Phrases one should never use…

There are various phrases whose use generally irritates me intensely.  One of the most irritating is ‘There is no smoke without fire’.  Of course you can have smoke without fire.  The phrase is used by people who want, or are inclined, to believe some claim that has been made, but cannot be bothered with something as tiresome as evidence.  Then there is the saying ‘You have to keep cycling, otherwise you fall off’.  No, you don’t.  You simply apply the brakes and put your foot on the ground.  You only fall off if you never learned to ride a bike in the first place.

One that one tends to hear whenever there is some scandal affecting MPs or peers is: ‘They are all at it’.   I have heard this said in the light of the Lord Sewel affair.  Some media used the Sewel story as the basis for discussing Lords reform, not least in the context of the large size of the House.   Yet how many people claiming peers ‘are all at it’ (whatever ‘it’ is) have researched every one of the near 800 members?

No doubt readers can add to the list….

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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19 Responses to Phrases one should never use…

  1. “At the end of the day” – normally used to justify an unjustifiable conclusion or indicate the inevitability of something that is not inevitable. At the end of one day comes another in which just as many things are possible.

    “When all’s said and done” – How will you know until everything genuinely is said and done? Th fact that we’re still talking about it implies that not everything has been “said and done” yet.

  2. Gus Sette says:

    “It’s not rocket science” to describe something simple – well rocket science isn’t exactly difficult – the Chinese invented rockets 2,000 years ago !
    It’s rocket navigation that’s the difficult bit.

  3. Gus Sette says:

    To anyone who says : “To be completely honest….”
    You’re lying aren’t you ?

  4. Richard Woodward says:

    “Literally”…………when it just isn’t

  5. Lord Norton says:

    The contributions remind me of another: ‘As a matter of fact…’

  6. Alexander M says:

    “It is self-evident …” – used when you want to avoid an argument and claim your views are right.
    “Progressive” – used in the context of being a ‘progressive’ policy, and thus it implies it is inherently good, despite the fact one has not defined what is ‘progressive’ and whether it is a good policy in the first place.

    No prizes for guessing which particular policy I heard these gems being used time and time again …

  7. Gary Weatherhead says:

    “Let me be absolutely clear about this…” & then proceed to be very opaque..

  8. Edward Morris says:

    “Expect the unexpected”

    If it was expected it wouldn’t be unexpected!

  9. tizres says:

    “Are you the owner of your business?”

    Apart from this being the opening line of every cold call (which would be sufficient to include here) it is simply daft, and also goes against a widely held belief that foreigners have a better grasp of English than those born here.

    Why, yes, I have had such a call in the last five minutes, with the added bonus of an illegal call-back block on their number. What gave me away?

  10. Alexander M says:

    “The time for talk is over …”

  11. Mark Shephard says:

    In order to ‘live the values’ we need to ‘drill down’ to a ‘pioneering level’ of ‘granularity’, and ‘go forward’ from the ‘get-go’. I think we need to ‘incentivise’ and ‘leverage’ ‘idea showers’ that ‘touch base’, ‘cascade’ and ‘loop back’ in a ‘holistic’, ‘cradle-to-grave’, processing of ‘challenges’ and ‘opportunities’. ‘Getting all our ducks in a row’ and ‘pre-preparation’ and ‘forward planning’ and ‘blue-skies thinking’ from a ‘high altitude view’ are needed if we are to ‘capitalise’ on the ‘active realisation’ of ‘low hanging fruit’ that avoids ‘negative territory’ and ‘wrong-siding’ of the ‘quintessential demographic’. Afterall, ‘at the end of the day’… ‘it is what is’.

  12. Mark Shephard says:

    The best one of all I heard was: ‘I agree entirely…in a 89% kinda way’.

  13. maude elwes says:

    Does that make sense to you? Am I making sense to you? This is the new university educated level of reassurance seeking. Used a lot by new doctors.

    If they are unsure as to whether they are making sense, they should check it out before expecting their listener to confirm it for them.

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