This is the time of year for, above all things, lists.
Lists of New Year’s resolutions. Roundups of the year in review. Projections of outcomes that, if correct, will make you appear prescient. Rundowns of those who died in the preceding year. Shopping lists. Upcoming events to savor, as in the recent New York Times headline: “Here Are the Sports Moments We Can’t Wait to See in 2023.” Lists to make you feel you’ve accomplished something by making a list.
This year we offer yet another kind of list, this one a recitation of protests aimed at a few mangled, tiresome, or mis-directed expressions we’d just as soon never see or hear again.
Unfortunately these habits of speech will not go away because we wish it so, and we doubt drawing attention to them will make a difference. Still, we feel compelled to try. To wit:
- Still remains. While it’s an understandable bit of over-emphasis, still remains is repetitious – like big giant, or small little. If it remains, whatever it is, it’s logically still there. Or here.
- Young freshman. Granted, these days age and class are a bit blurred in college sports. But do TV commentators, coaches and others need to tell us freshmen are young? They do it anyway. Freshmen inherently are in their first year of collegiate eligibility. They’re young by definition. So why repeat it? It can be regarded as a bit of a flourish, like stating a person’s age when “years of age” is seemingly more substantive. (And definitely more pretentious.)
- Speaking of freshmen, there’s no need to declare a statistical achievement by a first-year player is a career high. What else could it be if he or she is in their first collegiate season? It’s a personal best, that’s all. Maybe NCAA or AP style mandates this foolishness. Seven or 12 or 20 games doesn’t a career make. Then again, these days maybe it does; Kyrie Irving played 11 games for Duke in 2011 and is associated with the Blue Devil program.
- Intent on lending historical weight to an achievement, experts real or putative, not to mention school sports flacks, eagerly celebrate all-time standards. Despite the fact NCAA records exclude generations of players (assists weren’t officially recorded until the 1973 season, blocked shots from 1976 forward, turnovers since 1977), all-time records – as opposed to modern achievements — are routinely acclaimed. This habitual blurring of time, like citing temperatures as all-time records when they officially trace only to the 1880s, is even more pronounced when it comes to 3-point shooting. Too many of us recall that supposed all-time leaders in 3-pointers shot and made date only to the 1980s.
- Along the same lines as young freshman comes free gift. We thought the idea of a gift is that it’s given without direct compensation. Otherwise it’s neither free nor a gift. We admit we can think of gradations of gifting, but the basic relationship between what is paid for and what is not remains a defining gift characteristic.
- Prior to Covid, we would have said unequivocably that if people or things gather, they gather together. Zoom calls and other methods of convening at a distance changed that simple formula. Still, how else to gather if not together? It’s difficult to gather apart. If you’re apart you’re not gathered. If a group is together, it gathered. And so forth.
- Seven o’clock AM in the morning is redundant no matter how prettily our favorite forecaster reminds us to bring an umbrella to work. AM, ante meridiem, is by definition before noon. As, in the morning. This is a way, perhaps, for a speaker to emphasize a point by linking the AM and morning for those who can’t follow along without an immediate reminder, but redundant nonetheless. (Like these examples, perhaps?)
- This one is a bit more debatable, but future plans are arguably the only plans. Now, it’s true plans can and do pass from future to present and to past. Yet there’s always an element of promise, an envisioning a fresh order, when a plan is formulated. Once in place it’s akin to a blueprint.
These examples are meant to be illustrative, not inclusive. Try coming up with your own irritating formulations at home. The more you continue on (there’s another!) gathering extraneous, mindless, verbose or misleading repetitions, the better prepared you’ll be to become a commentator.