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The 10 Most Obnoxious Political, Media and Cultural Phrases

Posted: 07/13/10 05:48 PM ET

1. "A defining moment..." A phrase as cringe worthy as chalk scratching a blackboard. So who determines a "defining" -- pivotal -- moment? Once upon a time it was a great historian or newspaper pundit. Today the phrase is trotted out by anyone who feels self-important.

2. "Tried to change the subject..." Translation: A politician tried to talk about something other than what a politician, political pundit, or journalist felt was the story of the day on his own agenda. If amid news of a Gulf oil spill setback Barack Obama talked about a major Iran nuclear threat development that would be "changing the subject?" Could it be that politicians may prioritize differently than reporters and pundits, so they're not manipulating but trying to talk about something also of substance? We can only do one thing at a time? Or can't we multi-task?

3. "He just doesn't get it..." Translation: He just won't go along with my own partisan spin and I need to cast doubt on his brain power to discredit him.

4. "Singing Kumbaya..." Can't we set this one to rest? The song was gag-inducing when I was forced to sing it at Camp Laurelwood in the summer of 1963. It conjures up images of people with their arms around each others' shoulders, swaying in a circle around a crackling campfire, smiling and gazing hypocritically into each others' eyes as they sing the trite song. It's a tiresome cliché that needs to be retired as oh, so 20th century. How about a Lady Gaga song instead?

5. "A Marine and his buddies..." Why is it that Marines and other military are always described as with their "buddy" or "buddies"? Can't someone in the military dislike, hate or feel neutral about someone else wearing a uniform? And what about military women? Are they with their "buddies," too? A cliché requiring a run for the vomit bag.

6. ''Join the conversation!!" Everyone from 2008 Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, to newspapers trying to gain web presence, to broadcast companies used this one. Here's a fact: internet discussion is often more like argument, screaming or demonization. But "Join the argument!!" or "Join the demonization!!" isn't as appealing if you want to gain an audience. Unless you're a talk show host.

7. "The Mushy Middle" Liberal Democrats and Conservative Republicans call moderates, centrists and independents, weak-kneed, unprincipled, not needed, ideologically wimpish and mushy when they aren't breaking their way. When they do break their way, then they're perceptive, principled, important and brilliant.

8. DE-fense and OFF-fense: Who started calling defense in sports DE-fense and offense OFF-fense? So why don't we have a Department of DE-fense? And would this column run if it had OFF-fensive language? (Join the conversation on this unless you just don't get it.)

9. "The liberal media...The conservative media"
As someone who freelanced for many years from Spain and India and who was on the staff of two big chain newspapers: calling the media "liberal" or "conservative" is inaccurate. Most media outlets express views in opinion sections or opinion shows and do straight news reporting. Both liberals and conservatives blast the media when they don't like its content and quote it and praise it when they like its content.

10. "The mainstream media" The phrase most used by bloggers in often critical posts about the media that have an underlying theme about how the "new media" is more democratic, free, timely and just as good. Professional news organization, reporters and editors are disdained. But if you took away stories bloggers cut and paste (at no cost to them) that were written by the mainstream media (at enormous financial cost to professional news organizations) most blogs would have little content, indeed.

Joe Gandelman is founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice. CNN's John Avlon named him one of the Top 25 Centrist Columnists and Commentators.

 

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