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.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Front.little Ball
    Fayette's Demetrious Whiteside (left)Skylar Lester attempt to keep the ball from going out of bounds during Morenci's recent basketball tournament for fourth and fifth grade teams. Morenci's Andrew Schmidt stands by.
  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • 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.

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