Geode Editorial Services

Infuriating Phrases | June 20, 2007

Today, Slate had a good piece on why Hillary Clinton’s (and most other politicians’) speeches are so maddeningly boring. It’s because she and people like her stuff their addresses with meaningless jargon that has become so common we don’t even hear it anymore–mainly because we’ve learned to tune it out:

The worst offender—and this week’s column is officially apolitical—is Hillary Clinton, who is “running for president because I believe if we set big goals and we work together to achieve them, we can restore the American dream today and for the next generation.” Clinton also believes that “we can give people the education and opportunities they need to fulfill their God-given potentials,” and that “the foundation of a strong economy is the investments we make in each other.” Who could possibly disagree?

The article also leads readers to a hilarious contest run by the UK Daily Telegraph that asked readers to submit essays stuffed with as much jargon or slang as possible. A favorite excerpt:

A re-evaluation of our methodologies has led to a sea-change. Tasked with delivering sustainable growth in our external horticultural environment, a work-in-progress encompasses benchmarking the broccoli, risk-assessing the radishes and applying change management principles to the diverse peripherals on the compost heap.

This blog will provide frequent rants against jargon and hackneyed phrases. We welcome our readers to submit examples of their own pet peeves.


Posted in Word Use


  1. In a similar vein, this morning there was a radio story about John Rizzo, who is up for the top post in the CIA. His responses to senators in yesterday’s confirmation hearings were elliptical to the point of comedy. This is a little different from Hillary’s jargon, since this guy is trucking in classified (and very creepy) information, but check out this example:

    Senator Levin: Did you think that the CIA’s interrogation program was humane?

    Rizzo: Uh, the uh…I’m trying to, I’m trying to be responsive in a way that, um, without getting into a…detailed explanation. Um…we believed uh, then, and we have believed throughout this process, that the CIA program as it was conceived, uh, when taken in toto, uh, justifies the conclusion that the program was from the outset and remains, uh, conducted in a humane fashion.

    Translation: Yes.

    Comment by willenvelope — June 20, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

  2. It’s also that you hear the meaningless jargon over and over and over and over.

    Comment by Hillary — June 25, 2007 @ 6:06 pm

  3. Check out the scene in Bull Durham where the veteran catcher tells the rookie pitcher: “Today we’re going to learn cliches.”

    Comment by momsquirrel — June 27, 2007 @ 2:55 am

  4. Cliches are a whole different issue, one that Will blogged on the other site some time back and that we will certainly revisit in future posts.

    Comment by redsquirrel — June 27, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

  5. no new post in over a month 😦 has your excitement about starting this new blog begun to wan?

    Comment by bookwormbethie — July 27, 2007 @ 5:48 pm

  6. I’ve just been busy, I guess. Also, nothing too interesting in this area lately. This blog is really just a placeholder for when I go freelancing full-time. I’ll maintain it more then as a promotional thing.

    Comment by redsquirrel — July 27, 2007 @ 6:04 pm

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