recently, there’s been a torrent of letters to the Daily Telegraph expressing rage at the cliches and linguistic nightmares that dominate modern life. they do read as though they are all written by ‘Disgusted of Tonbridge Wells’ – but they do often have a point. Here are a few:

  • Added Bonus; Close proximity; New innovation; First invented by (all tautologies)
  • In a very real sense; From the get-go; Quantum leap; A robust national debate (what’s that when it’s at home?) (cliches)
  • Focused instead of ‘concentrating’; In the workplace instead of ‘at work’; To cut a long story short instead of ‘briefly’; to plan ahead instead of ‘plan’
  • “Nonsensical corporate names created by compounding words, as in “Travelodge” and “Parceline”. What exactly is to “trave” or a “parce”? Andwhatiswrongwithagapbetweenwords?”
  • One thing that really gets to me (and i know full well that i’m guilty and hypocritical about saying this) is: ‘There you go‘ – what does this MEAN?

    It has all got me musing (inevitably) – about Christian cliches/tautologies/vacuous phrases and the dangers therein. So, i’m being a little naughty and perhaps provocative – but let’s banish these once and for all.

    move into a time of worship‘ – why move into anything (gives the (false?) impression of spontaneity) and worship (well what were we doing in the moments before we moved into it, quite apart from the rest of the week)
    I’m truly blessed‘ – well yes, as Christians we are amazingly blessed – just look at Ephesians 1 to see that. But most of the time this is not what people mean. Usually it is that they’ve got a nice house to live in or decent job to go to – makes one wonder what they think is going on when Christians have neither a roof over their heads nor any job go to.
    God loves you anyway‘ – why anyway? What’s all this about then, eh?
    Let’s just pray‘ – to be able to pray at all is an amazing privilege – there’s no ‘just’ about it.

    More suggestions, anyone?

    This Post Has 9 Comments

    1. How about when people pray: “We really do just want to…” (thank you/praise you/ask you etc).

      The words “really”, “just”, and “do” are all superfluous there. Even “want to” is unnecessary, and “we” often otiose. Why not just say “thank you Lord” ?

      Still, prayer is not like writing a letter to The Telegraph I suppose, Mark!

    2. Too right, Lee. my only comment on yours is that i have personal issues with the word ‘otiose’ – i’m gradually trying to deal with them but when i explain why, you’ll understand. I was declared ‘otiose’ by none other than Uncle John Stott himself in the vestry before a service last year when my boss Hugh said that i wasn’t actually needed for anything that night. Harsh. but as so often with Uncle John, fair. The counselling is going well.

    3. Can one be ‘too’ right?

    4. I think I have a little more sympathy for people in times of extempore prayer who may be nervous and self-conscious. I have a terrible habit when I’m praying aloud of ending every thought with the word ‘and’ so I’m forced to think of something else to say. Politicians speaking from scripts have no excuse, however.

    5. very fair point, Ros – perhaps Lee is being a bit TOO pedantic there – after all, sincerity in the heat of the moment is what actually counts

    6. Personally I really hate Christians describing an area of life or ministry that they feel passionate about by using ” I have a heart for…”

    7. I really do just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your sincere and helpfully useful comments which have caused me to reflect and meditate on this subject long and hard.

      😀

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