Friday, September 18, 2009

Words and phrases I would like to ban: an occasional series

Number of times during a 32-minute drive this afternoon that I heard, across 3 different radio stations, the expression 'rolled out' used to mean 'introduced', 'set up', 'set in motion', 'put in place', 'established' or 'carried out': eight. Eight times. That's once every four minutes.

And here's another thing I heard today that I would like to ban: 'The problem must be under the pavers.'

24 comments:

librarygirl said...

My husband goes off his head every time he hears "infrastructure".

ThirdCat said...

oh, dear...sorry about the pavers (I'm guessing plumbing?)

Penthe said...

You could borrow that roller to flatten whatever is under the pavers, perhaps?

I quite like things rolling out - it vaguely reminds me of Sauron's armies of death covering the land, but in a very orderly fashion.

Barry Leiba said...

Related to "roll out" is "tap", meaning "call on", or "ask". "As the president prepares to roll out his Purple People initiative, he has tapped Joe Slobotnik to spearhead the effort."

Bernice said...

Can you explain what on earth the paver phrase refers to? Or does Adelaide have more than its fair share of plumbing problems? Apart from the parlous state of its water supply.

You may have nominated "at the end of the day" previously, but it immediately invalidates any standing the speaker may have aspired to. Unless they are a football player.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Sorry, I thought I'd put a hint in the tags about what was under the pavers. ThirdCat is correct, it's the plumbing. I don't know that Adders' plumbing problems are much worse than anyone else's, but this is a 100-year-old house (what we in Adders call a maisonette and other people call a terrace, ie a one-story house joined to next door with a thick party wall but on a separate title) in the oldest part of town, a house whose 100-year-old plumbing is under both concrete and pavers, shared with next door, and negotiable only by a rough and ancient SA Water plan that is clearly wrong. How the woman I bought the house from managed without the major plumbing inspection point that I had put in and the access hole in the ceiling that I also had put in perforce when the aircon was installed, I really do not know.

Ann oDyne said...

Absolute agreement from me.
The spoken-media cliche which I loathe most is
'on the back of ...' presumably meaning 'as a result of ...'.
ABCTV presenters and producers are unfortunately more guilty of this than others.
I have to struggle against mental images of the thing on the back of the other thing.

Helen said...

Librarygirl: expecially when they pronounce it "infastructure". Very infantile.

Pav, here's a less objectionable rollout.

Anonymous said...

... and when did the final for every contest on TV become a "finale"?
Coy Lurker

Anonymous said...

Yes, really sad.

An interesting article in today's Age by Don Watson, 'Language like this should be put to the torch' shows how ridiculous official language can get even when discussing bush fires.
(http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/language-like-this-should-be-put-to-the-torch-20090918-fv9x.html)

anonymous editor

Anonymous said...

Lately I've been hearing people saying "I think we need to drill down into this" for "we need more information". Drives me nuts.

Su

Pavlov's Cat said...

Sorry, Bernice, meant to say yes indeedy the pavers are literal and so, alas, is the problem. But I so didn't want to hear it.

Anon ed, that piece of Don's is very serious. If I read him correctly, he is arguing nothing less than that the use of managerial language did actually cost lives.

The one that intrigues me is policepersons' (in particular; other people do it occasionally but coppers do it all the time) habitual use of what Wikipedia identifies as the present perfect simple tense to recount a series of events: 'And then the young lad's stolen the car, and he's driven off down the wrong side of the road and he's run into an old lady's fence, and he's mowed down all her nasturtiums.' I've always wondered whether it's just viral within police subcultures or whether it's actually in the training manual.

Bernice said...

Ah ha. It was far more literal than I thought. I was kinda hoping it was some polite Adelaidian way of suggesting someone is corrupt, or criminally-minded or both. Or perhaps remarkably dense.

Elisabeth said...

My pet hate - I learned it on the radio - is the word 'segue'. I think that's how you spell it.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh dear. I quite like 'segue' (yes, correct spelling, it's Italian) and use it fairly frequently. I hate seeing it misused, though. What would you say instead, to convey the same meaning?

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, in case my initial comment sounded flippant, and in response to this: 'Anon ed, that piece of Don's is very serious. If I read him correctly, he is arguing nothing less than that the use of managerial language did actually cost lives.'

Yes, of course, it is serious, and the implication is that this might have cost lives. I should have expressed this more precisely: reading the piece I could not believe it was possible that warning messages could sound as 'ridiculous' (i.e. obscure and convoluted) as they were cited in the article. This is an extreme example of linguistic distortion.

anonymous editor

Pavlov's Cat said...

I didn't think you sounded flippant at all, but I was really gobsmacked by the article. It rings so horribly true.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

I do some projects were "rolling it out" is a pretty accurate description of what is happening. Not implementing - thats too immediate and 100%.

Hell not only do I roll out stuff - I'm currently ramping up the roll out to meet agreed targets and measurable outputs within the timeframe.

Pavlov's Cat said...

You know, FXH, I really, really hate it that I understood all of that immediately.

M-H said...

anon ed, I read Watson with horror too. I can't believe that the 'warnings' were couched like that. It's as if public bodies are now so scared of being sued for misleading people that they are incapable to speaking clearly about anything - even about life-and-death matters.

I recently attended a training workshop on strategic planning where the man who could use this language fluently was held in high regard by others. Only two of us spoke about our concern about the non-words he was coming up with; others seemed to think he was brilliant. I despair sometimes.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh, M-H, I know -- I've had that experience over years on several different arts funding bodies. And the most recent one was the time a mere month or two ago when after protracted discussion about the way that certain grants applicants will go on making the same mistakes in their applications even after the issue has been explained to them several times (in exactly the same impenetrable, incomprehensible type of language), I could stand it no longer and said as politely and impersonally as possible to the meeting that ordinary punters perhaps just don't understand what is being said to them in that language. Whereupon the public servant in question, usually the sweetest and most courteous and reasonable of women, looked me in the eye and said firmly 'I don't agree.' And that was the end of that discussion.

But it reminds me of the kind of language I used to hear in the academy -- in fact some of it is the kind of language I used to hear in the academy, like the constant, indiscriminate use of 'around' to mean 'about', 'pertaining to', 'regarding', 'related to', 'arising from' and, very occasionally, 'around'. And I think the reasons are the same: it is exclusionary language, and it's used by people within the specialist tribe to signal to each other that they are alert and functioning members of that tribe, whether it's academics or public servants or whatever.

In that same series of recent meetings I heard one I'd never heard before, from only one person but she was very senior and she used it about once every three sentences: 'clear air'. Anyone know what that signifies?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Actually, it could have been 'clean air'. But I still don't know exactly what she meant, either way.

Ampersand Duck said...

Ooh, since we're on petty radio hates, I'm getting the shits with 'Ah-stralian'. Does that make us all Assies?

Pavlov's Cat said...

There are some truly bizarre pronunciations of 'Australian' around at the moment, with particular emphasis on the young, many of whom I can't actually understand because they all seem to be talking through their teeth with their larynxes closed, careful to avoid any vowel except the one I think of as the private-school one, a sort of Prue and Trude all-purpose long vowel comparable with (though unlike) the NZ 'uh' in its ubiquity.

James Matheson is a case in point. I hear a lot of his 'Uh-shtrayyan' about the place. And I do a lot of shouting at the car radio and at the telly. 'Australian has an L in it! Vulnerable has two Ls in it! Antarctica has two Cs in it! Fark!' etc etc.