Writer’s Block: Thoughts From “Outside the Box”

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By Corinne Wnek

Last week, researchers at Oxford University in merry old England released their updated list of the newest overused and most irritating expressions in use today. This sounds like a fun job and I just might send them my resume. Anyway, making the top ten in the listing are “no brainer”, “moving forward” and “with all due respect”. I’m guilty of using this one a lot, especially when I have to disagree with disagreeable people. But I would like to add three more contenders to Oxford for consideration.

I cringe every time somebody tells me to “have a nice day”, especially when it’s eight o’clock in the evening. For quite a while now ‘have a nice day’ has become the ‘see ya’ or ‘thanks for shopping here’ or even the simple ‘goodbye’ as the standard phrase of departure after trying to end an encounter with someone as fast as possible. Why can’t we say what we really mean? It’s time for ‘have a nice day’ to go!

[smartads]

Another meaningless expression that I am losing patience with is “How are YOU doing today?” as if the person asking the question is really anxious to know. And if they are, they better be my therapist, my doctor or my mother. But let’s see now, how AM I doing today?

Well, the alarm didn’t go off this morning, gas is higher than ever and who knows what’s for dinner tonight. I have a meeting to go to this evening for which, instead, I would rather have a wisdom tooth extracted and my allergies are out of control. There. That’s how I’m doing. Thanks for asking.

Then there’s the classically short “hey” expression that made its way into the English language, started by self-absorbed people who were afraid that anything longer might be construed as meaning they cared. This is right to the point. It says “I acknowledge your presence but don’t want to get involved in a long-winded conversation with you.” But don’t worry. These people will never ask “How are YOU doing?”

Modern life is hectic and shortcuts in almost everything we do are the order of the day. But the proper use of language has gone the way of spats and the corset. Now, call me old-fashioned but I think that what we say to people and how we say it still matters today. We have to accept that when we say ‘the world’ is becoming cold and impersonal, what we really mean is that we are becoming cold and impersonal to each other.

We need to stop using trite and meaningless expressions, like Patrick Swayze in the movie “Ghost”, who always answered Demi Moore’s “I love you” with “Ditto”. But I’m sure there are cynics out there who will say that hoping for more meaningful relationships with each through the improved use of our language is, well, like ‘rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.’


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