2011.11.16 Cliches are so 24/7/365

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Is it because I live in a a sleepy little town where goalposts aren’t moved, envelopes aren’t pushed and boxes aren’t thought outside of that I’ve never before heard the trite phrase “diamond geezer”?

Perhaps I’m not touching base often enough. Basically, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never heard that phrase before. Absolutely. Not.

I’m just surprised that it could appear on a list of Most Annoying Clichés and yet I’ve never been annoyed by it. With all due respect, it’s more mystery than overused. I can’t even find a good definition. 

Bear with me, but I can’t come up with a bottom line or even a ballpark figure. It boggles the mind. The fact of the matter is, there are obviously not enough people singing from the same hymnbook. At the end of the day, even a 24/7 search might not address this issue.

That takes care of at least half of the “most-annoying” list offered by the Plain English Campaign. It’s an old list from 2004 and surely there are many more annoyances that have arrived in the past seven years.

According to the “Mind your language” blog in the British newspaper, The Guardian, Google can help track down clichés through the Timeline search feature. It’s not rocket science, the author  David Marsh says. 

That was true last March when the article was written, but Google removed Timeline a few days ago. Now it’s suggested to try the Google Ngram Viewer which, to me, does suggest a bit of rocket science.

Marsh once wrote about the Oxford Comma which I believe was a punk band from the late 1980s. The Oxford comma is also the last one in this list: “He ate an apple, a banana, and five grapes.” 

The Oxford University Press writing guide suggested that, as a general rule, the Oxford comma should not be used. Marsh said the reaction to this led him to believe that the entire population of America was up in arms about that statement. “Are you people insane?,” one person wrote. “The Oxford comma is what separates us from the animals.”

The Observer does what Marsh suggests: Use common sense. Actually, my rule is to help the reader. We would list an apple, a banana and five grapes, but there are times when the extra comma is needed to help the reader understand what was written.

Another of Marsh’s columns discusses complaints that too many Americanisms are working their way into British writing. Lickety split, pony up, duke it out, dweeb, schlep, kindergarten, upcoming. As George Bernard Shaw said, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”

I know I’m old-fashioned in my admiration for the hyphen and I’m disappointed in the Associated Press for officially changing e-mail to email. Email doesn’t look right, doesn’t make sense in my head. How about eMail?

All of this evolved from reading a David March column about brackets, as in [brackets]. Apparently, brackets are getting overused at The Guardian.

A reader wrote: “I am bemused by the [apparent increase in the] use of [square] brackets in [your] features and articles. Is there a reason [or a name] for this [phenomenon]? It seems to be [most] prevalent in your use of [reported] speech.”

Another wrote: “I agree [with the letter about square brackets].”

Have you wondered about the two square bracket keys on your keypad? They’re used to insert some important information into a quote, something the speaker didn’t actually say.

They make their way into Observer sports stories occasionally, like when a coach talks about an athlete but only uses the last name. When the quote is written, the first name is added. “I thought [Jacob] McVay played his best game of the season.”

Either you agree that it’s important information or you say, “Of course everyone reading the story knows who McVay is without bracketing in his first name.”

It’s just one of those odd things writers think about. I say: Give every key on the pad it’s due now and then.

Now that all is said and done, it’s time to move on. Going forward, if you know what I mean.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016