JIM FURLONG | New Phrases for History

The wonders of the language and the directions it takes. Over the years and over the decades I have watched words and phrases pop-up in the world of journalism. They are words everyone seems to latch on to. 

The latest come to us from the horror that’s the still a developing situation in Ukraine and references Vladimir Putin trying to extricate his nation from a conflict he had to win quickly or risk not winning at all. Putin was, according to commentators, looking for “an off ramp.”

‘Off ramp’

I had visions of Vlad rolling down some road in a tank looking at signs to get him off the highway he had driven his nation on to. Pretty soon the media was all on board with the “off ramp” metaphor. 

Locally a few months ago in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic everyone was jumping onto a phrase from government talking about “an abundance of caution.” It was government describing why it was making certain moves. The media again brought into it at full speed. Everything was from “an abundance of caution.”  New phrase was born again. 

In that same year another phrase cropped up in government circles off a press release and moved within days into the media. It may have been related to COVID as well and it was “the gold standard.” It was used to define some test or course of action as being the very best. It was “the gold standard.” Get it?  It was like, as good as gold.

Now to be fair, all good new phrases did not come from government. There was one that started as a media phrase that spread back to government. The road runs two ways. The phrase was about “drilling down” on a story. CNN used it a long time ago. A lot of media used it and it was effective, but then government kept using it. They were “drilling down” on everything. Closely examining this, that, and the other thing. Everybody was “drilling down.”

‘A go forward basis’

Now none of that was illegal or even immoral for that matter. You would not call it theft. You would call it “modelling.”

It sounds better. Everybody tries to get an edge. I do think however some sort of line was crossed when the phrase “on a go forward basis” raised its ugly face and appeared from government into media circles. What it meant was government had decided on some controversial matter and was implementing it on “a go forward basis.”

What does that mean? It means the government has decided to do something and you can like it or not like it, but they are proceeding with it on “a go forward basis.” In other words, get out of the way.  

P.S. I hope Putin finds his “off-ramp.”

NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]

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