When a Nation Forgets Its Own Clichés (‘Hanker Down’ Edition)

From our neverending Language Police blotter

As always, the hardworking staff is on the differently clichéd beat like Brown on Williamson. And the past several months have provided a myriad of mangled phrases.

Call the roll:

• Back in November, David Mark, co-author of Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs & Washington Handshakes with Chuck McCutcheon, did an NPR interview in which he said this:

“San Francisco values” is a code hand for extreme liberal views supposedly prevalent in the Northern California City.

Not to get technical about it, but “San Francisco values” is either shorthand for extreme liberal views or a code word for them. Pick one.

• In a January Boston Herald piece about new Massachusetts Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s transition team’s including a lawyer who was part of a sweetheart Boston Red Sox real estate deal that led to a state Inspector General investigation, one local chinstroker said:

Someone new to office like her, you want everyone to think you are as clean as the driven snow . . .

Actually, you want to be pure as the driven snow, or clean as a whistle. Pick one.

• In March, NBC News noted that during GOP presidential campaigning in New Hampshire, “[Wisconsin governor] Scott Walker mostly bunkered down in private meetings.” Hunkered down, maybe.

(An NPR piece around the same time has a pie maker saying on Pi Day that after taking care of her customers, “I’m going to hanker down with some pie.” See above.)

• An April Boston Herald piece about a Boston 2024 ballot question had one proponent saying, “Voters are smart and they can tell when someone is trying to pull something over on them.”

Except . . . you put something over on someone, or pull something off. Right?

• In June on NPR’s All Things Considered, a correspondent noted about a leak of Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change that “the leaker probably wants to blow the wind out of the Pope’s sails.”

Yeah, but . . . you take the wind out of someone’s sails, or – more vehemently – blow them out of the water. Probably the former, yeah?

• Also in June on an NPR show, an international-affairs thumbsucker called Ayatollah Khamenei’s bluster over the Iran nuclear deal “par for the game.” Of course, in a cliché-impaired culture, that’s par for the course.

• MSNBC reported in June that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal “argued his record – stopping the migration out of the Bayou State after Hurricane Katrina, slashing the number of state employees and upgrading the state’s credit rating – stands for itself.”

Well, maybe it speaks for itself. Or stands on its own. You decide.

• And, finally, this headline ran last month on the website Monday Note:

Why Nikkei Paid Top Money For The FT

Actually, Nikkei either paid top dollar for the Financial Times, or paid big money.

Not to get technical about it.

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5 Responses to When a Nation Forgets Its Own Clichés (‘Hanker Down’ Edition)

  1. Steve Stein says:

    I’ve seen snow that’s been driven in. Not clean.

  2. Carol O'Reilly says:

    Funny but sad that so many folks
    misuse the English language. Maybe
    they should think before speaking.

  3. Curmudgeon says:

    Perhaps you should offer a cliche course, John…There seems to be a need for one.

  4. Bill says:

    I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: we need to get people to tow the line. At least that way they will be doing some work, especially if there are things that need to be moved.
    Just remember not be get to cavalier about this situation, as today’s mangled phrase is tomorrow’s hot new cliche!

    • Bill says:

      Sorry, a reluctant letter “o” on my keyboard–that should be “too cavalier”, not “to cavalier” of course,

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