Monthly Archives: November 2011

Trying too damn hard (to annoy us)

sweeneytodd2

A reader (who also happens to be an English teacher) writes:

Is there any reason… for people to use the word “egress,” other than to prove that they CAN? What other words automatically brand a speaker or writer as trying too damned hard?

Reader Teacher has hit upon the unfortunate genesis of so many lexicides. Call it compensation, pretense or evasion, in the end it just comes down to “trying too damn hard.” So to answer the question, here are my (least) favorite “trying too damn hard” words and phrases:

Vis-à-vis — Use “regarding,” or better yet, restructure your sentence. (“We need to analyze our conversion rates” reads better than “We need to analyze reporting vis-à-vis conversion rates.”)

Strategize — Just plan instead.

At a high rate of speed — You mean “fast?”

At the present time — Now.

On a daily basis — First, second, and fourth words: completely superfluous.

Superfluous — Okay, okay…

Obligate — Oblige! Oblige!

Time horizon — Wasn’t this a straight-to-VHS sci-fi movie?

One of several attorneys general — Okay, we get it. You know the proper plural for attorney general, even though you’re just referring to a single one. We’re happy you understand the Norman origins of the term. Now go away.

Grand Guignol — Critics like to throw this term around to “elevate” spatter films to high art. The only problem is The Grand Guignol did not traffic in high art. It offered — well, splatter shows in the Pigalle neighborhood of Paris (the same area that hosts the Moulin Rouge, if that gives you some idea of the competition). But what the heck — it’s French!

In contradistinction to — I confess, this is my big “trying too damn hard” habit. I don’t know where I picked it up. I may have watched one too many BBC costume dramas.

Any foreign spelling or pronunciation — No American is allowed to write colour, kerb or tyre (unless you’re writing for a Commonwealth audience). No American is allowed to pronounce garage, advertisement or valet the English way, either (and besides, the American way is closer to the French origin, if you must be snooty). If you live in California, you will not pull into a car park when your gear box gives out on the motorway. Ever. (Same applies to Commonwealth blokes, but in reverse.)

Any others?

Otto E. Mezzo