EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


September 2, 2012

Column:At the end of the day, these language quirks are not uncommon

I am the language police officer, and I am here to help.

This does not mean I’m the thought police officer – you can think whatever you want. In fact, this is not about expressing whatever opinion you want. I’m not going to call for boycotts of any product because its executives express a view for or against affirmative action, Medicare, gay marriage or pretty much anything else.

This is not even directly about attack ads, civility or incivility. You will read and hear endlessly from self-appointed “truth squads” or “fact checkers” about whether an ad is accurate, in or out of context, unfair or effective.

This is about clarity. With the Republican convention now mercifully in the dustbin of history, and the Democratic convention mercifully soon to follow, this is a clarion call (which surely will be ignored on all sides) to speak clearly, instead of saying nothing while pretending you’re saying something. This is a call to get rid of filler, distractions, repetition and absurdity in what passes for political rhetoric.

If these phrases were banned until Nov. 6, it wouldn’t make that rhetoric perfect, but it would help. Here are the highlights of my list. You probably have your own contributions. Send them to me, and I’ll include them in a later post from the political wilderness:

Let me be clear: There is no need for a politician to ask for permission to be clear. We, the people, are begging for them to be clear. In fact, when politicians say that, they are usually setting us up for more obfuscation – some gauzy, feel-good promise. What they really mean is, “Let me be vague.”

Not uncommon/Not unusual: Perhaps people think this makes them sound more erudite, but it does the opposite. It is a double negative in search of a positive. It just clogs everything up. I’ll demonstrate: I’m sitting on my not unblack chair, wearing my not unkhaki pants and my not unwhite shirt, in front of my not unbrown desk writing on my not unsilver laptop.

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