Overrated – Empty expressions

Ned Bitters

Ned Bitters

This week’s inductees into the “Overrated Hall of Fame” are …empty expressions.

Words matter to me, which is hard to believe if you look at the quality of the writing in these columns. Maybe I should say, “Other people’s words matter to me.” (File under: Pathetic Double Standard, No. 847) Which is why I get so irked by certain overused expressions that should be used less, tweaked or simply eliminated.

Some of these expressions get heavy usage but then die out rather quickly. Not too long ago, you couldn’t go more than 90 minutes without someone saying “At the end of the day” or “It is what it is.” Now those are used mainly by bubbleheaded ex-athletes on ESPN and people who conduct meetings where you work.

But some of these seem to have an eternal life span, and they are irritating because they make no sense, or are used incorrectly, or are empty and meaningless. I’ve heard each of the following used within the past week and I’ve been hearing them all my life. If you use any of the following, please stop.

“The word on the street …”

No one except actual criminals are allowed to use this expression, and then even if they actually spend time out in streets. How many non-felons or non-future-felons do you know who can use this expression without sounding silly? It’s supposed to lend an air of toughness, I guess, but the person saying it is never actually a person from “the streets.” It’s Steve at work, they guy whose lifetime resume of illegal activities amounts to coasting through the occasional stop sign.

I heard a guy at work use these words just this past week when sharing some sensational rumor surrounding the Penn State fiasco. Because he wasn’t actually talking to me (and because he’s a half-crazy bastard who might not understand the rules regarding violence in the workplace, or more accurately, a fist against my face), I didn’t challenge him on what streets he was referring to and which people on these streets were spreading these allegations. It was probably something he heard while buying his weekly lottery tickets, and now he feels all gangsta saying “word on the street is …”

I supposed if you live a major urban center where people seldom drive and instead do a lot of walking on actual city streets in actual urban neighborhoods, then you get to use “word on the street.” But otherwise, just say “I heard …” when you are sharing some cockamamie rumor or conspiracy theory that you overheard in the produce section of the local Safeway. Believe me, we can all tell by looking at you that are not “of the streets.” In fact, in most cases, it would be more accurate to say, “Word in the pasty, doughy, downy-soft whiteboy club is that …”

“Laughing all the way to the bank.”

This one makes no sense because people have changed the most important word in the original expression. The correct way to make this point is to say that someone is “crying” all the way to the bank. For example, if some singer or novelist gets continually flayed by critics but continues to sell millions of CDs or books, the poor maligned artist is said to be “crying all the way to the bank.” He pretends to be stung by the criticisms while raking in millions of dollars. That makes sense. If Oprah gets all weepy about people making fun of her weight, she can be said to be crying all the way to the bank.

Yet people keep replacing “crying” with “laughing” and it renders the expression meaningless. Hell, we’d all laugh all the way to the bank if we were making millions.

“Having a Field Day!”

This one is used when the speaker or writer wants to express that someone is having a great time. Because most people, especially kids, love a Field Day, it make sense. But to some people, mainly Mrs. Bitters, it means the complete opposite. She is a P.E. teacher, and once a year she is charged with setting up a two-day, schoolwide Field Day. This entails endless planning, creating fun, original activities for ten different stations, finding parent volunteers, assigning resentful teachers to day-long duties, dealing with sunburn and heat-related illnesses and at least three injuries that require the school nurse or an emergency room visit, ordering supplies and then actually running an event attended by hundreds of screaming kids who are already batshit crazy with excitement over the fact that their summer is two weeks away. I get enlisted into helping with this every year.

So when Mrs. Bitters hears the word “field day” used in a positive light, teeth are gritted and epithets are hurled toward the TV, and when Mrs. Bitters ain’t happy, then I can’t be happy, so stop using “Field Day” like it’s a good thing. It’s annual pain in the ass to some of us.

“One for the road.”

How in the hell did this one ever come about? You’re getting plowed at a bar or party, and as you are getting ready to stagger out to your car and plop your drunk ass behind the wheel of your half-ton killing machine for a game of potentially hazardous Highway Zigzag, the helpful bartender or caring host implores you to suck down one more drink, using the words “one for the road” as an irresistible convincer. You know, as if a bit of sobering up for that boring car ride is simply not acceptable, and that one more drink would be sufficient to keep you plastered and thereby consistently dangerous, for the entire ride home. The message is, “There’s no reason the party has to stop when you leave the actual party! Have one more so you’ll still be shitfaced for that harrowing entrance onto the beltway!”

And finally …

“Our thoughts and prayers.”

Is there any expression more meaningless than this one? It’s a platitude usually offered for someone who is going through some unimaginable horror, such as, ohhh … getting anally raped at ten years old by a former bigtime college football coach in the shower of a major university. (Allegedly, of course.)

I’d love to know how many people who use this expression actually do keep the victims in their thoughts in a sympathetic manner. Or how many actually pray and, of those who do, how many actually pray for the victims of whatever the Tragedy of the Week is.

Worst of all, those thoughts and prayers, if indeed followed through on, don’t amount to shit. You think a victim of childhood sexual abuse gives a rat’s ass about your concern now? You think your prayers are going to erase the permanent psychological scars that kid has? I bet that boy did some praying of his own when he was (allegedly, of course) being railed in a shower by a man he trusted, and if his goddamn prayers weren’t answered then, yours aren’t going to be worth two shits now.

No, the victims of crimes and abuse and natural disasters don’t need your by rote vow to keep them in your thoughts and prayers. They needed God when the trauma was occurring, but he didn’t seem to give a shit then, so there’s no use asking His Incompetence to intervene now. If you get fucked in the ass at age ten, God hasn’t got enough heavenly balm for that damaged soul.

The victims don’t need your platitudes. At the end of the day, just send cash, and plenty of it.

Ned Bitters is, in fact, overrated. You can contact him at teacherslounge@hobotrashcan.com.

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