Word and phrases I despise

April 7, 2022 • 1:45 pm

I believe all of these words or phrases are new, but since I don’t keep track I can’t be positive. At any rate, here are the latest four entries in my list of words and phrases I cannot stand. I offer these, of course, expecting readers to respond with their own linguistic bêtes noires.  I will use examples from the HuffPost when I find them, as that’s the epicenter of despiséd words and phrases.

1.)Perfect storm“.  This comes from a “nor’easter” turned hurricane off New England in 1991; it killed 13 and caused millions of dollars in damage. The Perfect Storm resulted from a concatenation of unusual meteorological conditions, and now is used by chowderheads to mean “a bad situation caused by the co-occurrence of several contributing factors.” It’s perhaps better known as the title of a 2000 movie about the storm.

There are two problems here. The first is that the phrase is shopworn, a cliché that is no longer especially cute or especially evocative. Second, it’s often used just to mean “concatenation”, even of good things, as in this HuffPost article (click all screenshots to read):

When someone uses this phrase, I consider them grammatically lazy. Because it can mean either good or bad stuff, it’s lost its original meaning. And there are simpler and less cutesy phrases that can substitute, like “bad outcome of many causes”  As Orwell said, avoid shopworn phrases.

2.)Deep dive.” Doesn’t this sound erudite and official? Well, guess what, there’s nothing it says that the phrase “close look” or “closer look” doesn’t say as well. Those who use it”deep dive” are grammatical sheep, employing the phrase because everybody else is. Let’s take a “deep dive into empathy,” meaning “discussing empathy in detail”:

Don’t brand yourself a linguistic ovid by emitting this odious phrase.

3.) “Sammie” “or “sammy” for “sandwich”. This is one of those attempts to be cute that fails badly. In fact, used in the singular, you save no syllables by saying “sammie” for “sandwich.” Further, when I hear the word, I think of Jews, often nicknamed “Sammy” if their real name is Samuel. (I had an uncle Sammy.)

Here’s a comestible that’s been doubly debased by that name:

There are many people who don’t like their own names shortened this way. Matthew Cobb goes by “Matthew”, not “Matt” or “Matty”; Richard Dawkins is “Richard,” not “Dick.” We respect their choices. Please respect the tasty sandwich by not calling it a “sammie”! This is one of those words that I may even correct if I hear someone say it. For example, if someone says to me, “Would you like a sammie?”, I may reply politely, feigning ignorance, “Do you mean a sandwich?”

4.) “Firestorm”, meaning “big kerfuffle” or “brouhaha”.  And we’re very close to #1 again, because many of the benighted use “firestorm” in the same way they’d use “perfect storm”.

In fact, a firestorm is what happens when fire and wind meet in a particularly dangerous conflagration. If it’s just a ruckus or kerfuffle or controversy, call it that. Don’t be like this HuffPost slacker, reaching for the nearest metaphor to describe Hillary’s emails:

Again, I’m with Orwell, who opposed stale metaphors, and this one has all the appeal of a week-old slice of Wonder Bread left out on the counter. Best to make up your own metaphors, if possible, and if not, well then avoid trying to be au courant.

Your turn. And get off my lawn!

I have landed, part II

April 5, 2022 • 1:17 pm

I am finally home, with a lot of unpacking to do and affairs to settle. Plus we may have a nesting mallard (probably Dorothy, as Honey hasn’t been seen in two weeks). Putin, her beau, sits in the pond quacking forlornly, which probably means she’s built a nest on a ledge.  So far we have only a single pair of ducks.

But I digress: here are three items I noticed on the short bus trip from downtown to Hyde Park.

A.) Look who’s making a lot of dosh headlining at the famous Chicago Theater! (Note red arrow.) Not only that, but he bills himself as “DR. Jordan Peterson,” despite the fact that he has a Ph.D., not an M.D. (and he shouldn’t be using Dr. in either case). I’m not jealous, as I don’t need dosh or want that kind of fame, but I was vastly amused.  He’s becoming the Deepak Chopra of Generation Z. (I have to say, though, that his advice to stop and pet any cat you encounter is very sound.

B.)  I’ve posted about this grammatical error before, though I think some misguided readers defended its use. It’s on all the Chicago buses.

It’s wrong because you can’t sit there if you have both a disability and are accompanied by a senior.  What it should have said is simply “for seniors or people with disabilities.” In fact, that’s exactly what it says on the similar Chicago subway (“el”) sign, where they clearly employed someone who knew their grammar.

C). For some reason the sign below, which was on the bus right above the seat shown in “B”, offends me. Look at that: “Send referrals and make money.” That is, you get PAID if you send somebody for an HIV test to the University of Chicago Hospital.  Yes, the test may be free, but if you’re diagnosted as positive, somebody, including the hospital, is going to make some money. And the person who sent you gets a bounty!

Notice, too, that two black gay men are depicted in the background, which shows whom this ad is targeting. I didn’t like that, either; why do they need a picture? Lots of people from all walks of life get HIV tests.

In fact, why shouldn’t the hospital offer bounties to those who refer anybody who might have a disease, like diabetes or heart disease? Why just HIV? It’s unseemly, I tell you, these bounties.

Words and phrases I abhor

February 13, 2022 • 2:15 pm

UPDATE: Reader Merilee thought that this collection of grammatical malapropisms might be appropriate for this column:


This is the special Pandemic Edition of WaPIA, as everyone is grouchy and surely we’ll have lots of people who want to share the language that twists their knickers.  I have six—count them, six—bits of argot that irritate me.

Here we go:

1.) “different to” rather than “different from”. Yes, Americans use the latter phrase and other Anglophones the former. But the latter sounds better to me. Perhaps it’s because I was brought up speaking American English, but the notion of something being “different to” something just sounds wrong. “To” sounds like two things are converging; “from” as if two things are diverging. Thus it’s better to use “different from”, emphasizing divergence, than “different to.” The last phrase will always grate on my ears.

 2.) “Nominal” meaning “normal”  This pretentious term should just go away. It has two meanings: one for the whole Anglophonic world, meaning “modest”, as in “nominal returns”, and the other for NASA geeks, who use it to mean “normal”: as in “performance is nominal”. Do space people think they’re so special that they need their own words? Why can’t they say “normal” or “as expected”? This is, of course, the group that also coined “copacetic”, which pretty much means the same thing.

3.) “Any more” versus “anymore”. Let’s get this straight: “any more” refers to quantity and “anymore” to time. You can say “I don’t want any more tequila; I’m already drunk.” And you can say, “You’re no fun anymore, you don’t drink.” “Anymore” as one word means “any longer”.  When you should not use “anymore” is as a synonym for “now”, as in “They don’t serve tequila here anymore.” That’s just heinous!

4.) “Medaled” as a verb in the Olympics. Every two years this comes up, and every two years it’s wrong. “Medal” is a noun; it is not a verb meaning “to get a medal”. Here’s a wrong usage: the video “10 most medalled male athletes at the Summer Olympic Games“.

Now some of you Pecksniffs are going to root around in a dictionary and find that what I see as wrong usages are actually valid. Maybe some wrongheaded dictionary tells you that “medal” can be a verb. You know what? I don’t care!  These phrases irritate me, even if some lexicographer thinks they’re fine.

5) “Funeralized”.  Now this is a new one on me, and I didn’t even try to look it up. It apparently means, “was the object of a funeral service”. When I was preparing tomorrow’s Hili dialogue, I noticed that Gregory Hines, the dancer, died quite young. Going to his Wikipedia page to find out why (yes, we elders do that), I read this (my emphasis):

Hines died of liver cancer on August 9, 2003 en route to the hospital from his home in Los Angeles. He was diagnosed with the disease more than one year earlier, but informed only his closest friends. At the time of his death, production of the television show Little Bill was ending, and he was engaged to female bodybuilder Negrita Jayde, who was based in Toronto.

He was funeralized at St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica, California and buried at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery in Oakville, Ontario.

Is that a word in anybody’s dictionary? And even if it is, it shouldn’t be in there.

6). “Deep dive”, meaning “intensive scrutiny”.  This is the latest phrase used by the media to show how hip they are, and I blame the media for popularizing it. It’s one of those phrases that shows you’re resorting to trite and widespread phrases instead of trying to think of a fresh way to say something. Here’s a typical example from HuffPost, the doyen of “we’re-the-cool-kids” journalism:

You know, even the term “close look” would be better.


Your turn! What phrases curl the soles of your shoes or burn your onions?

Words and phrases I detest

November 4, 2021 • 2:00 pm

Yes, it’s time for another selection of words and phrases that burn my onions and get my knickers in a wad. And, of course, you’ll get your own chance to weigh in below. As usual, I take many of my examples from the HuffPost, the epicenter of bad writing.  We have five items today; click on the screenshots to go to the articles.

1. Impactful. I detest this word because it seems to be a recent usage, is pretentious, and there are plenty of better words for it—like “powerful”. In the case of the HuffPost usage below, why wouldn’t “influential” do as well?  Can you imagine saying, “Well, Bill Gates is very impactful these days.”


2. Crisply.  I see this word all the time, like the odious phrase “bright line”, but it reminds me not of anything evocative except crackers. Here’s a usage from a Science paper I cited recently:

To wit:

An extreme social event (a war, in this case) that triggered intense, selective exploitation of elephants crisply illustrates the pronounced coupling between human societies and evolutionary processes in other life forms.

How does “crisply illustrate” differ from “vividly illustrate” or simply “illustrate”?Are they showing pictures of Saltines?


3. Majorly:  Now this one is really bad. Yes, it’s in the Oxford English Dictionary, but it grates like nails on a blackboard.  This article has two errors: “majorly” (used with “intersect”, for chrissake), and “suped-up”, which is supposed to be spelled “souped-up”.

The offending sentence:

Early critic reactions to the scene described it as “very tame” and “very G-rated,” so keep your expectations low regarding just how steamy Marvel is getting in this new era. For decidedly more R-rated fare, fans noted that past heroes in Marvel television shows like “Jessica Jones,” which have yet to majorly intersect with the current MCU slate of films, featured more explicit and suped-up sexual encounters.


4. Going forward.  I know other readers hate this, too, for all it means is, “in the future,” or simply “next”—and sometimes doesn’t even need to be there. Here it is used in a Madison, Wisconsin NBC site—in the headline. (And no, it doesn’t refer to mail being forwarded; it means “from now on”; so it’s not only irritating, but confusing.)


5. Advancement. Now you see this one all the time, and all it means is “advance” as a noun. Anyone using it is being pretentious. Stop it now!

. . . aaaand, here it is in a HuffPost headline. “Advances” would have read so much better! But the author wanted to sound, well, serious:


Your turn! What words curl the soles of your shoes?

More anodyne cures for the world’s ills by Reverend Tish Harrison Warren

October 24, 2021 • 11:15 am

Yes, Tish Harrison Warren, the Anglican priest who writes a weekly column to fill up empty space in the New York Times, has once again proffered a cure for the nation’s ills. It’s trivial and far from new, but at least it doesn’t involve God.  The email I got with the column (Ceiling Cat help me, I subscribe) was headed, “Why chatting with your barista could help save America.”  In the paper (click on screenshot below), it has a different title:

The entire thesis can be summarized with one of her paragraphs:

To learn how to love our neighbors we need cultural habits that allow us to share in our common humanity. We need quiet, daily practices that rebuild social trust. And we need seemingly pointless conversation with those around us.

By “pointless,” she means “avoiding hot-button issues like politics”. Her notion, which many others have suggested before, is that you can heal divisions between people by getting the “sides” to know each other. If you like or at least are friendly with a political opponent, you’ll find a way to eventually agree on politics.

This simple message, however, is unlikely to heal any divisions—after all, are citizens supposed to wait until they discuss these issues?—or are they supposed to become pals with their barista before bringing them up? Warren dilates at length about her hale-fellow-well-met Texas dad whom everybody loved and nobody hated, for he just cracked jokes and made pleasantries. He didn’t talk politics.

It goes on and on and on, without telling us how, after we’re pals with Trumpies, we can then begin to discuss abortion, the border, the unstolen election and so on.

And so we have the Paper of Record giving us stuff like this:

I see moments of this in my own life. I moved states recently and feel the loss of seemingly unimportant local relationships I’d built where we lived before. I have no idea if my favorite former barista and I shared any political or ideological beliefs. We likely disagree on important issues. But I don’t care. I know he adores his infant niece and I regularly asked how she was doing. He is working to get through grad school, and I found myself genuinely rooting for this person I barely knew.

Each of us is more than the sum of our political and religious beliefs. We each have complex relationships with the people we love. We each have bodies that get sick, that enjoy good tacos or the turning of fall. We like certain movies or music. We laugh at how babies sound when they sneeze. We hurt when we skin a knee. The way we form humanizing, nonthreatening interactions around these things taps into something real about us. We are three-dimensional people who are textured, interesting, ordinary and lovely. . . .

. . . Of course, to heal the deep divisions in our society we need profound political and systemic change. But though we need more than just small talk, we certainly do not need less than that. As a culture, our conversations can run so quickly to what divides us, and this is all the more true online. We cannot build a culture of peace and justice if we can’t talk with our neighbors. It’s in these many small conversations where we begin to recognize the familiar humanity in one another. These are the baby steps of learning to live together across differences.

Yes, and maybe if the Taliban got to know more Afghan women they would eventually allow them to go to school. Maybe if more Texas lawmakers had cake and coffee with pregnant women they would rescind their draconian anti-choice law. When Lyndon Johnson rammed the Civil Rights Bills through the Senate, he didn’t make small talk with the Senators. He used his leverage and power to bring around the Southern opponents.

Yes, we have to be able to discuss things civilly, for then, so they say, consensus will come. That’s what Biden ran his campaign on, and look where it’s gotten him.

How much longer will the NYT torture us this way?

Traveling with the Great Unmasked

September 23, 2021 • 2:51 pm

I’m cooling my heels in Baltimore for an hour, as the direct flights from Chicago to Boston and back were either ridiculously expensive or sold out.  In airports and on planes, masks are required, but, at least in the airports I’ve visited, obedience isn’t universal.

On my Southwest flight from BOS to BWI, for example, they were hardasses about mask wearing, and good for them! They announced several times that, except when you were drinking, you had to have your mask over your nose and mouth, and, sure enough, the flight attendants went down the aisles and chided those who had their masks over their mouth but not their nose. (Is this behavior sheer stupidity or a duplicitous way to evade the restrictions?)

And in the airports, while nearly all people have masks somewhere around their neck, a few are sitting around with all facial orifices open to the free air, while many others have their noses hanging out over the top of their masks.  Nobody is enforcing this, of course, and it’s only my fear of being yelled at or beaten up that keeps me from a “get off my lawn” gesture of reminding these miscreants to cover up their schnozzes. All I can do is keep away from them.

Well, I remember some advice that the Southwest attendant told us on the way to Boston: “Masks are like pants: if anything is hanging out, you’re doing it wrong.”

I also found a page of over 100 mask jokes. Here’s one:

I recently bought my pet duck a mask to protect it from coronavirus.

It’s nothing flashy, but it fits the bill.
I’ll be here all year, folks!


McWhorter returns to the mundane

August 27, 2021 • 12:15 pm

I think John McWhorter should write one column per week in the NYT instead of his contracted two, as the two-column gig just takes up too much time, and something’s gotta give. After his barnburner critique of performative anti-racism on Tuesday, McWhorter’s plumb worn himself out. Or so it appears from his much shorter piece today, which is on how spoken American has gotten more polite.

You can’t get this at the NYT yet, or by clicking on the screenshot, as it hasn’t yet appeared in the op-ed section, and you have to subscribe to see it anyway. Perhaps a judicious inquiry will yield the piece.

Of course McWhorter is a linguist, and this stuff is his bread and butter, but somehow I can’t get as juiced about contrarian linguistics as I can about McWhorter’s contrarian (for a black man) take on antiwokeness.. Ergo, I’ll be short.

McWhorter says that, contrary to our impressions, American language has not gotten rougher, with more frequent use of profanity, but in fact is becoming more polite. And politesse is, he says, one of the functions of language. When you take leave of a friend you don’t say “I am leaving now”, which is rude, but rather the gentler, “I’ll be heading out.”

To defend his thesis, McWhorter has to make some stretches. “Uptalking”, the irritating habit of ending a sentence with a rise in pitch, like a question, now becomes a form of checking to see if the other person is following you, “acknowledging the other person’s presence and marking their engagement and interest.” I wonder how we accomplished that before some people—no, not even most of them—adopted this annoying intonation. We did it by politely engaging in conversation.

And as for the reprehensible and nonstop insertion of “like” into every sentence, McWhorter also, like, likes that, too. He says, like, the word actually conveys different meanings depending on, like, how it’s used:

The infamous usage of “like” is a similar story. It’s easy to hear nothing but hedging in it — “That was, like, not a great thing to do.” But a linguist can break (and has broken) the new “like” down into assorted usages beyond hedging. For example, if a guy says, “We looked in, and it was so crowded. And not just a few kids. There were, like, grandparents and cousins in there. We had to go somewhere else,” he isn’t hedging; he’s stressing his point. The function of “like” there is to imply, “You might think it was just some kids, but actually ….” He is thinking about the state of mind of his interlocutors as he speaks.

Well, “but also” would have conveyed the same meaning. Yes, language changes, and we’re not going to get rid of “like”, much beloved of the younger folks (although notice that you don’t hear it on the evening news). But how many of us have heard a conversation between two young people in which almost every other word is “like”? And no, not every use of that word has a different meaning, or even a meaning.

As for curse words, which you hear increasingly in the movies or in prose (and I don’t mind that), those too show McWhorter that English is getting ever more polite.  Here’s how he justifies that:

A possible objection here is those four-letter words flying all over the place. I certainly use them more than my parents did, and most would consider me a reserved sort — and yet in this, I am not unusual for people my age. How much sweetness and light can we really see in an American English that allows into polite society people who use a certain F-word dozens of times a day?

But we need to change the lens here. It’s less that people use profanity more than that profanity is no longer as profane as it used to be. What people treated as truly bad words 100 years ago are now more realistically classified as salty. By my parents’ time, this was true of “damn” and “hell”; to dismiss something, they’d say “Oh, to hell with that,” even in front of kids. Today, though, my equivalent — and yes, sometimes in front of kids! — would involve that word that begins with “f.”

But I’m not sure what he means by saying that they’re used more often because “they’re not as profane as they used to be.” Perhaps they became less profane because they were used more often! After people like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin broke the taboo by speaking the taboo words onstage, people realized that you could get away with using in public words previously reserved for private conversation.

I won’t go on; the piece is light, larded with claims about how phrases like “hop on the phone” and a waiter saying “I’m going to go ahead and take your plate” are harbingers of a new and kinder English, a “delightfully considerate language if you know where to listen for it—in informal language.”

Well perhaps McWhorter is right. After all, he’s a linguist and I’m not. But I’ll never get used to fifteen “likes” in a sentence, and I still think that uptalking is also a sign of insecurity. McWhorter most engages me when he’s in a hot passion about the follies of wokeness, not when highlighting the nuances of English. It’s his column, of course, and he’s perfectly entitled to write about his profession. But I bet he wasn’t hired by the NYT to talk about linguistics, at least linguistics unrelated to politics. And dare I say that he’s better when writing about politics and ideology than about language?

More words and phrases I detest

August 8, 2021 • 11:00 am

After a long dry spell, once again I’m inundated by infelicitous language.  Today I’ll show you five words or phrases that trigger me, inflicting linguistic microaggressions (i.e. violence) to my brain. And, as usual, I’ll take most of my examples from HuffPost, which is the Mother Lode of Bad Writing. (Click on screenshots if, Ceiling Cat forbid, you want to go to the articles.)  I may have used one or two of these before, but you can’t be reminded often enough about this kind of usage.

1.) “To medal” (used as an intransitive verb like “to defecate”). Meaning: to acquire a bronze, silver, or gold medal in the Olympics. The Oxford English dictionary even defines this as a proper verb, though it’s usually transitive, e.g., “George Tenet, the head of the CIA was medaled and commended by George Bush when he retired.” But it’s also intransitive, as you see every five minutes in reports on the Olympics. To wit:

I don’t give a damn if the OED says the usage is correct; this is the difference between something being legal and being wrong. And yes, the alternative is longer, “X won a gold medal”, but you see that usage even more often, and it sounds a lot better.

But wait! There’s more! Here’s a usage from the New York Times!

2.)Going forward”: This is just a “with it” phrase meaning “In the future” (it does not mean “moving on”, which simply means moving to the next topic in a discussion or article). Its purpose is to make you sound significant or important. Here’s one example from HuffPost:

The acceptable substitute is simply this: “in the future.”  I have a feeling that more than one reader will share my sentiments on this one.

3.) “A nominal flight”. This does have a technical meaning, “performing acceptably”, as we heard to no end when we watched the short Blue Horizon tourist flight. But the first time the announcers used it, I immediately thought of the usual definitions of “nominal”: either “in a small amount” or, more rarely, “in name only”. So I wondered why the flight should be less than expected until I had to look up the meaning of the word. You shouldn’t have to do that—the announcers were just showing off (it’s ok, though, for the SpaceX people communicating back and forth to the capsule to use it as a technical word).

4.) “Cash out”.  The usage to which I refer does not mean to redeem your poker chips or lottery ticket. Rather, I’ll show its meaning taken from a philosophy website, Maverick Philosopher:

Keith Burgess-Jackson writes in a recent post:

Philosophers use the term “cash” in a special way, as when they say, “This [concept] needs to be cashed out.” It’s another way of saying “analyzed.” I don’t know this, but I suspect the term derives from cash, as in money. To cash a check is to reduce it to (transform it into) money. To cash out a concept is to reduce it to (transform it into) other, more familiar, concepts.

Or, from reddit, answering the question of what the phrase means:

Explaining it. When you cash out your chips in a casino, you bring them to the cashier and get the money that the chips represent. When you cash out, for instance, an assertion, the assertion is metaphorically the chips, and you bring them to the philosopher, who presents you with the explanation of what that assertion means.

When I see a philosopher use the phrase, I immediately discount that person. I can’t help it. You lose Coyne points when you say “cash out” because a). it’s trendy, used to show off professional jargon and b). its meaning is not clear to the average person like me.  If you are tempted to use this phrase, resist, resist, resist. Why not just use “explain” or “analyze” as in the definitions above?

5.) Bad-ass or badass.  This originally was an adjective designating a person you didn’t want to mess with because the consequences could be dire or dangerous. Now, with language being devalued right and left, it simply means, “someone who does something interesting, unexpected, laudatory or unusual.” For reasons I don’t understand, it now applies almost exclusively to women.  Let’s just say that the new version of “badass” is to the old one as the woke usage of “violence” is to real violence. Some examples from HuffPost.

At least in this version they put quotes around the offending phrase:

it gets worse. Here’s a common usage: the people referred to aren’t badass at all; they’re just people you like!

This one refers not to a woman, but to an impala:

I’m sure Orwell would find “badass” to be a “problematic” word (“problematic” is another word I detest). Think of something clearer. For the first one above, you can simply leave out ‘badass’. For the second, do the same thing, unless all the women you love are gangsters. For the third, what’s wrong with “determined” or “tenacious”?

Get off of my lawn!  Of course, now it’s your turn to beef, which you can do in the comments.

Words and phrases I detest

July 15, 2021 • 12:15 pm

I’ve been looking out for infelicitous phrases for a while, and I think my previous posts in this series have nearly exhausted my curmudgeonly policing of language. So in the past two months I have just two pharses. But they’re phrases that one hears a lot.

Now before you start telling me that “languages evolves,” don’t bother, for I’m highlighting phrases that bother me.  You have such phrases. too (and eliciting them is what I intend to do), while other folks, being liberal minded, will say that it’s fine that phrases like “begs the question” can be used to mean “raises the question”. After all, languages changes. But this is not the post to point that out.

As usual, I take my examples from HuffPost, whose writers cannot write without Twitter and must lean on language that they think is trendy.

a.)  “Deep dive”.  This simply means a “close look”, or, if you want to be fancy, a “thorough analysis”. You will never hear me use this phrase, but HuffPost uses it often. Here’s but one example:

But it’s not just HuffPost! The New York Times uses it, too!

b.) “Perfect storm”.  Now if you really want to sound au courant, just use this phrase to refer to the concatenation of factors that aggravate a situation. (Don’t get me started on “aggravate”!). The words were popularized by the eponymous 2000 disaster movie in which a boat and its crew are lost in a terrible storm. (The title came from the 1997 nonfiction book that inspired the film.) And, of course, HuffPost is aboard the linguistic Andrea Gale:

Note that in the headline above, “perfect storm” is in quotation marks, which indicates, perhaps, that the author knows he’s not writing something quite right. And he isn’t: for there are not multiple concatenating factors here that worsen a situation, but just a proposed sequence of violent episodes. Still, Mr. Mathias wants to sound cool, so he uses it anyway.

But the New York Times uses it as well. Here’s just one example:


At least they use it to refer to a series of concatenating factors that, together, could cause a big disaster.  But a good writer doesn’t just lean on these trite phrases. Instead, as Orwell urged, try thinking up your own fresh metaphors or similes. For that is the mark of language that’s a pleasure to read.

Now you know the drill: cough up some words or phrases that annoy you. Curmudgeon time!

More on the complete degeneration of modern pop music

February 16, 2021 • 2:15 pm

It’s not enough for modern pop music to be autotuned, brain-dead in lyrics, and necessarily accompanied by flashy videos. No, now it’s got to be full of sex as well, for sex is the best way to attract attention, especially if you’re an attractive woman like Ariana Grande. Every celebrity, it seems, is doffing their clothes, but that will attract attention for only so long.

But Grande’s voice, which is pretty spectacular, apparently isn’t enough to carry this song. Here, in her latest “hit”, “34 + 35“, she has to flaunt her body and, most annoyingly, beg for copulation, oral sex, and other goodies. The autotuning, f-bombs, fancy video (the first one has a bit about its making at the end), and concentration on sexual acts has moved this one all the way to the top of the pop charts. Will this song last? Will it ever be an “oldie”, played on radio stations in 2070? Don’t bet on it! The listeners of this song, the young folks, must subsist on a diet of cotton candy rather than meat.

Some Wikipedia notes:

On October 30, 2020, the song was released by Republic Records as the second single from the album. The song’s title and chorus reference the 69 sex position, while the rest of its lyrics feature several sexual punsdouble entendres, and sex jokes. A remix of the song featuring American rappers Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion was released on January 15, 2021. The remix is included on the deluxe edition of Positions which is scheduled for release on February 19, 2021.

“34+35” debuted at number eight on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Grande’s 18th top ten single. It later rose to number two following the release of the remix. It also debuted at number five on the Billboard Global 200, becoming Grande’s second top ten single on the chart, before reaching a peak of number two. Additionally, “34+35” peaked within the top ten in Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom, giving Grande her 19th top ten single in the UK.

Here’s the remix:

Now I have to admit that the videos are well produced, but the idea that this could be a hit makes me feel sorry for today’s kids.  Do they ever encounter music that’s dense enough to make them ponder? 

Below is Billboard’s Top 10 from exactly 50 years ago. And I ain’t gonna lie, there’s a few real clunkers on there, including #1 and #2; and #3 might strike some people as bubblegum country music (I happen to like it). But there are some classics here, too, including My Sweet Lord, Your Song, and If I Were Your Woman. I suppose Grande’s music all falls in the Osmonds/Dawn category: insubstantial fluff that won’t stand the test of time.

Yes, I know I’m being a curmudgeon. And some readers will undoubtedly tell me I’m listening to the wrong groups—that Group X is as good as the Beatles! (Protip: it never is.) But I repeat my claim that rock and pop music are on the downhill slide. This categories of music exists not because it yields popular works of art like “A Day in the Life” or “God Only Knows,” but because the kids need something to listen to to mark the seasons of their young lives.

The Billboard Top 10 from the Hot 100: Week of Feb 13, 1971.

  1. One Bad Apple by the Osmonds
  2. Knock Three Times by Dawn
  3. Rose Garden by Lynn Anderson
  4. I Hear You Knocking by Dave Edmunds
  5. Lonely Days by the Bee Gees
  6. My Sweet Lord/Isn’t It a Pity by George Harrison
  7. Groove Me by King Floyd
  8. Your Song by Elton John
  9. If I Were Your Woman by Gladys Night and the Pips
  10. Mama’s Pearl by the Jackson Five

Now get off my lawn!