Viewpoint

Avoid cliches like the plague, and other good ideas for 2019

Eight years after coach John Fox left the Panthers, it’s time to retire the “It is what it is” saying.
Eight years after coach John Fox left the Panthers, it’s time to retire the “It is what it is” saying. AP

We Americans are an inherently optimistic bunch. We beat the spread at Yorktown in 1781 and haven’t looked back since. A proud people, we cherish our exceptionalism, but know there’s always room for improvement.

As we close out 2018 and look to an even grander 2019, it is right to consider putting to pasture certain expressions whose time has come. We’ll give “putting to pasture” one more year before, ahem, putting it to pasture:

It is what it is. What else could it be? If a fireman approached your home ablaze and, rather than break out hoses, observed “a fire is a fire”, how would you feel? Smart money says you’d ask Hamlet to stop soliloquizing, and pick up an ax.

Answering questions nobody thinks were problems with “no problem.” This disingenuous response is so common, I fear only one remedy remains: Make more requests that truly are problems.

No more sheepish entreaties to the hotel bellman like “may I please have an extra set of towels?” From now on, it’s “drag two cast iron bathtubs up to the ridgeline before nightfall, OK? The missus and I would like to bathe outdoors together and watch the sunset.”

This is not who we are. This may not be who we were yesterday, or who we hope to be tomorrow. But it most certainly is who we are. Aristotle taught we are what we repeatedly do: you shouldn’t expect to score points in the paint when a Father of Western Philosophy defends the low post. No need to get classical — just raise this as your defense at criminal trial if you disagree. And bring your toothbrush.

There is no “there” there. Here we have the pretentious older brother of “it is what it is”, who never stops talking about The Alan Parsons Project. Not second-guessing anyone’s police work, but I see three “theres” there.

Being on the wrong side of history. This rhetoric rankles because it begs the question: If you’re so certain how things play out, why are you just sitting there? Where are interest rates headed? What’s the endgame for the Middle East? Are pleated trousers ever coming back?

Melodramatic. Use. Of. Periods. There are two main reasons this is irksome. First, it’s a frontal assault on grammar, and second, it patronizes by assuming the reader will miss the point’s significance if made using complete sentences. Sending correspondence with letters cut from magazines also makes a fine dramatic point, but that went out with “Charlie’s Angels”. So. Must. This.

There’s no daylight between us. How about simply saying we agree? The imagery of two people standing so closely is imprudent in today’s workplace, even metaphorically. Besides, when I see synchronized swimmers, I don’t think “now there are two people whose interests really align.” I think “what on earth do you two do between Olympics?”

Stacking hands over important decisions. Like “no daylight” above, this celebrates rather than reproaches body-proximity. Besides, so what if we did stack hands, what’s so mystical about that? What are we, Druids?

There are a great many more words and phrases I could come in guns hot and zero in on, like coming in guns hot and zeroing in on something. But I have a hard stop, so assuming we can’t circle back later, I’m afraid we’ll just have to kick the can on that discussion down the road.

Kerrigan is a Charlotte attorney. Email: mikekerrigan29@gmail.com
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