Thursday, April 08, 2004

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (4/08/04)


Here's a concise dictionary of clichés--words and phrases used or misused by politicians, bureaucrats, managers and marketers. We can all do without them:

ASAP--especially grating when voiced as AY-SAP, this one should have been retired a long time ago.

at this point in time. Unnecessarily wordy. What's wrong with saying “now”?

to author, when used as a verb, "He authored three books in a single year." An abomination. I wouldn't allow anyone to say, "He poeted three poems,"--unless they added, "and I readered all three."

blue-sky thinking--what we're getting in the rosy orchestrated news releases from Baghdad. Over here, flag-draped coffins continue to pour into Delaware's Dover Air Force Base surreptitiously each night.

brutal homicide. Is there any other kind?

core competence

"Don't go there." (a spoken warning not to discuss a topic)

educated guess--still just as conjectural as the equally overused "guesstimate."

for the foreseeable future

"Have a good one!" A good what?

human resources. Isn't this what the Nazis called their slave laborers in concentration camps?

"I could care less"--people say this but they mean the other cliché, "I couldn't care less."

"I have too much on my plate already."

in this day and age

"Let's do lunch"--a favorite on Madison Avenue. It has now invaded the home and morphed into "Let's do Chinese tonight."

literally--as in, "It's literally raining cats and dogs outside." This I'd want to see.

lost a battle with cancer. Why is cancer the only fatal disease we lose a battle with?

"May the Force be with you!" It's hard to believe that this tired old warhorse is still around.

nuclear--when mispronounced as NEW-CUE-LER by those in high places.

paradigm shift

past history. What other kind is there?

quantum jump. In energy physics, a quantum jump is very rapid but small. The term is often misused to denote a major, sudden or very large change.

quite a few defies the rules of logic by using few (not many) to express the idea of a lot.

"Take care!"--often used to conclude a telephone conversation.

thinking outside the box

24/7--a neologism that should have been smothered in its crib.

"We're not on the same page."

when the chips are down

Did you know that the first newspaper in Westchester was William Durrell's Mt. Pleasant Register, which began publishing in 1797 in what today is Ossining? The hamlet was then called Mt. Pleasant. It remained Mt. Pleasant until 1813, when it became Sing Sing, with the distinction of being the first village in Westchester County to incorporate. The name came from the Sint Sink Indians, who had lived in the area. In 1901, Sing Sing became Ossining, the name of the town outside the village since 1845. In part this was to disassociate the village from the state prison of the same name. The state unintentionally thwarted this by later changing the prison's name to Ossining Correctional Facility! It is now the Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

You can win bets with this one: Challenge someone to identify "The Oblong." Chances are they won't know the answer. In colonial America, the border between Connecticut and New York was recognized as a line parallel to and 20 miles east of the Hudson. In 1731, New York acknowledged Connecticut's claim to settlements like Greenwich and Stamford that were in New York. In return, Connecticut gave up a strip of land almost two miles wide along its western border. The 1731 agreement did not become effective until 1881. The present border between the towns of Pound Ridge and Lewisboro marks the former Connecticut border.

From the sayings of my father: "The spectators always see more of the game than the players." Think about it.

Ever wonder why there's a town of North Salem but no town named South Salem in Westchester? When the county was organized into 20 towns in 1788, the eastern part of the original Cortlandt Manor became the towns of Upper Salem and Lower Salem. In 1806, Lower Salem became South Salem--but only until 1840. In that year, John Lewis offered to give South Salem's schools $10,000 if the town would change its name to Lewisborough. Later the name was shortened to Lewisboro.

The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined many memorable phrases. None was so apt as an observation he made about the Irish psyche. During a TV interview at the time of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, he mused, "I don't think there's any point in being Irish, if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually." Not so often quoted is the rest of his comment: "I guess we thought we had a little more time." Then he added softly, "So did he."


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