Lame cliches pollute the language while scams run rampant

When an electric power malfunction creates more buzz than a wardrobe glitch and when a boring – albeit slutty – halftime show outshines a slate of lame commercials that cost $3.8 million per 30-second pop, the biggest religious holiday in America that’s also known as Super Bowl Sunday may yet force fans to re-focus on the game itself.
In recent years, the trend has run the other way with commercials and the halftime show –along with tweets – relegating the game to sideshow status. If this turnabout continues, we may have to actually watch the game. And this year’s proved a helluva game after what seemed a first-half blowout, with the Broncos-slayer Baltimore Ravens barely holding on to beat the San Francisco Forty-Niners by 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII.
But now that the 2013 Super Bowl is past, we’ll be spared the broadcast booth clichés football fans have endured for years. “Red zone!, “To the House!” (whose house?), “Air It Out” (Did ‘It’ smell bad?) and “they came to play” (rather than clown around?) come immediately to mind. Along with, when an injured played is wheeled off the field on a gurney, “Shaken up a bit on that play.” There are lots of others, and none add much to the language.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could enjoy a similar shut-off for some of the other clichés that have become part of the language? We hear them every day – either electronically or uttered by people who still talk rather than text.
“Awesome!” is too easy, but is right up there in the useless Pantheon. “Off the table” (or “on” it) is another.Whatever table we may be talking about, that line has become as tiresome as “at the end of the day…” where we’re never told what day it actually is. “Outside the box” (which box?) is another straw for the language-challenged.
Then there’s “spot on,” a Brit affectation that’s in keeping with a need for a Brit accent – bogus or not – to lend some sort of credibility in areas running from reality TV hosts to pimping the most pedestrian of products. “Spot on” users ought not be confused with those socially-insecure Americans who genuflect when they hear a BBC accent. While there’s something to be said for admiring a “Downton Abbey” world of manners, civility and standards – supported by a suffocating class structure -I’m not one of those who mourns that lost age that still persists, in Britain, as a sliver of itself.

When service people ask “anything else for you TODAY?,” I ask what OTHER day would we be talking about, and get blank stares.
Speaking of service people, we can’t let their constant “no problem” replies – in lieu of a simple “certainly” or “thank you” – go unchallenged. When did simply doing their job become a “problem?” When they tell you “no problem,” does that mean whatever they did, or promised to do, would ordinarily have BEEN a problem?
Since we started with football, let’s run a bit further with it- so to speak – by mentioning the Manti Te’o case and what it means for electronic-age mass gullibility for a story line too good to be true. Star Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o passes up the NFL draft, plays his senior year and leads his team to a national championship despite the heartbreak of having his grandmother and his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, dying on the same day; the girlfriend from leukemia.
But there was just one problem in this Greek tragedy re-cast in modern Mormon terms (Te’o is a devout Mormon). Lennay never existed and was the creation of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a Hawaiian friend of Manti’s, who pretended to be Lennay online and had a female cousin “play” Lennay on the phone. Although he’d never met her or seen her on Facebook, iPhone or Skype, Te’o claimed a very spiritual love affair with Lennay running since 2009. He became a figure of national admiration and placed second in Heisman Trophy voting for America’s outstanding college player.
Everybody was sucked in, including Sports Illustrated and Notre Dame – until revealed the hoax last Dec. 6th. There are all kinds of lessons buried in the Te’o sub-text and we’re not going to pontificate here. But maybe one of those lessons suggests that all of our communication toys and world of 24/7 instant access hasn’t made us much smarter; clichés and all.

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J. Sebastian Sinisi


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