Pet Peeves: “Weasel Words” And Such As That

        We thinking and rational (for the most part) members of “homo sapiens” [nice Latin phrase, what?] who are fluent speakers and writers of the English language will at times become seriously aggrieved by usages that curdle our whey and toss us off our tuffets.

       Many “Yankee” immigrants to the South frequently make a big mistake in cultural acceptance by identifying unusual usages and complaining about them.  To that sort of criticism some might, like the waitress Flo in a TV sitcom a number of years, say,  “Well, kiss my grits!”

        I mostly enjoy the flavor and the sounds of dialect variations. However, there are a few misused and overused phrases that irritate me every time I see or hear them in mass advertising or elsewhere:

        (1)  In real estate ads a house out somewhere in the boondocks is excitedly described as “just minutes away” [from bigger and better things, no doubt].  Well, some news here: “minutes” can mean two or it can mean twenty or it can mean one hundred and twenty.

     (2)  The newspaper reporter writes, sympathetically, that the couple he is featuring in an interview is “living on a fixed income.”  Well, some more news here:  a “fixed income” can mean 200 bucks a week but it can also refer to $10,000 bucks a week.

     (3)  Why do the weather reports, in the newspaper or elsewhere, refer to precipitation measurements in relationship to what is judged to be “normal” when “average” is much more accurate?  If the “normal” is estimated to be ten inches during the month of June in that clime and those ten inches all fall in a three-hour period, I would see nothing “normal” in that situation.  Would you?

     (4) Back to the real estate ad business:  how many times have you seen an ad tout a house as having “a unique floor plan”?  Well, what good is that if the main hallway is four feet wide and forty feet long? That is certainly “unique” but quite certainly not likely to be desirable.

     (5)  Here’s another overused and abused “weasel” phrase in sales ads:  a product is described as being offered at “a fraction of its original cost.”  Another revelation here:  “fraction” can refer to one-tenth, but it also can refer to something like 99/100. Definitely an illustration of somebody’s trying to sell the sizzle but not the steak.

     (6) A final quibble:  as the BCS selections and the conference championships get closer in the NCAA football season (this also applies to any other sport), the commentators and the gurus are prone to say this about any and sometimes it seems every team that comes up for discussion:  “They control their own destiny.”  What I would like to know is, who else could do so?  The officials? The fans? The media, maybe?  To end with another trite and overused expression,  “Give me a break!”  And let me find Andy Rooney. . . .



One Response to “Pet Peeves: “Weasel Words” And Such As That”

  1. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    The one I like is: “You (She, He) look(s) amazing!”

    One only has to remember the great Casey Stengel’s description of the ’62 Mets to understand that “amazing” ain’t necessarily “good”.

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