I’ve been a life-long observer of idiotic superfluous speech fads.
In the early 1970s there was an outbreak by politicians of unnecessarily adding “at this point in time” to every utterance. Fortunately it’s now totally redundant with one exception, namely Winston Peters who bangs it in with every interview. At the same time all Labour politicians became obsessed with the word “fundamental.” It was simply a cover-up for having nothing to say. They used it as both an adjective and a noun.
One evening in the late 1970s Rob Muldoon invited my partner and me to dinner in the Prime Minister’s Beehive dining room. There’s a nice courtesy that goes with such invitations when the House is sitting and the dinner host must eventually turn up in the debating chamber. That’s after dinner to accompany their guests to the rear of Parliament’s floor where in a railed off section one can sit and watch proceedings together for a few minutes.
Well over dinner I’d regaled Rob about Labour politicians’ total inability to speak without banging in “fundamental”. He was always fascinated by this sort of thing. In due course we repaired downstairs, just as then new Labour MP David Caygill rose to speak.
“Mr Speaker,” he began, “Fundamentally…” whereupon Muldoon let out a loud shout. Every MP turned to us, so too the Speaker but they were afraid of him and sat puzzled.
Caygill began again. “Fundamentally…” and again followed an elated roar from Muldoon. This was repeated twice more, the Speaker now shuffling uncomfortably at Rob’s disruptive roars. Eventually Caygill gave up, his face showing both despair and bewilderment and he sat down while Rob left us and took his P.M.’s seat.
Sharebrokers are totally unable to string a sentence together without adding “Going forward.” Commercial real estate agents nonsensically use “footprint” when describing a lessee’s rental area, and there’s just so many more such speech absurdities I could recount, particularly with rugby commentators and their “sheds” for the dressing rooms, “pill” for the ball, “whitewash” for the goal lines, “sticks” for the goal-posts and so on.
Post-match interviews with the winning captain invariably begin with, “A tough day at the office Bill” and Bill’s response without exception is a contradictory “Yes, no”.
The Dom’ reported an incident in a city supermarket last week when the Police were called and took away an offender whom they refused to name, but advised he’d been released with a warning. It transpired that a large middle-aged man had stood beside the checkout counter girl chanting “Quick hands” every time she screened a purchase. And when the Police, reportedly visibly frightened, snapped handcuffs on him, he barked “Quick hands” whereupon, fearful for their safety they called for reinforcements.
The checkout girl, Sharlene Bridges, who the Dom’ advised is Soimon Bridge’s niece, was quoted, “Oi neffer fort this was a dangerous job but it was very scary. Me school crears officer told moi it was a bedda profesion for moi when oi told im oit wanted to be a doctor. Oim not coming back.” The police refused to confirm the offender was top rugby commentator Grant Nisbett.
In fairness Grant feels strongly about silly speech but he can’t shed “Quick hands” every time the ball is passed. I’ve teased him about this in the past. A few days before The 2016 Super Rugby final won by Wellington, Wellington real estate agent Chris Gollins had lunch with Grant and later called me with Grant’s message; “Tell Bob there’ll be no “quick hands” on Saturday night.”
I must confess Grant did bloody well, going through the entire first half without sinning. But alas, a minute into the second half, doubtless pent up through this cold turkey restraint, out it came. Thereafter not a peep from Grant who went home sulking and left the remaining commentary to his co-commentators.
In my view the worst of all of these idiotic speech habits is “window of opportunity”, which broke out in the mid-1990s. I hammer offenders demanding they tell me how a window of opportunity differs from an opportunity, which of course it doesn’t.
But worse was to come. Now it’s just “window”, It’s unadulterated nonsense.
“… an eating regime which limited the window in which you eat” was a sub-heading on an Australian Financial Review story last week. It’s not a bloody window; the word is “times.” Still, all is not lost. When I launch my revolution and take over, my first measure will be a row of scaffolds down Wellington’s Lambton Quay. After all the commercial architects have been hanged we’ll string up the “window”, “going forward” and other sinners as a warning to others. So fundamentally, at this point in time there’s an interesting career window of opportunity going forward for which quick hands will be required, namely hangmen. We’ll need lots. Send your application in to Mr Gollins who as my future Justice Minister, is handling the interviews.