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Words, Jan. 14

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Wake up and step up, America:

The “Orval” comic strip by Tommy Durham recently made gentle fun of the people who write letters to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette containing the phrase “Wake Up, America!” There are an awful lot of these people, and with an awful lot of time on their hands.

Many of their letters contain the phrase “We the People” too. As best I can tell from the context, “We the People” usually means “I the People.”

“Orval” started me thinking about other journalistic cliches. A newspaper article the other day about a gift to a medical eye institute was headlined “The Eyes Have it.” By actual count, it was the 789th time I'd seen that precise headline. “The Eyes Have It” appears far more often than the phrase it parodies, which is “The Ayes Have It.” Some of the “eye” writers have probably never heard of the “aye” version.

I dream of a day when an article will appear having something to do with eyes, and it will not be headlined “The Eyes Have It.” An impossible dream, perhaps, like hoping to see an article related to avian affairs that's not headlined “It's For the Birds.” Or an article about the Arkansas Razorbacks that's not titled “High on the Hogs.”

I see that a columnist in Pittsburgh gives out a “Trite Trophy” every year to the most tiresome phrase on the sports page. The 2009 winner was “Dial up a blitz.” According to football announcers, defensive coaches do a great deal of this. They're the only people still dialing, apparently.

Other winners of the Trite Trophy: “Running Downhill.” “Somebody's Gotta Step Up,” and “It's Crunch Time.” I'm aghast that “Playing Within Himself” hasn't taken home the prize at least once.

 

Even in the off-season, the piquant baseball names keep coming. I've just learned there's a team in the Can-Am League called the New Jersey Jackals. I hope they have fierce rivalries with the Hartford Hyenas and the Trenton Teabaggers.

 

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