Barry Eisler

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More Verbal Tics

They're back... the phrases that make me crazy!

Verbal and oral are not the same. Verbal means words; oral means the mouth. I guess oral carries certain, uh, baggage that makes people hesitate to say it in polite company. And so, striking a blow, if you will, for linguistic accuracy everywhere, I declare, "Oral! Oral! Oral!"

Disinterested and Uninterested are cousins, not identical twins. Disinterested means you don't have a stake; uninterested means you don't care.

What's a "Think Piece?" Isn't it a given that an article is predicated on thought? So we're really talking about just... an opinion piece. And what's wrong with a nice opinion? This one, BTW, reminds me of Bush's futile and misplaced attempt to bring into vogue the term "homicide bomber" instead of "suicide bomber." When someone plants a bomb, we can assume homicide was the objective. The bomber taking his own life in the process is a distinguishing characteristic (although, sadly, increasingly less so).

Can we just say orient instead of orientate?

For God's sake, don't say "monies!" The only way to sound more incompetently self-important is to talk about "persons" instead of "people."

I like that prisons are disappearing in favor of correctional facilities (domestic) and detention centers (abroad). No one is being imprisoned, thank you very much; just detained and corrected. And how bad can that be?

What's a muscular foreign policy? The phrase seems to have the wrong focus: "muscular" is about appearances, not results. What's wrong with "strong," which describes capabilities? Or "aggressive," which describes a behavior or attitude? What's next, enhancing foreign policy with steroids?

Ikea says "temporarily oversold" instead of "sold out." How can you oversell something? Is it like overbooking a plane? Next someone will be selling "pre-owned" cars... oh, wait, they already are.

And now, from the Department of Redundancy Department...

hoary old (hoary new?)

past experience (future experience? This one even finds its way into the Economist!)

targeted assassination (random assassination?)

overhype (for when hyping it just isn't enough...)

refer back/ahead (refer is sufficient)

past history (future history?)

Why do presidents feel compelled to have "doctrines?" It seems to me that "doctrine" is just a self-important way of saying "obvious policy that anyone could have figured out." Alternatively, it can mean "Divisive and bad idea for which I'm trying to develop unstoppable momentum by attaching to it the big D word. Don't argue -- if it was good enough for Monroe, it's good enough for me."

(Don't forget, Brezhnev was reputed to have a doctrine, too. It was, "What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine.")

Why is it that newspapers call people fighting the Sudanese government "rebels," while people fighting the Iraqi government are labeled "insurgents"?

Can you flagellate someone else, or can you really only self-flagellate?

I always find it odd when someone feels compelled to declare himself not just married, but "happily married" (or worse, "very happily married"). Was there any doubt? Is he worried we might think otherwise? Could he be... protesting too much? I'd like to do a study on divorce rates of people who describe themselves this way. I'll bet it's higher than the norm.

In May, the Government Accountability Office released a report on America's public diplomacy efforts around the Islamic world. The report is titled, "State Department Efforts Lack Certain Communications Elements and Face Significant Challenges."

Now there's an example of clear communication, right there in the title. I wouldn't want the report to be called, "State Department Efforts to Woo the Muslim World Ineffective." Maybe the State Department has been taking its communications cues from the GAO?

Let's end on a happy note. Thomas Pfeffer of the American Heart Association in Los Angeles, says, "Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in swimming pool."

Hard to argue with that.
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Blogger Schaz said...

Pre-planning - because we really have to differentiate it from post-planning??

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 6:31:00 PM  
Blogger ZenPupDog said...

Didn't we all enjoy pretexting? Folks can't simply say lie or the ''older''social engineering?

What's amusing is that Kevin is claiming to have done the same exploits of another 'Valley of Death' lad I know. Someone older and wiser too. It's very odd. Heh.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger spy scribbler said...

ROFL! That was so funny, I had to google the first Verbal Tic post. The smoking/peeing section analogy cracked me up the most.

I only disagree with verbing a noun. Watching the invention of new words and the way people use (and change) the language is fascinating to me. A good made-up word gives me days full of smiles.

I do have one pet peeve that irritates me like fingernails on a chalkboard: starting a sentece with 'for.' For it sounds pretentious and archaic, and it jars me out of the story. *shudder*

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger John D. said...

One of my pet peeves comes to us from the Department of Redundancy Department: "self-confessed." Many in the news media loves this phrase. Can someone else confess on your behalf? Of course not. Just "confessed" will be sufficient, thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger James said...

"Architected" and "Organizational Chart" are a couple of my personal bugbears.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger cwellins said...

My all time favorite verbal atrocity is "Holy War".

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 4:08:00 PM  
Blogger PBI said...


As a big fan of language, I really enjoyed this piece! Two things, however, caught my attention:

Past experience (future experience? This one even finds its way into the Economist!)
What about current experience? It seems like that might be a valid qualifier requiring a differentiator like "past."

Can you flagellate someone else, or can you really only self-flagellate?
You can, in fact, flagellate someone else. (Not that I know from personal experience - past, or current!) "Flagellate" in it's purest form simply means "to whip;" it is not universally synonymous with administering punishment to one's self. (See here.)

Yours in proper word usage,
Sensen No Sen

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 5:46:00 PM  
Blogger David Terrenoire said...

Utilize makes me crazy. Actually, most -ize words make me crazy.

And don't get me started on Death Tax or Pro-Abortion.

Thursday, October 05, 2006 6:35:00 AM  
Blogger FriendlyQuark said...

What's been bothering me lately has been the terrible spelling and grammer that I see online. I am not the best speller myself, but even I know that its "Shudder", not "Shutter", how to use "There", "Their", and "They're" correctly and other such seemingly commonplace words. Even reading articles online, from supposedly reputable papers, I see these basic errors being repeated again and again. It makes me wonder if anyone can write anymore. Present company excluded, of course.

Sunday, October 08, 2006 9:46:00 AM  
Anonymous db said...

At work we have been "on-boarding resources" what ever happened to hiring people. These are people, right? I am pretty sure that we are hiring them. I guess it eases the guilt when we ... out-board, off-board, water-board these people instead of firing them. Makes me want to scream.

(Oh, and you only say "happly married" when you think it might get back to your wife.)

Monday, October 09, 2006 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Trish said...

"always find it odd when someone feels compelled to declare himself not just married, but "happily married" (or worse, "very happily married"). Was there any doubt? Is he worried we might think otherwise?"

Very funny. I'm afraid to say more. I don't want to commit a verbal tic.

Friday, October 13, 2006 1:21:00 PM  
Blogger jhjulian said...

I am not-quite-but-almost-nearly-disabled to submit an objective, or should I say, "disinterested," comment. Feel free...oo! Sounds naughty! parse and destroy this post. Temporal parameters prevent plethoric rhetorical ramblings. (ouch!)

However, although, also, I took great pleasure....oo! sounds naughty again!... from it.

Elipsese are often a sign of pseudo-erudity, but usually mean "I have painted myself into a prosaic corner from which I cannot extract myself."

I just like dots... and pizza.


Bad = poli...

Good =

Yes, redundancy is necessarily repetitive.

Chronolimit in "3,2,1..."



Wednesday, December 23, 2009 8:28:00 AM  

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