Jim was reacting to my Monday column inspired by the “Coming Soon: New Greek Concept” sign on a building at 15th and L streets NW. “Concept” — and its opaque sibling “experience” — are now synonyms for “restaurant.”
And “solution” is a synonym for “business” or “product.” In fact, shouldn’t we call restaurants “hunger solutions”?
Julian Blackwood of McLean, Va., calls such euphemisms “speech nonsenses.” Among the ones that bug him: “futurecast” for what used to be known as the weather forecast. “Going forward” and “moving forward” drive him batty, too.
“The latter often takes the redundant form: ‘Now here is the plan, going forward,’” Julian wrote. “A couple of years ago I heard a lady forecaster combine both: ‘Now the futurecast, going forward.’”
Well, TV meteorologists only have so many choices: what the weather was like, what the weather is like and what the weather will be like.
Personally, my least favorite TV weather term is “the overnight,” as in: “Looking ahead to the overnight, we can expect a bit of rain.”
I’m also not a fan of something you hear on Metro that one of my online commenters pointed out: “station stop.”
Judy Cusick of Arlington, Va., agrees the world of gastronomy seems especially prone to such puffery. “How about the popular use of the word ‘plated,’ which seems to mean the arrangement of food on a plate,” she wrote.
Malcolm Wilson of Wheaton, Md., is amused by “handcrafted sandwiches.”
The District’s Mike Soper, a former chef, admits he occasionally took liberties on his menus — “e.g. ‘crisp’ instead of ‘fried,’” he wrote — but he finds “the current preoccupation with overzealous recapitulation of the mundane existence we encounter as our daily travels intersect with worldly events” ridiculous.
Wrote Mike: “[I’m] not sure how this evolved in a time of little patience for reading a whole book or spelling a full word in communications. I generally blame marketing grads, who don’t offer us much more than perceived improvement in our lives.”
Retired high school teacher Ron Frezzo of Silver Spring, Md., still chuckles at a fellow teacher’s term for portable classrooms: “learning cottages.”
John Vincent-Smith of Bethesda, Md., remembers when “optics” referred to the scientific subject of study made famous by Sir Isaac Newton. “Nowadays,” he wrote, “it seems (only) to describe a politician’s hopes (or perhaps fears) as to how his/her position on any issue will appear to the voting public.”
Carol Carpenter wrote that some of her favorite commercial euphemisms are “high end” (“makes me think of baboons,” she wrote), “upscale” (“reminds me to practice my viola a bit more”) and “price point” (“higher than a mere price”).
Finally, Nick De Cerchio of Lewes, Del., wrote: “If it looks, walks and talks like a duck, it’s not an aero-aquatic, ambulatory, feathered biped.”
Starling vocal band
Speaking of feathers, a flock of starlings has decided to move into our neighborhood, in the trees around our house.
The Latin name for the European starling is Sturnus vulgaris, and there is definitely something vulgar about this invasive species. They squawk incessantly, attack our birdfeeders like an invading horde and then thank us for the free meal by pooping on our garden furniture.
People find beauty in the starling’s murmuration — those pulsating amoeba-like clouds — but that’s only because it means the birds are far away.
I’ve written before about the starling and its unpleasant history in Washington. In the 1920s, so many starlings swarmed the District Building that the city tried fire hoses and floodlights to roust them. Descendants of those birds still gather downtown, especially near the Portrait Gallery.
Occasionally My Lovely Wife will chase the starlings away when she sees them mobbing the birdfeeders. That seems as futile as King Canute trying to hold back the tide. I thought of getting one of those plastic owls and sticking it outside, but I realized it might scare away the birds we do like to attract: the cardinals, titmice, finches and wrens.
Years ago, some friends of ours in Bethesda suffered a similar invasion. They would head out every night to spray the starlings with water, make noise and flash a strobe light.
Eventually the birds drifted away, though whether it was due to these efforts or just because the starlings decided to move on, no one is sure. Maybe they just decided to move to my neighborhood.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.