Verbal Irritants

Lately all I seem to hear around Fancy Pants Ranch is a warbled version of “Let it Go” – the Oscar winning song from the recent Disney movie “Frozen,” sung endlessly by Trixie. She even uses props, dramatic hand gestures and other movements to transmit the feeling of the song.

And if I am honest, the kid’s got more vocal range and stage presence than I ever would or could have. Kudos to her.

While “Let It Go” may be an earworm that’s, well, hard to let go, it pales in comparison to another overused phrase that’s been like nails on a chalkboard to me.

What is it? Wheelhouse.

Grrr. Even typing it irritates me.

How is it used? Well, the original definition refers the small house at the top of a boat where the steering wheel is housed, which offers the best vantage point and where critical decisions are made. It is also used in baseball to mean the part of a batter’s swinging range where he/she is able to make the best contact with the baseball.

But it’s been dumbed down enough to broadly mean “within my/our area of expertise.” This article explores its use in the business world.

Most of the time when I hear this cringe-inducing term, it’s being uttered by someone who seems to be using it totally out of any reasonable context, seemingly in an effort to make the speaker appear far more intelligent than he/she really is.

Ironically, it does the opposite: when you say “wheelhouse,” I instantly think you are a moron.

(Overheard recently in a hotel lobby bar, spoken by a 40-ish business-y type male: “Yeah, single malt scotch! That’s in my wheelhouse!” Sir, this doesn’t even make sense).

If you are a self-proclaimed member of the Grammar Police, you will likely appreciate this list of banned journalism cliches from the Washington Post. One from the list that I am horribly guilty of perpetuating: Ironic Capitalization Implying the Unimportance of Things Others Consider Important.

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