Saturday, June 28, 2008

Catch the phrase?

An article in The Slate, ‘hunts for clues on what makes a catchphrase catch on and which ones deserve to be cast aside. And to make distinctions among the welter of catchphrases in use today, to identify variations and to distinguish the ones that still have some life in them’ and explains the different phases :

It is possible to think of catchphrase use in stages. There's Stage 1, when you first hear a phrase and take pleasure in its imaginative use of language on the literal and metaphorical level.

Then there's Stage 2, when you use it to establish "street cred” or convey a sense of being au courant.

Then there's Stage 3, when the user acknowledges a phrase's over-ness and tries to extract some final mileage out of it by gently mocking it, usually by using ironic quotes, or adding "as they say" to the end.

Finally, there's Stage 4: terminal obsolence, dead phrase walking.

As an example of Stage 4, the author mentions the phrase, “at the end of the day”. (In a post, I had also wondered why this particular phrase was so popular with cricket commentators and players.).

Being part of the corporate world, and as a regular in the seminar circuit, I hear and help spread quite a few catchphrases myself. At a recent meeting, I heard the phrase, “in terms of” used more than a hundred times (starting with “What I want to present in terms of setting the agenda for the meeting” and ending with, “ what I want to summarise here in terms of concluding this meeting….”).

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