The Gripes of Wrath, Pt II

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Following the huge public success of my first blogpost in the Gripes of Wrath series, here are a few new grumbles about lazy language use and trite expressions that get on my wick.

To cross a line

As in “He really crossed a line when he said that”. Is this a police line, or one of those confidentiality lines they put on the floor in post offices and banks? Or is it another way of saying “going too far”, in which case who exactly drew the line and for what purpose? When I hear this expression, I am seriously tempted to cross that line just for the heck of it, and any other lines that people draw in front of me. How dare they!


Heard on a radio programme about international food storage: “Storing grain gives us more optionality”. What’s wrong with “gives us more options”? However, I checked in the dictionary and “optionality” really does exist, so I’ve run out of gripe optionality.

To be in a bad place

“I was in a really bad place after my divorce, drinking, sleeping all day.” Conversely, of course, one can be in a “good place”. Don’t ask me why, but I have a totally irrational phobia for this expression, as for the use of “journey” for almost any life experience. On which subject, I also dislike the expression “It’s not the getting there, it’s the journey that counts”. I’m sorry but if I go on a journey, I really do want to “get there”. If you don’t, that’s your business. I think most rail, bus and plane commuters would agree with me on this one.


For example “You need to go by foot. You can’t ride your bike here.” The increasing use of the modal auxiliary verb “need” to replace “must” or “have to” is just ridiculous. I have a strong suspicion that this comes from American police usage, when telling people what to do. Why should I “need” to go by foot? I need to ride my bike, but you’re telling me I can’t because of some piddling bye-law so, according to that law, I “have to” go by foot. Or is it “on foot”? Or both… Bloody hell, I don’t know.

Bringing you up to speed

“Good morning – it’s Warren Murray bringing you up to speed!” I presume that Warren Murray is presenting the news or something, and basically he is updating me on current affairs. I don’t see what it has to do with speed, unless I am in some kind of competition with other news addicts to have all the latest information at my fingertips and the whole thing is a bizarre race to be the best-informed.


“He has a lot of issues”, meaning emotional problems, strange attitudes etc. American therapist usage that shouldn’t have crossed the pond.


‘“I hope this sentencing brings some closure to the family of Mr Braithwaite,” he said.’ This is generally to do with deaths – bodies that haven’t been found, or culprits who haven’t been jailed. Mr Braithwaite’s family, satisfied with the outcome, can close the door on that episode of their lives and move on. I think what gets on my nerves with this one is that it comes from the jargon of shrinks and therapists, just like “issues” above.

Moral compass

“It’s interesting how one’s moral compass can shift when you become a parent.” Clearly, relating to one’s ability to judge what is right and wrong. Do you have a moral compass? Where? In your head? Up your jumper? When a metaphor is as tired as this one, it should be retired to the Sunset Home for Knackered Metaphors post haste.

Lock down

« The bridge is in lock down and the area around it is closed with bus routes being diverted, as armed police attend the scene and boats search the water.” Meaning “the bridge is closed”. More police jargon here. It just sounds more important, or makes the speaker sound more important. 

As Schopenhauer says, « One should use common words to talk about uncommon things. » That is, not the opposite…

On that note, I think I have reached closure.

5 réponses à “The Gripes of Wrath, Pt II”

  1. I agree. Whoever said something along the lines of « two nations divided by a common language » was not far off the mark.

    • I thought that was Oscar Wilde talking about England and America, « We have everything in common except the language ».

  2. To be in a good place?
    « And we shall not cease for exploring.
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started.
    And know the place for the first time. »
    T.S. Eliot. Four Quartets.

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