Sunday, December 30, 2018

The jawbone of a ... wait, what?

Did the cliche selection on the edit page look a little familiar this morning? No wonder. Somebody might have been reading the news section on Thursday:
Or the front page the previous Friday:

Indeed, you might fairly wonder how anyone can get over the amazement long enough to write a story:

The math of a GM/FCA merger would be "jaw dropping," the letter said, noting that Marchionne had once predicted that an automaker merger would lead to more than $5 billion in cost savings every year over four years. (Nov. 10)

On paper, from every angle, the allure of a Ford-VW partnership globally would be jaw-dropping, analysts said. (Oct. 16)
It's about time for the annual word ban from the cousins up at Lake Superior State, so just to be clear -- no. This is not a call for a general word ban (though if LSSU is going after "drill down," the least they could do is nail "deep dive" as well*). I do think that (ahem) some outlets could stand a few targeted word restrictions. Start small: Once someone uses "jaw-dropping," it's off-limits to the rest of the staff for the next 30 days. Imagine the fun when we extend the principle to "iconic."

Now, what about reformed sinners: writers who demonstrate some evidence of good faith by (apparently) learning what a word means?

2. Beto O'Rourke: The guy just lost a Senate race. And yet, here we are with O'Rourke in second. It's tough not to pay attention to a candidate who seems to have energized Democratic activists in Iowa, won the straw poll (showing he has some oomph with grassroots progressives), has won plaudits from Obama and is making moves toward running.

Granted, that's an improvement over the record:

Meanwhile, 52% have "not too much," and 23% have no confidence at all in elected officials looking out for their best interests. Oomph. (4/26/18)

Particularly when the word in question is mistaken for a paragraph: 

"I think Nancy Pelosi looks like that all the time," Sanders said on CNN's "New Day." "I think she should smile a lot more often, I think the country would be better for it."


"He is in the business of making money, and he has been successful both in television as well as Miss America and others. I was raised in the concept and belief that duty, honor, country is the lodestar for behavior that we have to exhibit every single day." (Trump actually used to own the Miss Universe Organization.)


"In private, three administration officials conceded that they could not publicly articulate their most compelling — and honest — defense of the president for divulging classified intelligence to the Russians: that Mr. Trump, a hasty and indifferent reader of his briefing materials, simply did not possess the interest or the knowledge of the granular details of intelligence gathering to leak specific sources and methods of intelligence gathering that would harm American allies."


Points for figuring out that "oomph" is something Clara Bow has, not what you say when Batman punches you in the gut (a sense of "oof" that the OED dates to the 18th century, only without Batman). I'm not convinced that the move from error to anachronism is a cure. And every now and then, when Star Writer wails "but that's my STYLE!!", the best reply is: Find another style.

* "Gig economy," on the other hand, should stick around. Here's the LSSU complaint:

Gigs are for musicians and stand-up comedians. Now expanded to imply a sense of freedom and a lifestyle that rejects tradition in a changing economic culture.

Correct-ish veering into nonsense. Gigs are something musicians do; they can be "one-night stands," as the OED has it, or they can be regular and long-term; What LSSU seems to be missing is the idea that working in a "gig economy" also means working without benefits or an expectation of permanence. I suggest sticking with "gig economy," at least until we have a better sense of whether its participants are rejecting tradition or tradition is rejecting them.


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