Dep’t of Dead Language

Every so often, a phrase comes along that seems to suit the Zeitgeist. Originating sometimes in obscurity, and sometimes in expensive, tightly-managed ad campaigns, such phrases are soon on everyone’s lips and fingertips. But before you know it, rot sets in. What had been a striking metaphor becomes a pestilence, a drug against thought. The polite thing to do with such a phrase is to show it the door. Here is a Perfect Storm of Overutilization.
Addendum: Christopher Borrelli, ace Blade staff writer, found some further fine specimens of stormity, including this gem:
Scooby Doo is the perfect storm of cartoons.
Borrelli counts the occurrences of the dreaded phrase at the New Yorker (twice in 2008), the New York Times (57 times) and his own newspaper (155 times since 1997, the year in which Sebastian Junger’s bestseller was published, putting the phrase into circulation). He confesses to having used it himself.
  • “We seem to be in the midst of a ‘perfect storm’ leading to more bankruptcies: high levels of debt, high energy and raw materials costs and weakness in the U.S. economy,” George Putnam, III of New Generation Research […] said in a statement.
  • The world just got a bit riskier for us “road warriors.” You see, there’s this perfect storm of risks lined up to make our lives a little more dangerous.
  • […] at a time when inequality is undeniably growing, wages are stagnating and a perfect storm of disparate factors have blown lots of middle-class folks precariously close to the edge of real financial disaster […]
  • “It could be a great contribution to any legal challenge,” [Dan Seligson] said. “That’s what happened in 2000, when we had this perfect storm of questions about ballot counts, ballot designs, and dead voters.”
  • Just last week, Dealscape noted how the phrase “the perfect storm” is becoming a mantra for bankrupt companies seeking to explain their current predicament.
  • Perfect Storm: Is Global Warming Racist?
And no, you can’t redeem the phrase by diddling with it.
  • In what may be a perfect sophisto storm, none other than Sir Ben Kingsley plays Philip Roth’s academic antihero David Kepesh, a solemn piano underscoring his negotiations with sex, art, and mortality in the Continental Manhattan of Isabel Coixet’s new film, “Elegy.”
  • For Morgan, who reports there are still instances of “rosé racism,” this summer has the makings of a “perfect rosé storm.”
See perfect storm in Wikipedia. Search on ‘perfect storm’ in Clusty, AlltheWeb, Google, Google Scholar, Icerocket (blogs).
Find more Dead Language here.

LinkAugust 6, 2008 in Language