Tuesday, November 24, 2015

You don't say

I have failed.

Sure, I've saved lives, ended war, salved pain, cured disease. It's not enough.

Such trifles! Especially compared to my utter embarrassing impotence to stop people from saying stupid things. More precisely, I can't prevent supposedly smart people from saying really dumb things that I guess are supposed to make them sound smart.

I couldn't then and I can't now. I've tried; no use.

This has become a virus unchecked, a hideous phenomenon continuing to worm its way onto our tongues. Before we know it, it will seem perfectly normal. People will say to one another, "This is an entirely reasonable way for us to talk, going forward."

If you don't recognize the point of stupidity in this comment, you have already been infected. You will be saying "going forward," going forward, for the rest of your days.

Going forward.

"You know" has nothing on "going forward." "You know" has become merely a sound, a marker, giving the speaker a chance to gather thoughts that had wandered off from that moment, and the listener time to rest and prepare to process the newly herded thoughts.

There was a time, perhaps, in which a speaker said, "You know," and the listener actually did know: The two proto-communicators were talking about something that was obvious to each other.

Over time it became, you know, a thing. Just filler, almost unheard. You know?

"Going forward" will go that route too. We'll become numb to it, just another new-age "uh."

It defies gravity and sense, persisting, for some lame reason, like sagging pants on teenage boys.

It's obvious what "going forward" means: Moving into the future. Duh!

The question is, do you need to say it?

The answer: No. Make that, Hell no!

Unless time travel has become a common means of transportation in the two years since I first heard this phrase get regular play — and no one informed me, you selfish pigs! — "going forward" need go nowhere.

If time travel does exist, we may need "going forward" to indicate which direction in time we are discussing. But — cancel that! — we already have verb tenses to perform that function. Never mind.

"Going forward" has one legitimate use, as in, "I'm going forward with the divorce." Or some such thing. One is proceeding with an action.

As misused now — widely, vastly, almost universally misused — "going forward" always accompanies, in the same sentence, an already useful time reference, such as a verb tense, to indicate events that will take place sometime after now. "Going forward" is implied! "Going forward" does not reinforce the meaning of future events already described in the sentence containing "going forward."

It is the fattiest of fats, needless.

Yet, there it remains.

Actually, I've only heard newspeople, and the people newspeople talk to, use "going forward." I've never heard an actual everyday non-newsmaker misuse "going forward." I suppose I might hear "going forward" from a boss or director at a business meeting; I'm glad I've never been invited to such a meeting.

I might hear it there, as I hear it on the news, because the misusers seem to think it adds heft to what they're saying. I wish the misusers would instead hear how stupid they sound. I wish we would tell them. It'll hurt their feelings at first, but they'll get over it and be better for our help.

Last week, I heard National Public Radio host Ari Shapiro use "going forward" twice in a 5-minute, 14-second report (about a woman who is black in Santa Monica, Calif., locked herself out of her apartment, hired a locksmith, and then was visited by 19 police officers, at least two with guns drawn, on a neighbor's tip that she was breaking into her own apartment; an interesting story, as are online comments — but I digress).

Shapiro used two "going forwards" 1 minute and 7 seconds apart, to make the same point:
You write that this has changed your relationship with police going forward. You see police officers and feel differently than you used to. Tell us more about that.
and then:
here's a police interaction that has kind of forever changed your attitude towards law enforcement going forward.
Remove "going forward" from each instance, and the meaning of the sentences change not one iota. "Going forward" goes nowhere, takes us nowhere, wastes a whole second of our life and our respect for the speaker. Or should, anyway.

Shapiro also says "towards," but don't get me started about that misuse.

Phrases like that just crop up in the effervescence that is our language, a tiny bit of the new language being good. Phrases get started by someone who thinks it's clever, whom other people think are clever, and use it for their own, however stupid it is.

On ESPN, the sports network, hosts still say, after all these years, "Let us welcome in our college football analyst," or "We welcome you in to SportsCenter.®™" Why in? Why not just welcome? Do they ever welcome out guests? Maybe "welcome over" if the guest is out of camera range, but in is out. Memo to ESPN and all the regional wannabe sports talk shows inspired by ESPN: Stop it.

Last week after the terrorist attacks in Paris, one of their correspondents kept talking about fears of a "follow-on" attack, and the show host took up the phrase. Yeah, it's a real phrase, as in: it's in dictionaries. But why talk like the assistant junior head chief of security, where jargon just can't be helped? Why not use regular-person words, easily understandable time-tested words such as "subsequent" or "second" or "another?"

Following on, you may notice newspeople like to say things such as "they have optics on the target" rather than, "they're watching the target," because they're impressed by some spokesman for whom talking in a normal way is not high priority, and their strange talk rubs off. Newspeople and those they interview also like to say they have "metrics," when they mean measurements or data.

Politicians and political analysts like to start sentences with, "Look," by which I infer, "I know what's what, even if you and I know I'm telling a lie."

More and more people on the news begin answers to questions with, "So …" Someone said interviewed scientists are more likely to do this, but I have no way of knowing. I do hear it more and more, and it always sounds like the speaker is in the middle of a story and forgot to tell us the first half.

My wife grates at newspeople who say "expecially" instead of "especially."

Make it stop. 

Stop, especially, saying "going forward," if that is your habit. It's a bad habit and you need help. No one is impressed by your use of it, or shouldn't be, anyway. Unless you practice time travel; but again, verb tenses! Already available! Brush up on your conjugations. Save yourself valuable seconds you could spend mucking about in the 23rd Century or preempting the Black Plague.

I fear the worst, though. Right as I write this, NPR reports the story of Salt Lake City's first openly gay (is this phrase, too, overused?) mayor, presiding in a city where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has its headquarters. The Mormon Church earlier this month announced a policy that adult Mormons in same-sex relationships and marriages face disciplinary action from the church, and some children of same-sex couples in the church may not be able to be baptized there.

Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who is not Mormon, said she plans to meet with Mormon Church leaders about church policy and diversity in the city.

The NPR show host read a statement from a spokesperson for the Mormon Church:

"We look forward to working closely with Mayor Biskupski and her administration, going forward."

See? Now it's canon. With two "forwards" in one sentence, you really can't get much more forward thinking than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment