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It had been a while since anyone spoke the phrase to me, so I began to think that it had disappeared from contemporary conversation. I was looking for something at the grocery store and asked a nearby clerk for help, which he gladly offered. When I thanked him he said: “No problem.” I resisted the urge to say, “I KNOW it’s no problem, it’s your JOB!” It got me to thinking of all the other phrases I hear throughout the day that annoy me.
If I never hear another “I heart...” something, I will not feel deprived. Why is it the heart? Why not create a new phrase using some other vital organ. Why not say, “I spleen something,” or, “I pancreas another thing?” There are so many other choices besides the heart. “I kidney something,” or “I liver something.”
Often journalists, when telling of a missing person, will say someone, “has gone missing,”like you’d say someone has gone shopping or gone fishing. It’s as if “missing” is a location, a place where all persons “go” in order to be “missing.” If they’ve all gone missing, all we have to do is discover where this mysterious “missing” place is and we’ll find all those persons who have gone there.
And I don’t know what my eventual cause of death will be, but I hope it won’t be caused by a fresh-baked muffin that’s been described as, “…to die for.” In fact in all the years the phrase has been around, I’ve never heard it - even once - refer to something that was close to being worth dying for. Have you?
For a while we had to endure a flurry of phrases like: “Forty is the new sixty, or fifty is the new twenty or eighty.” It doesn’t make any difference what numbers you use because no one knows what they mean anyway, despite the nodding in agreement you’ll always see.
Are we all agreed that “iconic” should go back to being very old religious paintings? If everything is called “iconic,” what’s the point?
The word “millennial” arrived from out of nowhere and shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon. It refers, of course, the crop of kids born in and around the new millennium. We now have articles on educating millenials, employing millennials, marketing to millennials and just enduring the overuse of the word millennial.
Depending on what Congress is or isn’t doing, we may, once again, hear more than we want to hear about a “fiscal cliff.” After hearing about it enough times you might want to jump off a cliché cliff. I hope you don’t.
I think the world could use a break from all the things associated with “hashtags.” I admit that I may suffer more in this area because I’ve never twittered, tweeted, or texted and have no intention of starting any time soon. The furthest I go in the world of social media is email. Hey, it’s a start.
But the modern phrase that galls me the most is: “Your call is important to us …” My call or your call is so important to the company or institution that uses them, they pass it off to a dumb mechanical recording device that demonstrates quite forcefully that you don’t even rate a living breathing fellow human being’s precious time.
And do I really have to explain why the phrase “thinking outside the box” should be retired?
OK, no problem.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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