Tag: Cliches

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My husband and I both like sci-fi and went to see Ad Astra yesterday. It was showing in a small room, and only a handful of viewers were there. So I wondered whether it would be any good. Without giving much away, I would say that I enjoyed the plausible technological and political vision of […]

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How Lame Is Our Awesome God?


“When He rolls up His sleeves / He ain’t just puttin’ on the Ritz” must be one of the least promising ways to begin a worship song ever. Nobody rolling up their sleeves is “puttin’ on the Ritz.” The rolled-up sleeve-position used for manual labor is the opposite of the sleeve-position used for an old-fashioned fancy night out. And yet, that’s how Richard Mullins’s best-known song, Awesome God opens. Mullins himself considered Awesome God something of a failure, remarking, “the thing I like about Awesome God is that it’s one of the worst-written songs that I ever wrote; it’s just poorly crafted.” And yet it’s a song many of us remember fondly. Why?

To be fair, the lyrics get better from there: “There is THUNder in His footsteps / And lightnin’ in His fists.” Although not by much. Awesome God alternates patter in the verses with an expansive chorus, and the patter is hardly scintillating prose, much less verse. (“Eden” rhymes with “be believin’” — really?) The patter does, though, address themes often left out of “Jesus is my boyfriend”-style worship songs. God as Judge. Sin and its wages. God as God not just of happy, shiny, fluffy things, but also of the storm. And, when the song is sung at proper tempo (no slower than Mullins himself performed it), the rapid-fire, syncopated sixteenth-note patter creates an effect that surpasses its individual words. Especially when the worship leader delivers the patter in a half-snarled, half-whispered mutter, as if he’s letting you in on the secret of something dangerous — which he is: Aslan’s not safe, after all, just good. Notice I called the worship leader he. That’s important. Awesome God is made for a masculine musical delivery, and the difference between liking the song and hating it can simply be the difference between having learned it as masculine and driven, or crooning and wimpy.

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So for a few decades now the open totally not a secret scourge of prison rape has been both the primary source of vicious schadenfreude of our justice system and part of our conception of justice. Its been a source of comedy and dark wishful thinking (the kind that one probably needs to confess over) […]

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Saturday Morning Diversion: Right Wing Clichés


HowToGoBeyondStockPhotoClichesIf you perused our Ricochet House Style guide, you may have noticed this item:

  • Terminate all clichés with extreme prejudice. The previous sentence, for example, should be terminated. “Social justice warrior” and other right-wing clichés should be replaced. TK: LIST OF RIGHT-WING CLICHÉS ALWAYS TO BE REPLACED

TK is a traditional editorial place-marker for “missing information to come,” by the way. It’s short for the intentional misspelling of “to come.” (Tokum, get it?) The origin of the symbol is shrouded in lore, but when pressed, editors will say that TK never comes up in everyday English, so it stands out; TC might be confused with Table of Contents; and besides, that’s just how we’ve always done it.

That section will probably forever be TK. I put it there because I’d been mentally compiling a list of soul-numbing right-wing clichés that make me itch to whip out the red pen. Yes, yes, I know: Left-wing clichés are worse. But we can only control our own clichés.

15 Fresh Holiday Story Ideas for TV News


As we enter the holiday season, news organizations deal with a distracted audience, staff vacations and expectations of a slow news cycle. But the show must go on!

Eager to assist my broadcast brethren, I have compiled a list of innovative story ideas to help local and cable news networks get through the Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s gauntlet.

What Are the Worst Journalism Cliches?


shutterstock_158484926Earlier this week at the Washington Post, Carlos Lozada compiled a list of the 150 worst journalistic cliches. As a writer who’s not immune to falling prey to a few of these tics, I winced a few times. As an editor who stalks and kills many of these formulations in the wild, however, I was more often drunk with delight. Here are a few examples of instances where I think the Post’s contempt is deserved:

  • “Needless to Say”— This is a phrase that announces its own irrelevance. Taken literally, the words are committing suicide. I look forward to the day when word processors are programmed to automatically delete it 
  • “Broken System” — Worth banning if only to shut Norm Ornstein up for awhile. Seriously, can we get a blanket prohibition on thumb-sucking opinion pieces that elide the distinction between “Washington doesn’t work” and “Washington doesn’t work the way I want it to”?
  • Much Ballyhooed” — I’m more forgiving that most of writing-specific diction. I’d never write a column the same way I’d write a speech. Different styles are appropriate for different media. There’s only so much elasticity permitted, however. “Ballyhoo” takes it too far. Never employ vocabulary that could plausibly have been originated by Dr. Seuss.
  • “Twitterati’ — Italian for “writers who are falling behind on their deadlines.”
  • “The Narrative” (unless referring to a style of writing) — First, it’s just an incredibly sterile phrase. More importantly, though, it’s gateway to a sort of meta-commentary. I never trusts journalists who talk about “the narrative” as if it’s set in stone. They have the power to change it. Give me the facts and I’ll make sense of them for myself.

As with all such exercises, a lot of these judgments are subjective. The Post flags “inflection point,” for example, which I regard as a phrase with no ready substitute, even if it’s a bit overused.

Likewise, I find the criticism of “begs the question” excessively pedantic. Yes, it has a specific meaning in a philosophical context, but the more common usage is so deeply embedded into the way we talk that it’s probably not worth resisting. Will the world really be that much better a place if everyone says “invites the question” instead?