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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Sunday, November 09, 2008


I read that researchers in Oxford monitor the use of phrases in the Oxford University Corpus, a vast database drawn from the net, newspapers, books, magazines, radio, TV and more. They have now compiled (and publicised) a Top Ten of most irritating phrases in current use. In order of power to irritate, apparently, they are:

1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It's a nightmare
8 - Shouldn't of
9 - 24/7
10 - It's not rocket science.

They might have bothered to make it a Top Twenty, so as not to have to exclude "Bored of", "pushing the envelope", "taking it on board", "lessons will be learned", "I hear where you're coming from" and "It's about...", this last a habit that now poisons almost everything a British politician, local government spokesperson or other official ever says, and is deployed both to avoid giving a straight answer to a question and to suggest some sort of hang-loose cool on the part of the person being asked.

Q: Why is the government changing its policy?
A: It's about giving the widest possible blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Q: What are you doing to reduce carbon emissions?
A: Look, it's about accessing blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

I even heard Tony Benn say it a couple of months ago, and I tend to think of him as keeping up an alert resistence to these horrible formulae. It's surely one of Bob Dylan's virtues that he doesn't say these things.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Homer aka Anonymous, the veritable epitome of a grumpy old man, says that he agrees with you 100% here Michael. Unlike 99% of English speakers I can go no higher than 100% so that'll have to do.

In other words "110%" and "200%" would be among my first entries on this list; glad to see "I, personally, in my opinion...." gets a kicking.

BTW did you see that two English councils have banned all Latin phrases such as "via", "ad hoc" and so forth from all documentation. Snottily and dictatorially at that. Apparently there are perfectly good common English phrases for all these expressions which are unnecessarily confusing. So they say. Part of the language's very fabric being butchered by morons, says I.

yours grumpily.....

6:53 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Yes, "110%" should be very high on the charts. As should "Know what I mean?", inevitably used following something so numbingly simple that it's an insult to be asked the question.

This was a pleasing response to the Top Ten seen elsewhere online today:

"I'm surprised 'Congratulations, you've just won a free iPod' didn't make it onto the list. Of course maybe they have a good pop-up blocker."

10:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Anytime soon' has been driving me crazy in recent times - it's all over print and broadcast journalism. It seems to me it's use has increased exponentially since the release of Time out Of Mind. ???

8:23 pm  

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