On 7 Phrases We Must Stop Using. Now.

No one appointed me, nor do I aspire to be, a member of the grammar police – those folks do great work. However, I hear, and often use, the following phrases, words, etc quite often, and insist we must work together to make these phrases disappear from common use. Please help as you can.

7. Watering Hole.

As in: “On the way home from work, I stopped at my favorite watering hole to wet my whistle.”

Why it needs to stop: Unless there is a chance you may end up in a duel because some scofflaw insults your sister, call it your neighborhood bar. Paying $7 for a Rolling Rock at Applebee’s does not make you Billy the Kid.

Alternatives: Bar; restaurant; tavern; pub. (Note: the use of “tavern” and “pub” should also be used sparingly, especially if your establishment of choice is in a strip mall. Unless, or course, you are Bilbo Baggins or James Joyce, then carry on).

6. Wet my whistle.

As in: See above.

Why this needs to stop: This phrase is cringe-inducing on many levels, not the least of which is the cutesie use of alliteration, which if you’ll recall from high school (or if you’ll Google) is the re-occurrence of the same beginning letter or sound in closely-adjacent words. This phrase seems like something that Mr. McFeely of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fame might say, and I don’t want to think of good old McFeels strolling into a tavern mid-speedy delivery to knock down a Boilermaker.

Further, although the “wet” makes sense enough, I can only assume that the “whistle” is in reference to the mouth or the throat. Why do we insist on using these awkward euphemisms for parts of our bodies (Think “down the hatch” or “the old ticker'”)? It’s getting out of hand (or “paw” if you prefer). No one wants to turn on the nightly news to see a story about a man who’s recovering in the hospital after a thief “punched him in the whistle and made off with his wallet.”

Alternatives: had a drink; partook of a beverage

5. Poo-pooed

As in: “I wanted to buy an anaconda, but he poo-pooed the idea.”

Why this needs to stop: This one should require no explanation.

Alternatives: nixed; vehemently said no to; cast much dispersion upon; put an end to the discussion of.

4. Throw the baby out with the bathwater.

As in: “What I hear you saying is that you want to buy an anaconda. While I don’t think that’s a great idea, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater – we may be able to compromise here.”

Why this needs to stop: I assume this harkens to a time (or even a current culture), where babies were bathed in stand-alone tubs which were manually filled before, and then likewise dumped after, the bathing was completed. While I know this was or still is a necessary practice for many people, I refuse to believe that a baby has ever – EVER – been thrown out with the water after a bath.

The unlikelihood of this actually occurring aside, why do we need to use such disturbing imagery in order to simply express a desire to salvage something out of a situation? At very least we could use inanimate examples. Why not say “Let’s not throw the unopened bag of chips out with the boxed lunch” or “Let’s not throw daddy’s wallet out with the actual trash.”

Alternatives: let’s see what compromises we can make; I see some positive points we need to revisit; that’s not the most moronic idea I’ve ever heard.

3. Blood, sweat and tears

As in: “It’s been a long time coming, but thanks to a lot of blood, sweat and tears, my Polish sausage eatery is finally off the ground.”

Why this needs to stop: I submit that soldiers, police officers, revolutionaries and founding fathers and mothers have exclusive rights to this term. I’m glad your shop/business/yogurt stand is doing well, but I frankly don’t want to hear about the bodily fluids that went into making your handmade chair or meatball sub.

Alternatives: a lot of hard work; no bodily fluids were involved in making this dream a reality

2. Wouldn’t give you (him/her) the time of day.

As in: “She wouldn’t give you the time of day.”

Why this needs to stop: I’ll admit this one has a personal history with me. When I was 12 or so, while at a church function, I sent my profession of love, via a friend, to a much older (15?) young lady, only to have my friend return and inform me that she “would not give you the time of day.”

I was hurt, certainly, but I think I was more confused. Under what circumstances would I be asking this person for the time of day? Why, when asked, would she refuse to tell me the time of day? That’s not so much cruel as strange. And why, in the first place, would I need to include the phrase “of day”? I have never asked anyone for the time “of day”. Why would I need to? Is there a chance that the request could be mistaken for a desire to know a different time, such as the time of the year, or the time needed to bake a bundt cake? These questions still persist, so we need to retire this phrase.

Alternatives: She/he doesn’t like you; She/he rejects your kind profession of love; Go away.

1. It is what it is.

As in: ” You know that 28 page report you sent me?”

“You mean the 28 page report that took me 6 weeks to write, and of which no other copy exists because of a recent freak network virus?”

“Yes, that same one.”

“OK, go on.”

“Well it turns out a word processing bug has converted the font to Wingdings and there is no getting the original back.”

“Well, it is what it is.”

Why this needs to stop: When Popeye said, “I am what I am”, it was endearing, those the heart-driven words of a man who knew, and embraced, his place in the universe. When I say, “It is what it is,” that is my last viable brain cell’s attempt at something, anything to allow me to remain in the conversation. It’s one extra neuron-fire above a grunt. By using this phrase, I am literately saying, Dances-With-Wolves-Style, “You speak the truth in the words you say.”

Alternatives: OK; What?!; That’s messed up.

So, those are currently on top of my “must-eradicate” list. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it is what it is. What are yours?

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