Basically, we have an ongoing situation going forward

I was delighted to see a letter to the editor of the Irish Times in today’s paper by my DCU colleague Patrick Kinsella, commenting on the use of the word ‘ongoing’ in that newspaper’s columns. His main point is that the ‘word’ is ugly and, more significantly, usually unnecessary in the context of the sentence in which it is used.

I fear that unnecessary fillers have become a regrettable part of modern language. I have to listen to a lot of speeches and read many reports, and they are full of ‘actually’, ‘basically’, ‘at the end of the day’, ‘if you like’, ‘in the end’ (which it almost never is).

And then we have all those expressions which are just extremely irritating, such as ‘going forward’, or ‘out of the box’. And we have the annoying habit of turning nouns into verbs, such as ‘to impact’, or ‘to deplane’ (which my spell checker accepts, shame on it).

Worst of all, I think there are many people who use all the above words and expressions because they believe that they create elegant prose. Heaven help us!

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12 Comments on “Basically, we have an ongoing situation going forward”

  1. Richard Says:

    What’s wrong with turning nouns into verbs? I’m no linguist, but I would guess it’s been happening in English for centuries. You can water the flowers or eyeball your neighbour, cup your hands, steeple your fingers.

  2. Scott Says:

    The bad ones, like “impact,” ignore an existing, viable word (“affect”) in favor of an unnecessary verbing.

    “Deplane” is akin to “defenestrate,” perhaps an attempt to be less direct than “Get off the plane” and “Jump from a window.”

    Verbing weirds language, sometimes.

    • Jilly Says:

      And ‘deplane’ also has an existing alternative, ‘disembark’. Hardly an obscure word, either.

      • Vincent Says:

        would Alight not be better. For Embark is proper to Voyage not the ship and so disembark is a bit like dis-jump or dis-impregnate.
        On Deplane, sounds like a Norman family name of a particularly objectionable blood. And defenestrate would only work if Ryanair et al were using deplane where the stewards picked you up and fecked you out the door not worrying overmuch if the craft was on the ground.

  3. Aoife Citizen Says:

    Aren’t these complaints themselves a kind of cliche, just as tiresome as the over-used expressions they set out to criticize?

    • Jilly Says:

      I know what you mean Aoife, but I don’t agree. Language needs to be protected: for accuracy, clarity and style. Of course it will mutate and grow (that’s one of its joys), but if it’s not thought about and protected, standard communication will begin to sound like a politician on a bad day, and no-one wants that.


    • For sure, Aoife, for sure. But then again, your question in response probably is also :). And this response to it. Upon my word, it is a tornado of cliches. :)

      • Perry Share Says:

        ‘verbing weirds language’ – I like the verbing of weird here, I hadn’t seen that before. Bring it on! Though I’d be interested to know why about 10% of users seem to think that the structure ‘she was so bias’ is grammatically OK?

  4. Aoife Citizen Says:

    @Perry Share: provide she is a thread and what she is doing is slanting across a fabric, that structure is fine.

  5. belfield Says:

    We could do with a Flann O’Brien type to debunk all this neo-corporate spiel! :-)

  6. kevin denny Says:

    Whats the point of language? Isn’t it to communicate effectively or is it to try impress the gullible. A word like impact is clear as a verb and the fact there are existing simialr words is irrelevant. Ever seen a thesaurus? Words compete and some win and some lose out. Thats how languages evolve.
    The real issue (“the bottom line” in fact) is the use of cliches which don’t say anything, going forward. At the end of the day, it is a truth universally acknoledged, that using these phrases is a no-brainer.


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