Words, Mindless Words


An Allstate ad in a recent Wall Street Journal has set me to wondering whether vogue words in ordinary speech and political speech are examples of the same mindless imitation. “Allstate led the fight by advocating for national Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) standards.” But why the “for”?

Because that extra word, like “advocate” itself, has become the latest vogue. “Prior to” and “incredible” have long become so deeply entrenched that they hardly seem like vogues any more. “Thrust,” as in the “thrust” of a speech or a proposal, enjoyed a vogue some years ago; but it seems to have gone out of fashion.

Nowadays terms like “crumbling infrastructure,” “climate change” (the currently more voguish term for “global warming”), “big corporations,” corporate and individual “greed,” the “1%” and “99%," “fair share,” “shipping jobs overseas,” “obesity epidemic,” and miscellaneous “crises” crop up everywhere. Often they carry policy implications. I wonder whether they betray the same mindlessness as “advocate for.”

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Luther Jett

How about my long-standing pet peeve, "greenhouse gases"? Did you ever see a greenhouse emitting fumes? No, it's simply a nonsensical phrase which presupposes a "greenhouse effect" caused by the burning of petroleum products. The term has become so ubiquitous it almost qualifies as an idiom, and I fear it will never go away


Luther -

the phrase "greenhouse gases" does not only refer to gases produced by fossil fuel burning - it refers to other gases such as water vapor - the most potent of the greenhouse gases

nor does is it used in the metaphorical way you suggest - as gases being released by a greenhouse - just the opposite - the term comes from the fact that the gases keep warmth contained - which is what a gardeners greenhouse does

of course - the greenhouse metaphor is imperfect - that's not exactly how the gases work - and that might be worth getting peeved about

but careful scientific types - both proAGW and antiAGW - are probably already peeved over your post

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