Thursday 23 November 2017

Call Keystone Cops, our language is being murdered

It's a full-blown crisis as two-for-the-price-of-one cliches rule, says Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch


In recent weeks, I have heard several leading commentators telling us that "we are where we are, to use that dreadful cliche".

It doesn't occur to them that "to use that dreadful cliche" has itself become a dreadful cliche, and that you now have two cliches there for the price of one. A bit like "the rest, as they say, is history" -- since everyone now puts in the "as they say" bit, it would be better to revert to "the rest is history".

Yes we need occasionally to have a look at ourselves, and our addiction to cliche, because after all, the quality of our language is supposed to be connected to the quality of our thought. So when a political analyst on the radio recently began his contribution with "the jury is out" and "time will tell" (another two-for-the-price-of-one deal), you empathised with the Fleet Street editor who cracked under the strain of all that lame gibberish and roared that if you can't come up with something a bit more prescient than that, why don't you just f**k off and become a dustman?

George Lee tried to f**k off and become a TD, but he's back now and apparently happy in his work again. And he's thinking outside the box.

In fact he was "thinking outside the box" three times in the course of the first episode of The Business, and one of the contributors threw in a fourth along the way. Which is not to take away from George's laudable intentions to create jobs with all this thinking outside the box, but I am genuinely curious -- when a top man such as George notices, as he surely does, that he is using the same line of corporate twaddle three times in the one show, does he pause and reconsider? Does he say to himself: "You know, I think I'll use a different line there?"

Then again, maybe he is not thinking at all, in the old-fashioned sense of thinking inside the box, only venturing outside the box when you have exhausted all the possibilities which are to be found within the conventional container.

Or is there some sort of a rule among the hard news men of TV, that there's no harm in banging out the same cliche several times, because nobody's paying attention anyway and you need to have a few cracks at it before they get it?

Time had told and the jury was not out any more, on Crisis: Inside The Cowen Government, which reminded some of us of the Liverpool FC channel, or "the history channel" as we call it. We know it all already, but it feeds our addiction.

You'd wonder too, at the contribution of RTE pol corr David McCullagh, during which he spoke of the "Keystone Cops" approach of that administration.

We are often told that these TV reporters are busy men with crazy deadlines who can't be wasting their time crafting elegant phrases such as a bunch of art-school ponces, but in this case McCullagh-sy would have had a fair old while to think of a better image than the "Keystone Cops".

And it wasn't just that the "Keystone Cops" is so old and obvious and boring, it was the slight flicker of satisfaction on the speaker's face, an expression which said: "Nailed it baby!"

Again I am curious -- did all concerned really think that that was a good point, well made?

While the jury is still out on that one, there was an

old clip of the otherwise excellent David Davin-Power on the day that the Greens announced they were running away, creating what Davin-Power-sy called "a full-blown political crisis".

Mate, when it is hard to declare with any confidence that the Taoiseach will be drunk or sober on the radio in the morning, and you're in the hole for about 100 billion and the IMF is in the house, you've already got your full-blown political crisis right there.

There's a man called Brendan O'Connor, who usually finds the right words. I tuned in to The Saturday Night Show to check up on O'Connor-sy's inexorable rise to global fame, and I can confirm that nothing will stop him now.

He's taken off the tie, he may even be wearing no shoes underneath the desk in the studio which now seems like his personal space.

In the world of hackery, which can no longer contain him, many are embittered by his success and rightly so -- when one of us discovers that he has become a TV star and therefore never has to work again, it saddens us all, just a little bit.

And O'Connor-sy still insists on working anyway, which in a strange way is doubly saddening.

But we are where we are, to use that dreadful cliche. And he is where he is.

And the rest, as they say...

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