How many different ways can people say nothing?
Last month I posted “5 useless political phrases” in which I talked about some favourite empty phrases used by the political right, especially in the US. Today I’m listing five more empty phrases.
This lot is a mixed bag used by all sorts of folks, including commentators, politicians and journalists, among others. Whoever uses them, the phrases have one thing in common: They’re all empty and useless.
So here’s today’s list of empty phrases, this time ranked from my current most-disliked to the one that bothers me the least:
1. “On our watch/on my watch”. The phrase implies both responsibility and authority—power to control. Excuse me, but who appointed you watchers-in-chief? I’m thinking especially of the right-wing nutjobs who are the self-appointed arbiters of all that’s moral and in accordance with the US Constitution, but any use is stupid and beyond clichéd.
2. “Boots on the Ground”. You mean “there,” moron—simple words work better than clichés—try them! This phrase became a staple of journalism at the start of the Bush/Cheney wars and is now used extensively. Personally, I’d like to lift that boot off the ground and deposit it on the backside of anyone using this annoyingly empty phrase.
3. “Many people say…” Oh yeah? Prove it! This phrase (or similar variants) is merely a vague version of the fallacious argument known technically as argumentum ad populum, false arguments in which the speaker tries to suggest that an assertion the speaker is making is true and valid because “many people” believe it to be so. The problem is that there’s no supporting or corroborating evidence presented, so the listener/reader has no way of evaluating if, in fact, “many people” are saying anything like what’s being asserted. The problem with the underlying argument is that even if it were true about what the majority (or simply “many people”) think, it would boil down to “might makes right”.
4. “Remains to be seen,” as in, “Whether this happens or not remains to be seen.” Well, duh! Is there any more self-evident phrase used by journalists, TV journalists in particular? This one has long been on my list of empty phrases because like a weed, it just can’t be killed off.
5. “At the end of the day.” This phrase allegedly originated in New Zealand in rugby commentary (as in the semi-joking, “at the end of the day, it was a game of two halves and rugby was the winner”). I don’t actually dislike this phrase (or like it, either…), but it is empty. Mostly, I wanted to re-assert the alleged etymology of the phrase because, at the end of the day, New Zealand can always use a little world recognition.
So that’s my latest list of useless phrases. I wonder if I should list useless politicians? Nah, it’d be impossible to limit it to only five.