and even some business people in the name of income equality and fairness.

“Social justice warriors” seek to “effect social change,” with the implication that we’d all be better off if we just did what the social justice warriors want us to do. Fair treatment of everyone would be nice, but one person’s idea of social justice is often another person’s idea of anti-social justice.

Parents are paying tens of thousands of dollars to send their kids to college to learn about social justice,. Where’s the justice in that?

If it’s really all about fairness, the word “justice” will suffice.