"Mission Accomplished!" ...? What phrase would you retire?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - 12:00 AM

Five years ago, on May 1, 2003, President Bush marked the end of major combat in Iraq with a nationally televised speech from the USS Abraham Lincoln. The Iraq war continued and the giant 'mission accomplished' banner hung from the warship has come to symbolize its opposite. But there are other phrases that have changed in meaning over time and it's time now to stop using them. What phrase or word do you want to retire?

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Comments [59]

Peter Miller

My least favorite phrase of the moment is "You know," especially as enunciated (all too often) by Senator Clinton. A useless, mind-numbing filler, it manages to make even intelligent people sound incredibly brainless and it waters down the message to the level of banality. I realize that even gifted orators should be given a break now and then as they formulate complicated thoughts, but "You know" is ubiquitous in Clintonese. "You know" has become, for me at least, synonymous with the poverty of ideas and the baseless rote accusations at the heart of the Clinton campaign. But beyond that, it is symptomatic of the meaninglessness that characterizes much of contemporary American-speak: "Like," "Um," "Kind of," "It's kind of, like..,"

May. 07 2008 07:40 AM
Peter Grote

what I have read sofar about TakeAway doesn't at all sound inviting. I too miss Bob Edwards.
Peter Grote

May. 03 2008 07:04 AM

Personally, it would really please me if 'The Takeaway' was removed from the NPR/WNYC lexicon, or at the very least, the programming schedule.

May. 02 2008 09:04 AM
Martha Garvey

I would like to put to rest the phrase "has issues with."

I once heard a woman say, "I have issues with full-time employment."

I said, "You mean, you have trouble looking for a job?"

Also: monetize, tasked with, stakeholders, anything 360 (sorry, Kurt A.), Web 2.0, and most especially, millenial. Me, I love the young folks. But that term makes them sound like a bacterial infection.

May. 01 2008 06:01 PM
Mark Ramsey

I would absolutely, positively retire the phrase "Blood and Treasure."

Where did this come from, "Blood and Treasure"? Should we be saluting the Jolly Roger?

May. 01 2008 04:15 PM
michele rosen

Please fine anyone who uses:

"Step up to the plate"
Reinvent [whatever]"

oh, sorry, what is it you're going to takeaway from this [meeting, whatever]?

May. 01 2008 03:36 PM
Mary Elizabeth Williams

Any phrase that ends with .... "is the new black."

Is the new black is the new jumped the shark.

May. 01 2008 02:38 PM

"Throw under the bus" is one that grinds my nerves raw.

May. 01 2008 01:57 PM
Stephen J. Charbonneau

I would retire "My Bad"

May. 01 2008 01:44 PM
Adam G

Let's not forget the classic "smoking gun will be a mushroom cloud" line that helped the administration sell the war. Let's strike "smoking gun" from the political lexicon; maybe this will encourage honest discussion of the real dangers facing our world.

May. 01 2008 12:52 PM
Joe Huybens

How silly of me to let it go (this is my second post on this topic). "Make over" - a phrase no doubt invented and used by vapid media types, as in "Mornings need a make over. What would you change?" - well, as you mentioned it, I'd get rid of all those vapid media types who use phrases such as "make over", and return to Morning Edition.

"The Takeaway—WNYC's answer to daytime TV".

May. 01 2008 12:20 PM
David Hollis

Perfect storm. Argh! It is a book title that has been appropriated by everyone and everything ... and should not have been.

May. 01 2008 12:04 PM
Carol Carter, via SpinVox

I'm calling to submit the word "impacted". It's total misuse of the English language.

May. 01 2008 11:53 AM
Jamie, via website

Family values"... the gap between the words and actions of those who constantly promote "family values" had a certain ironic humor there for a while, but it's worn thin since.

May. 01 2008 11:51 AM
Stev P, Pleasantville, NY

"Banana Republic"

May. 01 2008 11:49 AM
Eveyln C, via email

I wouldn't merely retire, I would BAN the use of sweeping generalities by the media. I submit two out of current discourse.
"Every little girl looks up to Miley." Not if parents have given their daughters a strong sense of self and the wisdom not to mindlessly follow the masses.
From the political arena, the #1 phrase I would currently like to ban: "Hillary has captured the older women's vote". Not this one, she hasn't.

May. 01 2008 11:48 AM
Bob M from Cape Cod, spoken through SpinVox

"One of the phrases that absolutely has to be retired is "deja vu all over again". Thank you."

May. 01 2008 11:46 AM
Matt in New York, via SpinVox

"Pre-owned. "Pre-owned" instead of "used" cars. I think it's so pathetic.

May. 01 2008 11:43 AM
Phil, from Brooklyn, via SpinVox

The phrase that really kills me is: "with all due respect". Then of course, the speaker immediately follows it with a smashing diatribe of some kind.

"With all due respect" has gotta go.

May. 01 2008 11:42 AM
Rachel, Dobbs Ferry, NY -- via email

"Think outside the box" -- Everyone is thinking outside the box now. There's no one left inside the box."

May. 01 2008 11:40 AM
George, from New York, on SpinVox

"The word that I would retire is luminous -- like it's used in book reviews. Unless something is written on a neon, like on a neon sign, it is not luminous."

May. 01 2008 11:40 AM
Nancy from New Jersey, via SpinVox

"The phrase that would love to have retired is: "No problem," when I say thank you to someone. If I thought it was going to be a problem, I never would have asked them in the first place. So please -- let's retire it. Thank you."

May. 01 2008 11:38 AM

"That being said..." After giving an opinion or supplying "expertise" about a particular issue a pundit will play it safe and say: "that being said" and go on to give reasons why the commentary previously given may not be the case. We are back to the beginning with no answer to the original question of why something happened, the second half canceling out the first.

Another phrase that has to go: "Ya think?"

May. 01 2008 10:27 AM
Chris O

My nomination goes to: "At the end of the day." Unless of course when used literally.

May. 01 2008 10:02 AM

Can we kill "At this point in time" ? NOW !
I phoned in this A.M. but at the wrong time...catch that.

May. 01 2008 09:23 AM

I'm a pretty withit guy, but I have never ever noticed that the meaning of the word "gay" has been gradually morphing to mean "hopeless". Or, perhaps, I'm just not hanging out in the right homophobic crowd where the word "gay" is regularly used as a pejorative.

In any case, I think "The Takeaway" should be a little more careful about legitimizing this kind of bigotry. It just makes your new radio show seem SNARKY and MISINFORMED.

May. 01 2008 09:19 AM

I'm a pretty with-it guy, but I have never -ever - noticed that the meaning of the word "gay" has been gradually morphing to mean "hopeless". Or, perhaps, I'm just not hanging out in the right homophobic crowd where the word "gay" is regularly used as a pejorative.

In any case, I think "The Take-away" should be a little more careful about legitimizing this kind of bigotry. It just makes your new radio show seem SNARKY and MISINFORMED.

May. 01 2008 09:19 AM
Alison Bond

Also, I'm surprised to see that my comment will appear on the website "momentarily". Do you actually mean "momentarily" or do you mean "in a moment"? They are not the same, though I realise that the error is in keeping with the low aspirations of "The Takeaway".

May. 01 2008 09:13 AM
Alison Bond

This is a copy of my email to WNYC Listener Services:

PLEASE get rid of that awful programme "The Takeway". I don't tune in to WNYC to hear loud, mindless chatter (and it's often VERY loud)--I can get that from the talk shows on other stations. Several times I've had to check to see if I'm actully listening to AM 820 or to the Z Morning Zoo.

Alison Bond
Teaneck, NJ

May. 01 2008 09:10 AM

Irregardless. What is that extra syllable at the beginning of the word for, exactly?

May. 01 2008 09:06 AM
Joe Huybens

"I mean..." or "Y'know..." as the beginning of a question. Meaningless padding.

...Not that it could ever happen on NPR (Not that it could happen every thirty seconds on Sound Check).

May. 01 2008 08:57 AM
Trey H

The phrase I'd like retired is: "'I could care less' is incorrect, you should say, 'I couldn't care less' instead." It's called SARCASM, folks. Sarcasm doesn't really work when you say exactly what you mean, does it? :)

May. 01 2008 08:53 AM
Mary Bergin

I will be certain that "mission accomplished" will be realized when the phrase "Wait on" again refers to the service of a waiter/waitress and not a substitute for "wait for"

May. 01 2008 08:50 AM
Sam in Fort Lee NJ

Let's *stop beating a dead horse*, but "mission accomplished" is actually a *dead in the water slogan* that is abused by the electorate *ir*regardless of party affiliation. It's *so over* and *yesterday's news*.

May. 01 2008 08:50 AM
Aaron Mitchell

Speaking of ridiculous business words, how about "synergy"? Does anyone who uses it even know what it actually means? As far as I can tell from it's usage, it means "anything good."

May. 01 2008 08:50 AM

I'd like to see the letter "h" retired from the pronunciation of words that do not have an "h" in them. I don't know whether it's a fad, a dialect or a speech impediment, but there is no "h" in "street" or "strike" or "stress", yet many tv and radio reporters say "shtreet" or "conshtruction" or the like.

May. 01 2008 08:50 AM
Jean Rigg

Re phrases to be retired: "takeaway" (& I'd guess I'm not the first to make this suggestion?)

May. 01 2008 08:49 AM


May. 01 2008 08:47 AM
kate Skwire

How about the super stupid phrase "Not for nothing but...". What does this mean?

May. 01 2008 08:47 AM
Peter C

Instead of a phrase, what about the word "wonderful," which I hate. It's code for what "people who know" consider hip, beautiful, acceptable, PC, etc.

It means nothing!

May. 01 2008 08:44 AM
Virginia Brown

"At the end of the day" - boo!!!

May. 01 2008 08:39 AM
John Pinamonti

I am glad you are doing the "phrase" show today. I've been listening all week, and have heard "at the end of the day" used several times and wanted to write and say "please stop!". So now here's my chance! Might I suggest that you all do what I did and get a copy of "The Dimwit's Dictionary" by Robert Hartwell Fiske? It is a sometimes-irritating book, but I guarantee that using it as a frequent reference for a few weeks will clean your language of moribund metaphors (his term for "at the end of the day") and other overused phrases.

Thanks -


May. 01 2008 08:33 AM
Peter D.B.

"I'm sorry if anyone was offended." (which usually means, "But I meant it!")

May. 01 2008 08:32 AM

"Impacted," I learned to my chagrin, actually can technically be used as a verb, in the case of extremely large impacts; i.e., a meteor "impacted" the earth. See Webster's New Collegeiate, 11th Ed.

I would retire anything with "ize"; i.e., incentivize.

May. 01 2008 08:32 AM
Edward Scott

"I'm (insert any politician's name), and I approve this message."

Maybe it's all the political advertising we're seeing lately, but it seems like it should be "approved," or maybe "approve of."

May. 01 2008 08:31 AM
Don O'Donnelll

"reinvent oneself" ... Yuk!
Also "absolutely" when all is meant is "yes".

May. 01 2008 08:30 AM
Charlotte Schachter

Let's change the euphemism "putting our men and women in harm's way" to the reality of " Let's send our men and boys and girls to kill or be killed."

May. 01 2008 08:28 AM
Paul Frost

The truest words ever spoken by politicians - "IT IS WHAT IT IS." Let's put that one to rest.

Let's call on reporters to start interjecting/interrupting with "It never wasn't."

May. 01 2008 08:27 AM
Gaines Hubbell

Can we get rid of "the fundamentals are good"? Didn't Hoover say it before the depression? What does it really say anyway - something like, "Yes, we are still capitalists" or "Money still exists whether or not you've got any"? What a dumb phrase.

May. 01 2008 08:22 AM
Vernon Reid

Paradigm Shift HAS GOT TO GO! ! !

May. 01 2008 08:07 AM
Robyn W.

With all due respect, at the end of the day, frankly, I miss my Morning Edition. If I wanted to listen to water cooler banter, I'd go to work much earlier. AACCCKKKK!

May. 01 2008 07:10 AM
Michelle Sabbagh

No offense, but!!
People use all the time usually out of context. In fact they are offending, but they use it as an excuse.

May. 01 2008 07:04 AM

I would retire the phrase "a different kind of radio show." It's misleading. How about as a replacement: "an utterly obnoxious, unlistenable radio show?"

May. 01 2008 07:04 AM
V. Hansmann

With all due respect, please retire 'takeaway'. What does that it mean - Chinese food, kernel of truth?

May. 01 2008 06:58 AM
Aaron Johnson

"Everybody has their own...", which I keep hearing on The Takeaway ads when you say "everybody has their own opinion." We need to retire this grammatical mismatch. It's "everybody has his or her;..." - all singular. Thanks!

May. 01 2008 06:51 AM
Martus Granirer

"At the end of the day" is over. Scrub it.

May. 01 2008 06:50 AM

"Data Driven" ugh! If I hear another management type utter this ...

May. 01 2008 06:45 AM
Renate Bieber

"Fresh" instead of new

"Make no mistake"

both of these!

May. 01 2008 06:42 AM

"Family values"... the gap between the words and actions of those who constantly promote "family values" had a certain ironic humor there for a while, but it's worn thin since.

May. 01 2008 06:38 AM

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