Author Archive

Party foul!

November 6, 2010

party referee?

Stop. Collaborate. And listen: There is no such thing as a party referee. Referees are, by definition, people who mete out penalties for inappropriate behaviors, such as unnecessary roughness (belligerent drunks), hand-checking (elbows will fly when drinks are in hand and in stomach), charging (people drunkenly trying to reenact “The Lift” from Dirty Dancing), blocking (of the cock- variety), etc. But any person with a fun bone in his or her body knows one basic truth:

Those things = Good party

Yes, there are spilled drinks from limbs flailed, and yes, sometimes someone “travels” over to the iPod to skip Europe’s “The Final Countdown” because he or she has no proper sense of irony. But guess what, party ref? That comes with the territory, meaning it is in no way “out of bounds.”

We’re No. 1

November 7, 2008

Oxford University researchers and Detestable Phrases bloggers: On the same page, at the end of the day.

“Super-Empowered Angry Men,” and other stories: Part II

October 19, 2008

“Globalization giveth … Globalization now taketh away … And now, we have to hope, that globalization will saveth.”

Thomas Friedman, Globalizilla, Serial Capitalizer and Multiple DP Offender

From the New York Times, Oct. 18, 2008


at the end of the day

October 9, 2008

I spent the better part of the fall and spring interviewing political consultants for a “behind-the-scenes” look at the election. I didn’t learn so much — dudes were triiiickyyyy — but through talking to them and spending an endless number of hours transcribing the wonkiest of wonky tapes, I did, indeed, get an inside track on the more linguistic wonders of their catchphrase-riddled political world.

These campaign staffers all had a few things in common. Save for sweeping generalizations, they wouldn’t talk strategy, so as not to “show” their collective hands. Many of them thrived on describing the run-up to an election as a great big sporting match. Baseball, football, competitive pole dancing … it didn’t matter.  And above all, the whole lot of them tried to describe their campaign work in neat, pithy epithets. The key to their success?

“At the end of the day,” a favorite for those who specialize in attempts to turn complexity into meaninglessness. In reality, nothing really happens at the end of the day. If you’re a political consultant, you might set your Blackberry to “hands-free mode” for the drive home.

Or, if you’re leader-of-the-political-consultant-pack Mr. Rove, you do this at the end of the day:

Highly unproductive — like most campaigns — and potentially dangerous. Especially after sunset.

“me” time

July 28, 2008

Sometimes the Internet makes things too easy. I had a whole rant prepared about “me-timers,” precisely the same people who feel the need to stop, drop and “recharge their batteries.” But then I found this:

So it seems, in mathematical form:

(Me Time) = (James + Blunt) x (KT + Tunstall) x (Bathtub + HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM)

= (Die + Plz)

Don’t get me wrong: There is nothing in the WORLD wrong with the bathtub or drinking whole bottles of wine in the bathtub or being alone in the bathtub. Or being alone period. The funny thing is, the people who talk about needing “me time” are probably the ones who need it the least. They’re the same kinds of people who write mission statements for themselves and paste song lyrics on their walls, their favorite being, “If you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”

Oh yeah? I hope you drown. In your “me-timey” bathtub.

thrown under the bus.

April 30, 2008

The political world is a virtual gold mine — scratch that, minefield — for Detestable Phrases. And with all the talk of Barack Obama and Reverend Jeremiah Wright and denouncing and renouncing, it’s no surprise that the blogosphere is ablaze with commentary on the Illinois senator’s move to throw his former pastor under the bus.

As the New York Times noted, even bloggers are getting sick of all this throwing-individuals-under-buses business. “Obama Kicks Wright in the Junk,” John Cole writes on his Balloon Juice site — “because I refuse to say he threw him under the bus, which is now my least favorite expression in the English language.”

Ours too, Mr. Cole.

“Where did it come from?” asks Newsweek, terming it the “leading cliché of the political blame game.” “Why is it suddenly ubiquitous?”

In fact, Newsweek says it better than I ever could, in “Who’s to Blame for ‘Under the Bus’?”

“The underlying principle is simple: once a person says “throw him under the bus,” the phrase lodges itself in the foreground of the mind, where it becomes the first phrase retrieved in conversation. Parrots do the same thing.”

Thanks, Tony Dokoupil, for finally explaining why and how our beloved politicos and talking heads have become spokes(wo)men for Detestable Phraseology. The answer, put simply: They have lazy brains. Let’s just hope superdelegates don’t start drinking the Clintons’ “Recipe for a Comeback” Kool-Aid any time soon, or else we’ll have a bigger viral phrase problem on our hands.

“______ diplomacy.”

April 20, 2008

Despite America’s contempt for international law, the United Nations Security Council and “talking it out” with other countries, there seems to be an awful lot of diplomacy going on.

Take the New York Philharmonic’s trip to North Korea, for example. The Economist called it “cultural diplomacy.” Fair enough — that’s valid. There are even schools for that (see: USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy). The New York Times? “Symphonic diplomacy.” The Boston Globe opted for both “Dvorak diplomacy” and ” U.S. violin diplomacy.” And the Los Angeles Times, currently in the process of being destroyed by Sam Zell, chose simply, “music diplomacy.” These days, it seems that anything is diplomatic.

Pandas, or “panda diplomacy.”

Here is former Deputy Secretary of State Bob Zoellick “being diplomatic” with a baby panda in China. He is now president of the World Bank.

Karaoke, or “karaoke diplomacy.”

Actual CNN caption: “Powell gets in the groove ahead of his performance.”

The list goes on, and it just gets more absurd. Whatever happened to plain, old-fashioned “diplomacy,” hmm? Let’s do ourselves a favor and stop now, before “chow chow diplomacy” and “Dance Dance Revolution diplomacy” become a part of our IR lexicon.

“Super-Empowered Angry Men,” and other stories.

April 14, 2008

Oh, my dear Thomas Friedman. You and I go back a few years. I was made to read you twice, once in an attempt to classify your “globalization is the new Cold War” foreign policy views, once to prepare for a flat-chested world.

I found neither go-round satisfying (was it good for you?). It’s not that you’re not a bright guy. In fact, I thoroughly admire you for the several years you’ve spent as a foreign correspondent, from Beirut to Jerusalem. And yes, if “wealth of experience” was something measurable in dollars, you would be a globalizillionaire.

But I must say: Your personal anecdotes are suffocating. You are like an international studies undergraduate in a university classroom:

“When i visited Dubai …”
“A funny thing happened in Kuala Lumpur …”
“The Chinese are super high-context …”

And that’s not my only beef with you, Mr. Friedman. There’s something about your phraseology that speaks of true pomposity. Your formula, were it on the side of a shampoo bottle, would be “analogize, capitalize, repeat.” Let’s take your reference to terrorists in your 1999 book, “The Lexus and the Olive Tree,” shall we? For you, they can’t simply be terrorists. Nay, they become pawns in your categorization scheme — “Super-Empowered Angry Men” tricked by the elusive joys of globalization.

Forget the fact that the “Golden Straitjacket” analogy reminds me of golden showers, and let’s focus on the fact that it just doesn’t work. Oh, and I forgot. It’s pompous to capitalize things. It is too reminiscent of the Bible, and I can’t. deal.

This does nothing to diminish my respect for you as an important voice out there, dissecting global affairs and telling us how all the pieces fit together. I’m glad you’re there, writing your own version of what’s what. I just wish you wrote it humbler.

giving it the old college try.

April 10, 2008

what does it mean, to give a thing “the old college try?” is this supposed to be an oxymoron? i ask only because personal experience has shown me that many among the collegiate bunch do not, in fact “try” very hard at anything, unless that “anything” is:

1. boning a hot chick.
2. popping a collar.
3. making grunting noises whilst lifting weights at the gym.
4. drinking to (in)capacity.
5. understanding what dave matthews really means when he sings, “don’t drink the water.” the bong water?

in any event: any insight into the linguistic origins of “the old college try” would be much appreciated. thank you.

heart of hearts.

April 9, 2008

ever heard someone claim to know something for certain, in his/her “heart of hearts?” 

newsflash: they don’t know “shit from shinola” (see DelectablePhrases.com). 

first of all , this Detestable Phrase violates the laws of anatomical correctness. even the makers of the classic kids-play-doctor game “operation,” who incorrectly constructed their version of the human body with a WISHBONE, fashioned their hospital patient with only one heart. sadly, the heart is “broken,” perhaps because the patient has an unfortunate bowl-cut.  

second of all, your heart doesn’t know things – your brain  does. i tend to think that someone who knows something, in his/her “heart of hearts” doesn’t really know anything at all. all this “heart of hearts” nonsense is probably derivative of the saying “the heart knows,” but honestly, whenever i’ve “gone with my heart,” i’ve mostly just embarrassed myself. 

third of all, this kind of phraseology is touchy-feely tripe. it’s meant as a token of assurance – of certainty – but it never serves to make anyone feel any better about anything. the person who knows something in his/her heart of hearts probably also claims to be  “a little psychic.” oh yeah? well, i’m a little skeptic(al).