Venting a Little About Words

The Curmudgeon, you may have noticed, is a bit, shall we say, persnickety about things like words and punctuation – as you can see, if you wish to refresh your memory here (commas), here (odds and ends), here (apostrophes), here (more apostrophe’s), here (overuse of a word), here (terrible use of a word), and here (mother of all rants).  And there’s a semi-related piece coming on Friday, too.

But right now he’d like to address three words (or terms, if you will) and one writing practice that have especially put a bee in his bonnet (not that The Curmudgeon wears bonnets.  It’s a metaphorical bonnet, thank you).


The Curmudgeon has had it up to his pupik with the growing use of the word “frankly” when it adds absolutely nothing to the discourse, either aloud or in writing, and for this offense there is a clear and obvious culprit to blame:  the president of the United States.  The Donald litters his speech with “franklys” as easily as we tossed trash out the windows of our moving cars until that damn Indian in the canoe with the tear running down his cheek came along.  Listen to him some time:  he uses it to suggest that he’s telling us something we’ve never even considered or couldn’t possibly know when what he’s actually doing is try to make his opinions sound more informed than they actually are or even make them seem factual when they are anything but.

It has, alas, become infectious.  A lot of people are using it – including those who dislike Trump.  One of The Curmudgeon’s bosses uses it all the time and when he does, The Curmudgeon wants to reach through the telephone line and rip the frankly right out of his throat (and this is someone The Curmudgeon likes and respects!).

Some examples of the unfortunate march that frankly is taking toward become a regular part of our language illustrate the problem.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, describing the outfit Melania Trump wore to the state-of-the-union address:

So this, her first appearance since it became known that Donald Trump’s attorney arranged a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair between them, may be the first lady’s visual way of telling us that frankly, she’s not having it anymore.

Zero value:  the addition of “frankly” frankly adds no meaning to that sentence whatsoever.

Speaking of things with no value, Sarah Sanders Huckabee was quoted by the Huffington Post dismissing celebrity criticism of the president’s state-of-the-union address before he even delivered it:

“Their message is one of negativity, and frankly, I think, a little bit of delusion,” Sanders told Fox & Friends.

 No value.

Nor here, from the Fox Business web site and an article about congressional leaders not doing enough to help the president address the economy:

And frankly if that succeeds, I have a few other places I’d like to dispatch them.

Of course, that came from doddering Lou Dobbs, so…

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, on the skill that the Philadelphia Eagles’ general manager exercises in managing professional football’s complex salary cap:

Frankly, he’s putting amateur cap analysts out of business, because every time Spotrac or Over The Cap makes you think the organization is about to go through a real belt-tightening…

A Mother Jones article describing charter schools that don’t live up to their billing quoted a former education reporter observing that “Frankly, if prisons had been in those conditions they’d be shut down.”

When the New York Times published an article speculating about basketball player LeBron James’s future as a Los Angeles Laker, it noted that

The Lakers themselves, frankly, still have a few questions to answer, after following up the James coup by immediately coming to terms with the world’s foremost LeBron irritant: Lance Stephenson.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on an existential crisis at the University of Pennsylvania:  did the university want its Fels School of Government to be a training ground for government officials  – essentially, a vocational school – or take a more academic approach that might be better suited for a school that’s part of an ivy league university?  One university administrator weighed in:

“When you look at its educational program and compare it to many others, we can do better and frankly we must do better,” said Steven J. Fluharty, dean of the school of arts and sciences, which oversees Fels.

A reporter for the NBC Sports Philadelphia web site wasn’t buying the Philadelphia Phillies’ explanation of why the team’s regular third baseman, Maikel Franco, wasn’t going to be playing that night, writing that

Maikel Franco was not in the Phillies’ starting lineup for a fourth straight game Sunday. He was held out of the lineup Friday and Saturday because he has a little head cold, but, frankly, that sounded like a convenient excuse.

The online publication Politico published a long piece that was essentially a summary of John McCain’s career and life, and among the observations it offered directly from McCain was that

“I came out of the Vietnam War convinced that frankly we could have won, and we had it won,” he told me in 2014. 

In a New York Times article about how Amazon steers customers toward its own brands (note:  CORRECT use of “brand”), one of those Wall Street analyst types who knows nothing about anything but will say anything about anything to get his name in a newspaper explained that

“Quite frankly, we think our estimate for the size of the private-label business is conservative,” he added.

Of course, “frankly” frankly adds nothing of value to that sentence – sort of like the work of Wall Street analysts, when you think about it.

A distinguished public prosecutor in Pennsylvania appears to be the subject of persecution for his aggressive investigations and he’s none too happy about it, saying of those who are after his hide that “They’re vicious, frankly.”

In a classic case of blaming the victim, Republican senator James Inhofe laid blame for the White House’s poor handling of its flag in the wake of John McCain’s death squarely on the very dead McCain, saying that

“Well, you know, frankly, I think that John McCain is partially to blame for that because he is very outspoken. He disagreed with the President in certain areas and wasn’t too courteous about it.” 

Frankly, The Curmudgeon has had it up to HERE with these people.

 “Lean In”

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg wrote a best-selling book advising women to “lean in” to get ahead professional.  Now, there’s a whole lotta leanin’ goin’ on – and The Curmudgeon is not at all happy about.

From Roll Call magazine, a headline:

Senate GOP Leans Away From Obamacare Repeal, Toward Stabilization

From an LA Times review of the movie Molly’s Game, describing how the title character recovered from the criminal charges against her and substance abuse problems:

She leaned into a 12-step program and now meditates regularly. 

From a New York Times article about changes in programming on Spike TV, quoting a network executive:

“We’re kind of leaning into the 100 years of the movie studio,” said Keith Cox, the network’s president for development.

From Modern Healthcare, on the nomination of Alex Azar to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If the Senate confirms Azar, he would take the helm at HHS just as the agency is leaning into dozens of rule changes and waiver requests that could dramatically reshape state Medicaid and Medicare payment programs to lower U.S. health-care spending — and, of course, how the Affordable Care Act is carried out under an administration that is antagonistic to it.

 From a Philadelphia Inquirer column by the daughter of mystery writer Lisa Scottoline, about a bar decorated like a bordello:

If I opened a bar, I would lean in to the bed gimmick even more.

That’s why mother, not daughter, is the best-selling writer.

A while back The Curmudgeon wrote about Seth Grossman, a Republican running for Congress in New Jersey who didn’t seem to understand the difference between affirmative action and diversity and had no use for either concept anyway.  In describing Grossman, the Huffington Postobserved that

Seth Grossman, the Republican nominee in the competitive race to represent New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District, is really leaning into his reputation as the candidate who hates diversity initiatives. 

Politics is nothing if not a world built on clichés, and the online publication Politicois certainly not immune to this menace. In an article about former President Barack Obama’s campaigning in the race for governor of Illinois, its subtitle said that

In his home state, the former president leans in hard for the Democratic nominee

Then, to be sure its readers got the leaning message, Politicodoubled down on its offense, writing that

In a boost to billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker’s gubernatorial bid, Obama went beyond his customary political comfort zone, leaning in hard by cutting his first videoon behalf of a candidate in the 2018 midterm elections.

These are just a few of the people and publications The Curmudgeon would like to lean on these days – lean on with a sledgehammer, that is.


This one is relatively new – and, The Curmudgeon hopes, will be more a fad than something that takes permanent root in every day speech.

But he’s not optimistic, mostly because it sounds like the kind of thing that started with kids and has worked its way into the adult world.

Are you obsessed with anything (like, say, inappropriate word choices)? That seems to be all the rage these days as people who appear to have no idea what an obsession is declare that they have one anyway.

A few examples:

Food & Wine magazine, in a how-do-they-think-up-this-s—t article titled “This One Tip Makes Cucumbers Taste So Much Better,” explains that

Every Friday, we’re publishing This Good Thing, where we’ll feature a restaurant dish, store-bought food item, kitchen tool, or food-adjacent obsession that we can’t stop thinking about. 

This appears to be an approach to writing favored by Food & Wine, because another issue featured an article titled

It’s Official: Everyone Is Obsessed With This Grocery Store

Clearly obsessed with obsession, another Food & Wine article offered the perspective of a person who had just taken his first cruise:

“You just go on board and are transported to a floating bizarro world, and wifi is expensive and almost never works, so you’re forced to unplug,” said PEOPLE food editor Shay Spence, a man who is obsessed with cruises (and goes on several a year.) “There’s a serious cheesiness factor that you have to just lean into and accept.”

“Obsessed” and “lean in” – a two-fer!

Real Simple titled an article

The Best Way to Brown Butter (Once You Try It, You’ll Be Obsessed)

Oh, The Curmudgeon doubts that very much, but another Real Simpleton who writes for Real Simple then decided to compound its obsession with obsession by observing that

Now you can use your brown butter in everything from green beans, salmon, and hasselback yams, to slice-and-bake cookies and our favorite vanilla pear pie.  Chances are good you’ll soon become as obsessed with brown butter as we are.

Not to be outdone, USA Today followed suit with an article titled

Teens are obsessed with Fortnite, and it’s driving school teachers crazy

Do you like Netflix?  If you do, you won’t want to miss the Bustle web site article

15 New Netflix Shows You’re Going To Be Obsessed With This Year

Do you like Chrissy Teigen?  Or do you, like The Curmudgeon, have no idea on earth who this person is?  Either way, the healthy eats (no capitals) web site wants you to know that

Chrissy Teigen Is Obsessed with This ‘Simple’ Cooking Method

An extra smack on the tuchas, by the way, for the headline writer who felt compelled to bracket “simple” with “quotation marks” in that “headline.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s restaurant critic has a new dessert interest:  ice cream bars.  If only he could have just said that instead of

Keystone ice cream bars are my newest dessert obsession

And Another Thing

Inanimate objects have a limited range of capabilities. Pill bottles feel no pain; your phone doesn’t become tired if you’re on it all day; your Camry is not humiliated if you pull alongside a $60,000 Range Rover at a traffic light.  That’s why The Curmudgeon’s panties are in a bunch these days over suggestions that Twitter and the internet are doing things that software and hardware simply aren’t equipped to do.  (Just a few samples here because this particular use of language has only recently started to get under The Curmudgeon’s skin to the point where he began collecting them.)

A web site called “Hello Giggles” – yes, The Curmudgeon is deeply ashamed, but sometimes that’s where the link leads you – titled an article

Ann Coulter just called immigrant children in detention centers “child actors,” and Twitter is justifiably livid

No, rest assured, Twitter is not.  Twitter users, perhaps, but Twitter itself, definitely not.

The slightly more credible Huffington Post – sorry, now it’s HuffPost, as if that makes more sense – committed a similar crime against the English language, telling its readers that

Donald Trump To Establish ‘Space Force’ And Twitter Users Can’t Deal

USA Today breathlessly told us that

‘Bachelor’ finale breakup: The Internet explodes, blames Arie Luyendyk Jr. and ABC

And last but not least, just a few weeks ago a site The Curmudgeon has never heard of called Daily Wire (or it may be DailyWire) reported on public response to the views of someone The Curmudgeon has never heard of regarding the recent re-emergence of one of those supposedly exiled pervy celebrities, screaming

Michael Ian Black Defends Louis C.K.’s Return. Internet Explodes

No, it did not; The Internet is still with us.

And now, The Curmudgeon thinks he needs to stop and cool off a bit.  He’s afraid, quite frankly, that he’s leaning into this kind of thing to the point where it’s become an obsession and his keyboard may explode.

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