I hope that we can retire some phrases with the old year. I have heard them so often that they should be officially labeled as cliché and banned permanently from public use.
“This is the light at the end of the tunnel.” The last time I saw a light at the end of a tunnel it was a fast-approaching freight train that was about to demolish me. Luckily I woke up before it hit, but this phrase has been used so often that it has lost all its meaning. With doses of COVID-19 vaccine being administered at about ten percent of the previous estimates, I have to wonder just how long this tunnel is and how fast that light is coming. Let’s just ignore anyone who uses it henceforth and try to forget how it was overused.
Another phrase that has been beaten to death is “All hands on deck.” It should only be used by people who have been on a ship and have some idea of what it means, and, by the way, it seems to me that it could be dangerous. I mean, if all the hands are on deck, which I suppose means that all workers need to be on the deck doing useful work, what happens if the ship’s engines stop working? Don’t some of those “hands” need to be below deck manning the engines? And in what direction is the ship heading? Don’t they need some of the “hands” in the control room or bridge taking care of navigation? Actually I think all the “hands” may have been on deck which accounts for how we are bumbling slowly forward without a clear sense of the goal or how to get there.
And if I hear “We’re all in this together” one more time, I may throw something at the source. Of course we’re in this together unless some of us find a way to migrate to Mars or some other neighboring planet. If anyone is NOT in this pandemic he should let the rest of us know how to get out. That statement would qualify for the Captain Obvious Award in any other setting but as it is people seem to take it seriously.
Then there is the ever-popular, “We have rounded the corner.” Apparently no one told anyone there was a pretty steep hill around that corner and that climbing that hill was going to be a lot harder than getting around the corner. Or maybe there is an alligator waiting around the corner. Maybe we ought to look around a corner before we get all excited about getting around it.
Not to be left out is the stern warning, “Things will get worse before they get better.” All farmers know that in the middle of December things almost always get worse before they reach June. Just because there is a warm spell before Christmas everyone who has spent any time at all north of the Mason-Dixon line knows that the worst of the winter is still to come. I suppose it might be instructive to warn people that a fleeting glimpse of better things does not mean the hard times are over, but one of those warnings a year is enough. Hearing it seven times a week makes it meaningless.
Some of the pet phrases do not even make sense. Take, “It is what it is.” How could it not be what it is? Would it make any sense at all to say “It’s NOT what it is.”? That’s like saying cheese is not cheese or snow is not snow or stones are not stones. Of course it is what it is; logically it cannot be anything else and saying it it is a waste of five words.
But just as Americans seem to have lost their ability to hear what is being said and apply some sense of reason to it, advertisers don’t seem to mind announcing sheer nonsense if it seems to sound good.
Take for example the ad for a popular gambling game that we in Pennsylvania are now “lucky” enough to be allowed to play. Time after time they announce that “We have an ace up our sleeve.”
For as long as any of us can remember that phrase was related to playing poker where an ace is the high card and having one hidden in a sleeve was a good way to cheat. So that game is advertising that they plan to cheat the players. And yet people seem to think it’s OK to put their money there when the sponsor has already said they plan to cheat.
And yet, knowing that casinos, whether they be “brick and mortar” or online in the players living room, exist only because they make money. And they make money because the players lose money to the “House” and that they are more likely to lose money than to come out ahead. And yet, and yet, they play on with the hope that lighting will strike and they will win more than they lose.
Hope is not a plan and I don’t ever expect to see anyone who has a million dollars in the bank scratching lottery tickets or putting money in a gambling casino that is either real or virtual. I happen to believe that man was created with a mind that can reason and choose to accept faith, and know the difference between fact and folly. I just wish we could accept facts more readily and reject folly when it appears.
These are just a few things we need to retire with 2020. It was not a good year in most people’s opinion, so the best thing to do is put it in the rear view mirror and look to the future with some faith that it will be better.