8.17.2007

please retire this expression

"And so it begins..."

Whatever you're writing about has already begun.

Can we please add this to the list of phrases to be retired, along with "But I digress," "That said," "Wait for it," and "'Nuff said"?

Thank you.

52 comments:

L-girl said...

This blogger asked his readers what cliches they hate. Good list in the post and in comments.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Aw, but it's a Babylon 5 reference! Do we hafta?

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

And the post you link to in comments is chock full of Buffy references. I call anti-sf/fantasy-teevee bias!!! ;-)

L-girl said...

Aw, but it's a Babylon 5 reference!

I don't even know what Babylon 5 is, but I think the expression is probably much older than that.

Do we hafta?

Well, no. You're free to spout tired cliches all you like. :)

L-girl said...

Anti Buffy? Never! (She's way too cute.)

redsock said...

please retire this expression

And so it ends?

L-girl said...

And so it ends?

:>)

We can only hope!

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Babylon 5 was a science fiction television show. It was on in the 1990s. In retrospect it isn't really very good, but it was the first time anyone attempted a multi-season "novel for television," so it was kind of something special back then.

And of course it doesn't make sense to think that the phrase "and so it begins..." was never uttered before Babylon 5, but it was an incredibly important line for that show's storyline, and so I've always understood it as a deliberate allusion, not as a cliché. I suppose I might be wrong about that, but I don't think so.

L-girl said...

Ah, I see.

so I've always understood it as a deliberate allusion, not as a cliché.

My guess is it started out that way, but there's no way all the zillions of people using the expression online know about the allusion. Do a google blog search, you'll see what I mean. It's just too widespread.

But thanks for the info! I had no idea there was any underpinning to it at all.

Daniel wbc said...

I confess to using a couple of these.

For me, there are some words that, when misused, irritate me. I see that as my curmudgeon-ness (curmudgeonality?). I take responsibility for it. My husband goads me about it.

Intent of the cliche user is important. Most of us are not writers; we're just trying to express our thoughts and feelings, however imperfectly. *Sometimes* using a cliche helps communicate effectively and efficiently. (Although I notice for myself that I can often eliminate the words and there's no loss.)

I don't like when words are deliberately chosen to mislead, obfuscate, or promote an idea sneakily without saying it openly. Or to have a bunch of words come out of one's mouth to be able to say something, but mean nothing -- I think H. Clinton is a master of this. I'm not talking about lying. What comes to mind is a politician talking about any controversial topic, but it's not just politicians who do this.

In terms of language, I hate when a word loses meaning due to misuse and there's no good substitute. "Literally" is a perfect example.

My comments here are more in response to the link to that other blog; some of those folks were nasty.

L-girl said...

In terms of language, I hate when a word loses meaning due to misuse and there's no good substitute. "Literally" is a perfect example.

Yup. "Ironically" is another one.

My comments here are more in response to the link to that other blog; some of those folks were nasty.

Well, I didn't mean anything nasty. I just get sick of reading these same expressions. Whether or not a person is a professional writer, if they're writing a blog, they can still think for themselves, not just use the same phrases that are making the rounds.

(And I'm sure I've used some myself. I try not to, but no one's perfect!)

Daniel wbc said...

Oh, I didn't mean that your linking to that blog was nasty, just that some of the comments on that other blog were nasty.

L-girl said...

I understood. :)

mister anchovy said...

...add so it goes and c'est la vie please.

impudent strumpet said...

If I can't say "But I digress," then my only choice will be to shout "DIGRESSION!" like in Catcher in the Rye.

Actually, that might make things more interesting...

Ferdzy said...

Yeah, the fact is I digress at the drop of a hat.

...oops.

David Cho said...

Literally.

Utilize.

Irregardless.

M@ said...

"In actual fact" is a flagrant pleonasm, but I hear it more and more.

(Isn't it great when you can whip the ol' flagrant pleonasms out of the holster? God, I feel so alive!)

"So it goes" has a certain, very definite meaning. If it's been co-opted by other meanings because it sounds cool, or if it's descended to cliche, that's a shame, but I think its original meaning still remains valid.

One thing I hate in blog-o-land is the way people put. Periods. After. Every. Word. For. Emphasis. This device gets tiresome very, very quickly, and soon I am figuratively seeing red. (Heh.)

As for politician-speak, I'm haunted by Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" in discussions like these. Orwell makes the case that these tired-out phrases are used because they sound comforting and familiar, and actually deaden thought. I think given what we've seen passing for a presidency in the USA lately, the adequate subtitle of the essay would be "Or, Orwell Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet."

M@ said...

By the way, the essay is here if anyone wants to read it. I hope I can be permitted a small excerpt that was what I was recalling in my previous comment:

"In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing... Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style... one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech."

L-girl said...

I keep a famous excerpt from that Orwell essay taped up in my office in large, bold font:

"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

Orwell is never off-topic here AFAIC. :)

L-girl said...

Here's the thing about "but I digress".

Once upon a time, hardly anyone used that expression, and anyone who did used it only occasionally. And everyone was somehow able to digress whenever they wanted for as long as they chose.

They used parentheses, or a new paragraph, or dashes, or "however" and other similar words, depending on the situation.

Then one day whenever a writer or blogger would go on at some length - sometimes just a sentence! - to explain something in their post - often not a digression at all, just an emphasis or a further explanation - he or she suddenly felt the need to write "but I digress" after the explanation.

IMO, this could only happen because said blogger read other blogs where people did that.

The words are usually unnecessary, add nothing, and only serve to show that the blogger is in-the-know enough to know what expressions are making the rounds. (I'm not saying that's *why* the blogger uses the expression, it just comes out looking that way. to. me.)

That said, it's all irregardless. And so it ends.

L-girl said...

By the way, irregardless is not even an English word.

L-girl said...

I vote for "so it goes" to be thrown in the trash heap with "so it begins". They probably both had meaning once, but now they need to be retired.

I didn't know "c'est la vie" was in that category, but in the minimalist spirit, I'd rather err on the side of throwing out too much.

redsock said...

Vonnegut used "so it goes" 106 times in Slaughterhouse-Five.

L-girl said...

I'll tell you what. The next time I read a blog post as important as Slaughterhouse-Five, I won't pick on any of the cliches. :)

Seriously, Vonnegut was using the expression in context, for a specific meaning. (X-ref M@'s post above.) Most bloggers are not, IMO.

L-girl said...

Also Mr Sock, where did you get that info? Just curious.

redsock said...

I remembered he used something like it over and over in one of his earlier books. I looked on the Google and found the Wikipedia entry.

David Cho said...

Laura, I have Foxpro, and it highlights misspelled words when you type into a comment box.

I was surprised that it did not catch the non-word irregardless.

David Cho said...

After reading this post, I will have to proofread my blog about a zillion times now.

David Cho said...

What's wrong with "that said"?

teflonjedi said...

I detoured right in here because of the Babylon 5 reference.

Irregardless

Irregardless is considered nonstandard because of the two negative elements ir- and -less. It was probably formed on the analogy of such words as irrespective, irrelevant, and irreparable. Those who use it, including on occasion educated speakers, may do so from a desire to add emphasis. Irregardless first appeared in the early 20th century and was perhaps popularized by its use in a comic radio program of the 1930s.

an erroneous word that, etymologically, means the exact opposite of what it is used to express, attested in non-standard writing from 1912, probably a blend of irrespective and regardless. Perhaps inspired by the double negative used as an emphatic.


Or, I guess we could say irregardless = regardful...which is not what anyone means.

From China, with regards...

M@ said...

Orwell is never off-topic here AFAIC. :)

Then I most emphatically do not digress!

PatEL was one of two life-changing essays I came across in my early years. The other was Dwight MacDonald's "The Responsibility of Peoples" (another unbelievably leftist source!), which does not appear to be available online. I have both in a long out of print anthology; I read them periodically and they never fail to send electricity coursing up and down my spine.

As for "so it goes", well, in the correct context I think it still has meaning. But if the phrase can't survive the many abuses to which it's been subjected...

No, I shall refrain. Maybe 106 times is enough.

L-girl said...

it did not catch the non-word irregardless.

Bad Foxpro! Bad!

What's wrong with "that said"?

Some years ago, people started using "having said that...," then it got shortened further into "that said". Now people use "that said" constantly, for everything.

What did we all do before this expression was invented? That's my problem with any of these. They fill up space but usually we can say what we mean without them. They're speech crutches.

Usually, when you want to say, "that said," "however" or "on the other hand" will do nicely.

L-girl said...

I just thought of another one. The self-interview motif.

"Do I want the company to do this? No. Do I think it's ideal? No. Do I think it's the best possible solution for the moment? Yes."

Why doesn't the speaker/writer say, "I'd rather the company not do this, I don't think it's ideal, but it's the best possible soluton for the moment." ?

L-girl said...

From China, with regards...

Hi T-Jedi! It's always good to hear from you.

Am I dying to say, irregardless of where you are? Yes. Will I restrain myself? Yes.

L-girl said...

The other was Dwight MacDonald's "The Responsibility of Peoples" (another unbelievably leftist source!)

Wow, I forgot all about that. I've read it, but don't own it anywhere, and I think I had forgotten its very existence. Thank you for reminding me.

M@ said...

The self-interview motif.

Yes, oh god, yes.

Another one, which this for some reason reminded me of, is "from X to Y", where X is one thing and Y is a completely unrelated thing.

"From" implies some kind of connection between X and Y (like in "from soup to nuts"). I don't know why people seem to use it in the exact opposite way, where the idea is to list two items that have nothing to do with each other. I suppose the idea is to imply a great multitude of things, but they just end up robbing the comparison of all meaning.

I see this everywhere, even in expensive-looking advertising.

Hadda get that off my chest. Phew.

L-girl said...

Another one, which this for some reason reminded me of, is "from X to Y", where X is one thing and Y is a completely unrelated thing.

Can you give us an example? I can't think of what this is.

James said...

In terms of language, I hate when a word loses meaning due to misuse and there's no good substitute. "Literally" is a perfect example.

Yup. "Ironically" is another one.


Not to mention "begging the question". ;)

L-girl said...

Not to mention "begging the question". ;)

Touche :)

I confess I don't understand the issue with that one - it seems to me the meaning has actually changed over time - but I understand some people feel otherwise. :)

David Cho said...

"to be honest with you."
"to tell you the truth."
"I'll be honest with you."

You mean you lie all the time, but this time you are having a rare moment of telling the truth?

I think people use this crutch when they are about to say something unpleasant, but it is still a dumb expression which always gets me.

L-girl said...

I think people use this crutch when they are about to say something unpleasant

Yes. (I do it sometimes, and it is stupid!)

Another one is "I'm sorry" said in a certain way before saying something that might be offensive or outrageous. "I'm sorry, that is just going too far, next thing you know they'll outlaw Christmas trees..."

David Cho said...

I'm sorry, that is just going too far, next thing you know they'll outlaw Christmas trees

In that sentence, it's not just the "I'm sorry" line that gets me. It's also the "next thing you know."

James said...

I confess I don't understand the issue with that one - it seems to me the meaning has actually changed over time - but I understand some people feel otherwise. :)

Well, exactly. The term has lost it's original meaning over time due to misuse. And it's not like the misuse saves you any syllables or anything, since "prompting the question" is no more difficult to say.

It won't be too long before we have people insisting that "literally" has just "changed meaning over time" to mean "very". :)

L-girl said...

It won't be too long before we have people insisting that "literally" has just "changed meaning over time" to mean "very". :)

Right. I certainly see what you're saying. I avoid the issue by never using the expression in any form. :)

David Cho said...

Virtually.

Just like literally, people use this just to use it.

David Cho said...

Practically.

How did virtually and practically become synonymous?

It's virtually impossible. It's practically impossible.

L-girl said...

How did virtually and practically become synonymous?

Good question! And you know you can't say "synonymous" without saying "virtually synonymous" !!

I remember in my freshman year of college - waaaaay back then - people were beginning to use "basically" all the time, for no reason. I recall, in my 1st week of school, some hipster telling me he was "basically a sophomore". I thought perhaps he had taken some junior classes. No, he was a sophomore on the cutting edge of language hipness.

In those days, everything was "excellent," the way now everything is "awesome". Grade inflation.

David Cho said...

Yes, I was known for overusing basically. I still catch myself doing that.

Perhaps people think they have to have at least one adverb for a sentence to sound complete and intelligent, so those have become generic adverbs to just to throw in.

I think when you use "excellent," "awesome," and "totally," you lose your right to be taken seriously. Now "definitely" has joined the ranks. It's sad.

L-girl said...

I like saying "eggggscellent" a la Montgomery Burns.

I hate how "awesome" is overused, because to really be awed by something is such a powerful experience, something unforgettable, even life-changing. If every little good thing that happens is awesome, how do you even describe anything special anymore?

*sigh*

M@ said...

Monty Python had a sketch that referred to the British Well-Basically Club.

http://orangecow.org/pythonet/sketches/bullclub.htm

It's just a throwaway joke in the sketch, but it's interesting that the phrase was already being ridiculed in 1970.

L-girl said...

Maybe it started over there and worked its way over here. It took longer for phrases to move around in the dark ages before the tubes.