9/30/2008

Phrases I Could Live Without

Thanks for asking (usually preceded by "I'm fine")

Typically you thank someone for doing something good, or for going out of their way to do something good. Asking "How are you?" does not fit into either category. In fact, I'm having a hard time thinking of any question that fits into either category. The only ones that would legitimately require thanks are questions like "Are you on fire?" or "Do you want me to flush your stash before the cops get here?" But then you're thanking someone for an action they take, not for asking you a stupid question.

Sit back and relax

I will give some credit here to the Southwest Airlines flight attendant who recently raised my awareness of how stupid this phrase is. His pre-takeoff spiel included the ostensibly clever one-liner, "So, sit back and relax, or, if you prefer, lean forward and get all tense." Ha ha, how funny, because nobody would do that! And since nobody would do the alternative, there's no reason to order us to do the first thing, either. "Sit back, relax, breathe through your nose and/or mouth, blink every few seconds to keep your eyeballs nice and moist, and we'll have you in Chicago in no time."

Someone "has issues"

Somewhere in West L.A. is a therapist who never got full credit for being the first to identify a patient with the newfangled ailment known as issues. This diagnosis has since ballooned to encompass every known cause of disgruntlement on Earth, from pederasty and Type-2 diabetes to a sweet tooth for black licorice and shoes that fit too tightly.

I recall encountering a classmate at UCLA one day in 1997 and commenting to her that every time I saw her, her hair was a different color. (This was true.) Her response? "I have issues." I recall at the time thinking that people were starting to use this phrase rather too often. Now, eleven years later, I feel the same way.


Didn't get the memo

This one is leftover from the pre-"Dilbert" and -"Office Space" days, specifically the 1980s, when mass white-collarization of the workforce followed the first huge wave of outsourcing manufacturing jobs to low-wages locations like Mexico and China. As office jobs became the de facto default setting for the US workplace, coupled with the technologization brought on by the personal computer boom, office lingo migrated into the mainstream argot. Hence phrases like "Didn't you get the memo?"

However, the memo as replacement for a face-to-face conversation is no longer novel; one might argue that the memo vanquished the in-person discussion years ago, only to be supplanted by the e-mail. Times change. Slang should, too.

Please note that I totally made up that theory about job loss and computers and shit. But it still sounded good, right? I'm a grad student; that's how we roll.

That's how we roll

Nothing makes one hate an overused phrase more than overusing it oneself. Guilty as charged.