Top 10 clichés that make me throw up

Clichés,words,business,blogging,writing,online communication

Model: a catwalking strutting zombie-lookalike

Do you hate clichés as much as I do? Here are my top ten favorites in reverse puke-making order, and why.

#10 – Model 
No, not a glued-up plastic toy airplane or even a catwalking strutting zombie-lookalike, but a way of doing or structuring business. It’s not a bad analogy, really, because it provides a reasonable description of what it means without being a fannying euphemism for something a lot more evil. Predecessors include: blueprint, method, structure, setup. Also “model” as a verb – means to copy. Why? See “channel.”

#9 – Google it
Anyone over 40 or so probably remembers teachers and parents responding to “what does X mean?” with the words “look it up in the dictionary.” Not only was this patronizing and boring but also it got teachers and parents off the hook when they didn’t actually know the answer. “Google it” is today’s equivalent from people who are, equally, either patronizing, boring, or ignorant. And here’s a particular sneer at the pretentious twerps who say “Google me” rather than tell someone what they do or even have “Google Me” with their name printed on an otherwise blank business card.

#8 – Challenge
The pussyfooter’s way of suggesting something presents potential difficulties. If you’ve fallen down a cliff face and broken a leg, you don’t have a “challenge” – you have a problem, and a serious one at that. If you’re facing a project or job which promises you a 99 percent risk of utter failure, let’s not kid ourselves. “Challenge” just doesn’t cut it: you have one hell of a problem. Why be shy of saying so? Why do we need to revert to weedy words rather than accept that sh*t happens?

Clichés,words,business,blogging,writing,online communication

How the (English) Channel makes me feel

#7 – Channel
Living in the UK the mention of “channel” reminds me of years of gut-wrenching sea sickness in pre-Euro Tunnel days on the car ferry from Dover, England to Oostend in Belgium, when as I child I would accompany my parents to visit my mother’s family over there. I still don’t get why “to channel” means to copy, unless we are to assume that copying someone or something is likely to make us puke up everything we have ever eaten since birth.

#6 – Share
I’m guilty of using this touchy-feely word because it’s, well, a nice way of saying “here – get this.” But it becomes a bit weak when people use it to replace words/phrases like “point out,” “bring to your notice,” “shove your ignorant little nose in,” etc. Less weedy alternatives might be words/phrases like “communicate,” “explain,” “point out,” “emphasize,” etc. “I’m sharing this health and safety condemnation notice with you due to your restaurant’s cockroach infestation?” I don’t think so.

#5 – Issues
To an extent “issues” belongs in the same can of worms as “challenge,” because it’s a woolly euphemism for “problem.” With “issues,” however, you cover an even wider spectrum of atrocities including “disasters,” “lunacy,” “severe mental disabilities,” “global-scale catastrophes” and even “utter meltdown.” I have heard health professionals say someone “has issues” when the person is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. In the singular as “issue” it sits somewhere between “problem” and our dear old “situation” or even “situation at this moment in time.

#4 – Engage
“Engage” currently means something like “pay attention rather than fiddle with your smartphone.” It’s a nice way of saying you didn’t send your audience to sleep, or your potential customer finally bought something from you. Earlier incarnations of the word refer to the halfway house in the progress towards matrimony, usually involving an expensive piece of jewelry, and the act of putting a vehicle into gear preferably without burning out the clutch.

Clichés,words,business,blogging,writing,online communication

Reach out: a sickly Dickensian orphan dressed in rags stretching one arm out to grab a morsel of food

#3 – Reach out
Whenever I hear this term I think of its homophone, retch, and usually do so. A few seconds later I get a picture of a sickly Dickensian orphan dressed in rags stretching one arm out to grab a morsel of food, closely followed by a drowning swimmer grasping at a proffered lifebelt. Then I realize it’s someone trying to sell me cheaper car insurance. It means “contact” or “get in touch.” Variants include “outreach” (the act of getting in touch) and “making outreach” (performing the act of getting in touch). Pass the vom bucket, someone.

#2 – Awesome
Things you should  consider as awesome: The Palace of Versailles, the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, the Tower of London. Things you should not  consider as awesome: your friend’s new ballpoint pen, the loan of a pair of socks, being given half a sandwich, receiving someone’s business card. When tempted to misuse “awesome,” try replacing it with a word like “overwhelming” or “wondrous.” E.g. – “you’ll meet me at 10:30 for coffee? Overwhelming!” …doesn’t really work, does it?

#1 – Passionate
“Passionate” replaced “committed” which replaced “dedicated” which replaced “enthusiastic.” I have actually seen a website recently which described the company’s principal as being “passionate” about household plumbing. Let’s not fool around here: if you want to get taken seriously, leave the “passionate” out of your business and save it for your love life. How anyone can take this “passionate” cr*p seriously when everyone, but everyone, says they’re “passionate” about whatever it is they do?

I love writing, I do it every day both for my clients and for myself, and it matters to me personally – a lot. But to say I’m “passionate” about it – although true, if I’m honest – gets hugely devalued by the silly little nerds who jump on the passionwagon and claim they’re “passionate” about electrical wiring or truck tires.

So, “passionate” is my vote for the number one slot here. What would your choice be?

photo credit: slo-red via photopin cc
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  1. I’m afraid of using the PC words – challenge and issues because I don’t know how sensitive people who have issues or challenges are. As you know Suze since my stroke I talk “funny” and I have no control over my right arm (I usually say that it has a mind of it’s own) but I’m realistic ad accept what is. After all I can’t change it can I 🙂

    To me it’s not an issue but there are some challenges I face like doing up buttons or opening doors — but I deal with them – doesn’t everybody 🙂

  2. What’s sad is that so often the original meaning of the word gets lost because the word gets misused so much. “Awesome” is a good example – because it has been hackneyed if, now, I were to look at the Grand Canyon and say it’s awesome, people would think I was being frivolous. In your case to talk about “challenges” is absolutely correct – it is a genuine challenge for you to do up buttons because of your arm. Perhaps if we wait long enough, these cliche words will revert to their original meanings and true value!


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