The Rip Post


by Rip Rense

Yes, yes. The Lingo Czar admits to coasting all season and playing at half-strength. Playoffs are around the corner, though, and now the games really count.

Players are therefore advised to avoid using the following worn-out phrases, buffoonish slang, buzzwords, mistakes and mispronunciations infecting and muddling clear and dignified communication in this, the 21st century. They are rated "T" (trite), "A" (asinine), "P" (pretentious), "W" (whoops), and "CP" (criminally prosecutable, with recommended minimum punishment of one day of self-imposed silence).

Anal-retentive: The most improbable expression ever to take hold of mainstream mouths – from tykes to tycoons. Think about it (but not too hard): How did something so, um ... picturesque ... become popular? Best guess: spillover from shrink-speak, aided by someone's idea of humor. Ladies and gentleman, words conjure images! When you use this expression, it puts a picture in mind that is just not very poetic. This term, which supplanted the trite '60s slang, "uptight," indicates one who exerts excessive control over detail, meticulousness. (It also has come to mean "frugal" in the corporate environment!) The only thing more jarring than hearing someone declare "I'm so anal-retentive" is to hear the expression abbreviated by omitting the "retentive." I'm so anal? Now there's a conversational ice-breaker. Bring back "uptight!" T, A, P, CP. (Thanks to reader Jari Skiles.)

Pony up: The Czar bridles every time he hears this! Roughly meaning to give, "pony up" is employed by commentators seeking to affect the tone of the common man, to look like "regular guys." (Think George Will.) "Pony up" now gallops freely through Lingo Land, all but trampling such bulwarks as "donate," "contribute" and yes, "give." One suspects that the etymology of "pony up" has Latin roots (the Spanish verb, "poner," means "to place," or put.) Still, all the etymology in the world does not save "pony up" from pulling up lame. Neigh to "pony up." T. (Thanks to reader Ron Johnson.)

Beef up: Get out your scorecards, readers, and spend a day tallying up all the times you hear (or read) "beef up" in the news. Reporters have entirely abandoned poor old "increase." One begins to wonder, after being endlessly told that "security will be beefed up," whether security guards, soldiers and police are being fed lots of steaks. Or if a herd of cows is guarding the White House. Anyhow, that's my beef. T, A.

I don't always agree with you: This is a constant refrain in talk radio. Callers wishing to let the host know that he/she is not completely insane, stupid or ridiculous declare, "I don't always agree with you, but. ... " Friends, please tell the Czar: Who always agrees with anybody? Show me two people who are always in agreement, and I'll show you crazy people. I frequently get well-intentioned letters saying, "I don't always agree with you." Well, I should hope not. End use of this disagreeable phrase. (Feel free to disagree.) T, A.

So: The Czar offers no expertise here, just denunciation. The colloquial perversion of "so" is so awful! As in "You are so fired" or "I am so not interested." This is a great-grandchild of Valley Speak, the probable result of inhaling solvents in beauty parlors and nail salons. A. (Thanks to reader Leslie Wolfe.)

Revisit: This is an "ahem" word – something employed while puffing up and displaying authority. As in "We might (ahem) revisit this matter in future (ahem) cogitations." From the gigantic Lexicon of Corporate Non-Speak, "revisit" has crossed over into The Pundit Zone – heard (and read) incessantly among commentators looking to puff up and display authority. Well, stop puffing. T, A, P. (Thanks to reader Jon Threlkeld.)

Individual: Why does every law enforcement spokesperson refer to a suspect as an "individual"? Well, wait a second, that isn't quite true. They also refer to suspects as "the gentleman." (I don't believe the meaning of that noble term has yet been revised to include murder and robbery.) This is part of the law enforcement effort to sound objective and detached so as not to, among other things, jeopardize justice with prejudicial pre-trial publicity. Very laudable! But how about "person"? "Guy"? "Citizen"? "Bi-ped"? T, A. (Thanks to reader J. Fogel.)

I'll tell you what: I'll tell you what: I'll tell you what is usually employed when the speaker is about to tell you something of little importance, but wishes to put you on alert as if you are about to hear profundity. I'll tell you what: It no longer serves to set up new and perhaps exciting information, but to simply foreshadow a statement of conviction. I'll tell you what: It's become obnoxious. Don't tell me what. Just tell me. T, A, CP. (Thanks to reader Jim Oostdyk.)

So Security: Formerly "Social Security." President Bush and many others have dropped the "cial" part of the word, perhaps because they have already invested it in the stock market. It was bad enough to hear Bill Clinton pronounce it as "Sosill Security." Please put the "cial" back in "so." It's so not right. (See above entry for "so.") W. (Thanks to reader Mary M.)

Anal-retentive: I just had to mention it again. I'm ... meticulous ... that way. Here is an actual quote from an actual corporate memo from an actual corporate guy whose title is – I kid you not – "spam issues architect": "At this time, in our economy, we have to be as anal-retentive as possible." (Easy. Lay off the Metamucil.) A, A, A. Sorry – had to say it three times. I'm meticulous that way.

I'll tell you what: All you individuals have a good Lingo day.


2002 Rip Rense. All rights reserved.