Fad words and phrases sweep through newsrooms with the regularity of the tides. We man, not “journal,” but we are quick to embrace phrases such as “no-brainer,” which spread with a rapidity that seemed to be proof of its content.
It happened sometime in 1994, when the word “simple” simply disappeared from the newsroom. Everything self-evident became a “no-brainer.” In the process, we lost not only “simple” and self-evident,” but also obvious,” “logical “clear,” “apparent,” “evident” and “straightforward
Not that no-brainer” didn’t originally have some value as a fresh figure of speech. The wretch who coined it created a term with obvious appeal.
The 500th was merely a hack, however, someone who callously dismissed George Orwell’s first rule of writing: “Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.”
Which is not to say that we should resist any change in the language. As even the flintiest of word purists concede, the beauty of English is its infinite capacity to embrace a growing and changing culture.
Computer technology has enriched English with dozens of new terms. Hardly anybody now blanches at “access” as a verb. And the idea of surfing the Net” has a sense of freewheeling panache that would be hard to duplicate. Other technologies contribute their own rich neologisms. “Boort box.” “Jet ski.””Frisbee.’ “Hovercraft.”
Theodore M. Bernstein suggested a practical test for…