Wanderings – Cringeworthy words and phrases

Everyone has certain words or phrases that will trigger a cringeworthy response when heard or read. Something that when you hear that word spoken, it personifies a nails-on-chalkboard response. Your spine tenses and blood pressure doubles at the mere thought of hearing it spoken. And when that word or phrase is used, over and over again, it feels like you cannot escape it. It is everywhere. It is the moment when you hate the English language and wish everyone had a pocket thesaurus glued to their left hand.

There are three words currently that initiate this response in me. And I will admit my tolerance is more heightened because of the current global situation.

The phrase ‘moving forward’ and its cousin ‘going forward’ is near the top of my hit list. It is usually used as a pivot in a conversation such as: “Moving forward we want to take this team in a new direction.”

‘Moving forward’ is forcing a person to think you are trying to progress when it is a way to obfuscate what you are saying. It is a cover up phrase that is deployed when someone steps in something bad, and now has to extricate themselves from the situation. Cringeworthy and overused.

The word ‘investing’ is a misused word by government types. Now I am not actually against investing as an act of personal finance although as I am currently on the “Freedom 95” retirement plan so I cannot profess to being good at it. The ‘investing’ that makes my blood pressure boil is the near-daily drone of government announcements about ‘investing’.

“[Insert government name here] is investing an [insert absurd amount of money here] to build a [insert mega project or boondoggle here].”

Government, who represents you, I, and the other 38 million-ish people in Canada, does not invest money. It spends money. If it was an investment, that money would be put into some sort of an account and only the interest is spent on whatever project it is.

Spending is spending. A spade a spade, even if it is a golden one. If I go out and spend $50,000 on a new car, I cannot get away with saying to my significant other that I invested. I may need to ‘invest’ in a garage to sleep in as well if I tried that.

An investment grows, spending consumes. ‘Investing’ in a highway  project is not going to yield a financial return on your investment. Instead there will be a new bill 20 years from now when that highway needs repair and another ‘investment’ must be made. That is not an investment. Calling spending an ‘investment’ is misdirection in one of its highest forms.

‘Game changer’ is at the top of my hit list. Everything is a ‘game changer’ and we have heard this used more during the global-event-that-shall-remain-unnamed-in-this-column. Rapid testing, ‘game changer’. Health measures, ‘game changer’. New rapid tests because the first ‘game changing’ system did not work, ‘game changer’. Vaccines, ‘game changer’.

Okay, vaccines are a genuine ‘game changer’ but that is the first and only instance of the term that should have been used up to this point.

Calling every tiny step of progress in a crisis a ‘game changer’ diminishes true game changing events. Did the game really get changed when a ‘game changer’ occurred? Again with the global-event-that-shall-remain-nameless, until vaccines started hitting arms, no.

Overusing words and phrases ad nauseam is lazy speak. It is like overplaying the Tragically Hip on the radio, the same five songs, over and over again. Once in a while – like every five years for a Hip song – is okay. A constant barrage is too much.

The English language has over one million words, about one-fifth of those are the more commonly used words. Moving forward, people should invest in a little more time to avoid saying the same thing over and over again. That, to me, would be the real game changer for the language.

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