Monday, March 23, 2015

Will cliches outlive the political candidates who choose to utter them?

I find government and electoral politics intriguing, but have never aspired to actually run for office myself – in large part because I would detest all the routine speeches that candidates often have to give.

I have heard so many of them throughout the years that I find them mind-numbing in their similarity.

BECAUSE THE KEY to a candidate managing to give a public speech while also avoiding saying something stupid that, more often than not, makes real news is to have a set speech in mind.

A series of thoughts, talking points, so to speak, that needs to be hit on regardless of the event.

Admittedly, the candidate has to try to localize it a bit. And there will be occasions when a specific issue must be the focus.

But the bottom line is that the candidate essentially gives the same speech every single time he speaks in public. It may be interesting a first time, or for those locals who have never heard it before.

BUT IT GETS awfully repetitive. Made all the worse by the fact that many political people either think too much of themselves or have aides who write copy that gets way to clichéd.

The former category probably includes President Barack Obama, who in his early years of running for office had a reputation for being someone who would rewrite his speechwriter’s copy. Apparently, being the author of an autobiographical book that didn’t sell much until after he became a name politically made him think he has something to say.

But the clichés are the worst. Certain catchphrases that the candidates might not even realize are ever so awful. Which is why I was amused to learn Sunday of the site that will review copy and automatically knock out phrases it is programmed to think of as repetitive nonsense and double-speak.

Now I don’t think I’d want to trust a computer program to review all copy. It really needs the human touch. Just think of all those automatic language translator services that manage to turn English into something else, then translate it back to English in some overly stilted, gibberish-like prose.

WE COULD SOON have politicians talking even more stupidly than they already do.

Although the website released the results of an online poll for the worst clichés used by too many government officials – when they think they’re sounding all omnipotent but come across as being more impotent than anything else.

“Hard-working families” is the worst cliché, although “Let me be clear” is a close second, usually because whoever says it probably isn’t being all that clear about what he (or she) means.

I found the most amusing cliché to be the number six item on the list, “the Great (fill in the blank) people” which is meant to let the speaker fill in the blank of whomever the person is speaking to.

AN ATTEMPT TO localize the talk, but creates the risk of the candidate having a brain cramp and filling in the blank with the wrong group. Or not being specific enough, such as whenever a politico makes a Chicago reference to a group of people from the rural part of Illinois.

Believe me, they get peeved at being reminded that their part of the state lacks a certain panache.

Although when it comes to certain catchphrases getting a little too comfortable in the speech pattern of a government official, perhaps the ultimate that I have ever heard was, “a whole host of issues.” That was the phrase that former Gov. Jim Edgar used to rely on ever so much whenever he tried to convey the idea that he was going to address multiple topics.

And there are still some reporter-types (myself included) who can still mock the way that phrase sounded coming from Edgar’s nasally-toned voice!


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