Saturday 17 March 2018

Sick as a dog going forward: one man’s war on clichés


For journalist John Rentoul it was just one cliché too many. "Any time soon" pushed him over the edge so he compiled a list of the top 100 banned words and phrases and published it on the website of the London Independent.

“No. No time soon. Or ever. Just get rid of it. It is not a different way of saying "soon", just a longer one. That was when I posted saying that the phrase "has been added to the list of Prohibited Clichés. By order", he reveals.

Politicians are the worst offenders. “It is not clear how much they themselves are to blame, or how much they are simply overwhelmed by the substandard drafting of civil servants and speech writers.

“Perhaps they lack the time to put a pen through it and rewrite it themselves. It is a national scandal that the Civil Service provides such ghastly drafting of official documents, full of turgid abstractions that are intended, perhaps unconsciously, to conceal the thinness of the content. As for speeches, what do politicians pay their speech writers for?” he says.

The list, which began three years ago, is being updated all the time. Recent additions include "postcode lottery", "evidence-based", "metric" to mean "a measurement" and "around" to mean "about", as in "campaigning on issues around gender".

Allegations of having "maxed out" the nation's credit card, drive him potty.

“America is a great country, but some of its slang is best in its native habitat,” he says.

And demands for a "plan B" positively infuriate him. “This is worse than a cliché, because it suggests that plan A was the best plan, but now sadly cannot be done...”

“The internet is not destroying the language after all, then, but giving us new ways of shaming its most prominent practitioners into using it better. Let us set politicians a quiz. What are guarantees always made from? Cast iron. And with what are their bottoms made? Copper. And what are they not worth? The paper they are written on. (Or, alternatively, the paper that they are not written on.) For whom do politicians speak? The silent majority. Or hard-working families. Especially the ones who work hard and play by the rules.,” he says.

Rentoul's banned list

1. Going forward.

2. Key, adjective. Esp. 'keynote speech'.

3. End of.

4. Game-changer.

5. Iconic.

6. In any way, shape or form.

7. Action as a verb.

8. Quantum leap, except to mean a change of state of an electron.

9. Paradigm.

10. A no-brainer.

11. Does what it says on the tin.

12. Any journey not describing travel from A to B.

13. What's not to like?

14. Beginning an article with "So".

15. It's in his/her/their DNA.

16. Daily basis.

17. Agenda, except to describe a list of things to be discussed in a meeting.

18. Psychodrama (to describe any tense political relationship).

19. Ongoing.

20. Stakeholder.

Full details at

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