Yes, I’m the kind of guy who sits there and obsesses about phrases. You should know this by now. Rather than trying to assemble them into some kind of logical, paragraph based format, I’m just going to list the phrases that I’ve been freaking out about the most lately. I will remind you that these are idiotic, inexplicable pet peeves and have no particular motivation or justification.
Sooner rather than later
Just say soon. Honestly, there is no reason to add “rather than later.” For crying out loud, sooner is ALWAYS rather than later. What is the alternative? Sooner AS WELL as later? You could still just say soon. Maybe, MAYBE, this phrase makes sense if you are indicating a preference, but it still doesn’t make sense to include “later” in the phrase, because, honestly, we all know what the alternative to sooner is. It isn’t like you’ll say, “The train schedule says it should be here around 2:12 PM. I hope it gets here sooner.” and have someone say, “Rather than what, chocolate? Tuna? AIDS? Because that’s in pretty poor taste.” No, just quit wasting words.
As the crow flies
When someone is either folksy or trying to be folksy, if you ask “How far is it to Bristol?”, they’ll say something along the lines of “50 miles, as the crow flies.” This is useful if you were, say, planning to fly a crow there. Generally, that’s not how I travel. And if it was, you wouldn’t hear me say, “How far to Bristol?” because I’d be too busy screaming, “GIANT CROWS, GIANT CROWS, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CALL THE AIR FORCE!” You are talking to a man leaning out the window of a sedan with a map in his hand. He isn’t interested in ornithological navigation. Either give him an answer that acknowledges the existence of roads or defer to someone who can do so.
Put your best foot forward
And then what? Just put it there? You know what you are doing when you just put your foot forward? Tripping someone. And really, you shouldn’t be using your best foot, because I know the last time someone tried to trip ME like that I stomped the heck out of that foot. You don’t want that sort of thing happening to your best foot, because depending on how bad your worst foot is, you might be left without a leg to stand on.
Get our ducks in a row
You hear this in a business context, and that is absurd, because what you are saying is, “We’ve got a serious problem in this company. Disorderly ducks. I DEMAND SINGLE FILE FOWL!” Ducks don’t do anything useful when they are in a row, anyway. Get our ANTS in a row makes some sense, because they are usually going somewhere to do something constructive, like ruin a picnic. All ducks do after they line up is delay traffic, fall down storm drains, and get picked off by people with pellet guns at carnivals. Hardly desirable employee behavior.
We need to win this game
Not that the need to win games is in and of itself a bad thing. The problem I have is with how loosely “we” is applied these days. As far as I am concerned, there are only two situations where you can say “we” when discussing a team: You are actually a member of the team, or you are one of the group that the team represents. For sports, this rules out 99.9% of the usages of we that I hear on a daily basis. If you live in New York and you are a Yankees fan, fine, you can say “we.” If you are in New Jersey and are a Giants fan, I’ll let you slide since they are geographically Jersey representatives. If you live in New Jersey and you are a Cowboys fan, unless you are originally from Texas, to you the Cowboys are a They, not a We. I’m sorry, those are the rules. If you want to say We, move to Texas or join the team. The end.
Well, that’s about it for this round of language related fury. Join us next time as I freak out about the mannerisms of urban wildlife. STUPID PIDGEONS AND THEIR BOBBING HEADS! GAH!