Sunday, March 03, 2013

Kicking the Can Off the Fiscal Cliff

Let's play a game of word association. I'll say a word and you quickly give me a one-word answer.

Me: Congress.

You: Gridlock. Partisanship. Brinkmanship. Bickering. Incompetence. Frustration. Anger. Cockroach.

Cockroach? Ah, now I remember. A poll by the firm Public Policy Polling taken at the beginning of the year found that Congress was more unpopular than cockroaches.

So good answers, all.

But if it's not bad enough that Congress has revealed itself to be nothing more than a bunch of political hooligans, its members are now cluttering up our language with a bunch of cliches that are as tiresome as those who utter them.

To underscore that point, consider the good folks at Lake Superior State University in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan who since 1976 have been compiling an annual list of words that should be banished. Their picks are almost always spot on.

Not surprisingly, this year's edition borrows heavily from the Beltway.

Leading the list is "fiscal cliff" a term that described the financial havoc that threatened to plunge us into the abyss because Congressional combatants couldn't make peace. After months of angst and finger-pointing, it was resolved when a couple of old hands, Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, decided to speak to one another. And how did they reach an accord? Well, they decided to:

"Kick the can down the road." This candidate for banishment simply means to procrastinate, a favorite pastime in Washington. Wait, that's too simple. It's more like procrastinating in the hopes someone else will deal with the problem long after you've gone. It's an old favorite practiced, as one wag posted, "by Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Tories, Whigs, Socialists, Communists, Fashionistas " Maybe we can just kick the can off the fiscal cliff.

"Job creators": Uttered several thousand times by both candidates during the 2012 presidential election, it implied that both men had supernatural powers or a secret plan to end joblessness in this country now and forever. It was mostly misused by Mitt Romney who actually made a great deal of money by laying people off.

Double Down: A blackjack term that seems to have found a place in everyday language, especially in politics where is often used in place of "redoubling our efforts." But it carries with it the implication of risky behavior, since in cards it means doubling your bet against long odds. If that's not bad enough, KFC offers something called a Double Down sandwich, a pile of bacon and Monterey Jack cheese that uses two slabs of deep-fried chicken breasts in place of a bun. Any way you slice it, this expression is dangerous.

Not on the Lake Superior State list but a personal gripe: When did we start to speak in acronyms when referring to persons and institutions? Now we have POTUS (president of the United States), FLOTUS (first lady of the United States), SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) and even SOTUA (State of the Union Address). It sounds like a group of Greek islands.

I suspect it's a carry over from the military which will always use an acronym in place of a word if possible. Example: LPC for Leather Personnel Carrier. That's "shoes" to you.

In the non-political category, the Lake Superior list contains such favorites as "spoiler alert," "an obnoxious way to show one has trivial information and is about to use it, no matter what."

And "boneless wings," "Can we just call them chicken (pieces)?"

And "YOLO," Twitter speak for You Only Live Once which is a passport for young people to act like idiots.

I would add to that list "baby bump," a term describing recently impregnated ladies that apparently originated in England. Some thought it was so cutesy it could result in an uptick of teenage pregnancies.

Those Brits, always trying to mess with our language.

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