One of the great joys of having a regular newspaper column is that I can vent about trivial things that previously only my wife and sons had the opportunity to enjoy. So this month, to kick off the new year, I thought I would share some of my favourite peeves, most of which are language related. Prepare to nod your head in agreement.
• First, would the news media please stop using the term "rushed to hospital"? This is included in virtually every TV news story about an accident. Of course he was rushed to hospital. Isn't that what ambulances do? Wouldn't it be weird to hear: "The victim was taken to hospital in a leisurely manner, as the paramedics stopped at Tim's for a coffee, before he later died."
• Would the news media stop using the term "graffiti artist"? Some drug-addled loser with delusions of artistry defacing private property with a childish scrawl is not an artist. And let's stop calling them "taggers", which is the preferred term of this loser subculture. Can we just call them what they are – vandals?
• Can we stop writing stories about "outrage on social media" in reference to some instantly forgettable social media scandal? First, who cares what the reaction is on (anti) social media? Why do we obsess over the opinions of social media trolls whose entire reason for being is to express "outrage" over something that in no way directly or indirectly impacts upon their lives. And how many comments constitutes 'outrage'? It is twenty? Fifty? A thousand?
• Again with the news media, can we put a blanket ban on using written statements in lieu of actual interviews? Politicians and PR types today refuse to answer questions from the media, opting instead to issue perfectly crafted statements that, more often than not, say nothing. The news media should tell the politicians and civil servants who hide behind this dodge that they will not use written statements.
• Can we bury the use of the phrase "Thank you so much"? Are there now degrees of thanks? If you don't add 'so much' to your thank you, does that make your appreciation less sincere? And while we're at it, please stop saying "no worries", instead of "you're welcome". Of course there are no worries.
• It is also time to reign in the use of the words "iconic", or "icon". Icon or iconic indicates something of lasting greatness, something that is immediately identifiable as being great. Bob Dylan is an icon; Justin Bieber is not. Frank Sinatra is an icon; Michael Buble is not. The Eiffel Tower is iconic; a 50-year-old building in your neighbourhood is not.
• Can we please bury the phrase 'thoughts and prayers'? This is a term politicians use to commiserate after a tragedy (in the U.S., that generally means a gun massacre). Seriously, are they really praying? Besides, what is the point of praying after a tragedy. And what exactly are the thoughts? I would like to offer a substitute – deeply saddened.
• Can we stop using the term 'broke his/her silence'? If someone doesn't comment for a day, then speaks, how is that 'breaking their silence'? The term confers a fake level of seriousness.
• Can book publishers but a ban on book titles with obscenities in the title? A trip to what used to be the Chapters bookstore (now more of a woman's gift shop than a bookstore) reveals dozens of book titles with 'F***ed' or 'Sh**' in the title.
• Please stop using the redundant term 'new record'; simply 'record' is good enough. You can't set an old record.
• Do not use the phrase 'could care less'. The correct term is 'couldn't care less'. Could care less means that there is something that you could care less about. Defeats the purpose of saying how much you hate something, doesn't it?
• I heard a sports commentator on the radio say the team had a "puncher's chance". The correct term is "punter's chance", an old reference to a gambler. Look it up if you don't believe me.
• And finally, my most obscure language gripe. I admit that I may be the only person in the world who is bothered by the term 'black licorice'. Licorice is a plant that produces a very distinctive flavour. It is always black. 'Red licorice' contains no licorice at all, and if you look at a package of red Twizzlers you will not see the word licorice. It's just strawberry flavoured twisty candy.
There. Now I feel better. I hope I haven't ruined your day by bringing up stuff that you've never noticed before.