As the 1997 legislative session turned toward its last couple of weeks, some of us at the Senate press table began to talk about some things we had been hearing for the previous four months that had reached the point of irritation. Our lawmakers, as we ourselves sometimes do, get into slovenly habits with the English language and they begin to speak with crutches. So we started listing words or phrases that we had heard time after time, day after day, from people who seemed to lack the kind of verbal adroitness that we think our public figures should have. I retired to our studio in the press room complex and wrote this:
A COMPENDIUM OF LEGISLATIVE CLICHES
Throwing out a box of slippery apples that ain’t broke
After sliding down a slippery slope in Pandora’s box with a can of worms, having thrown the baby out with the bath water while comparing apples to oranges, we arrived at a train wreck on a level playing field, our nose under the tent flap and our foot in the door, and told the emergency medical technician examining our leg, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
April 29, 1997
We dug out that compendium the other day because we decided to compare the legislative clichés of 16 years ago with those that we have heard again and again this year. We were struck by how different the clichés of the late 1990s were. In fact, we haven’t heard some of these used this year, certainly not often enough to reach the point of irritation that they did then. We are older now. Perhaps they were spoken while we were dozing.
After we first published this list late last night or early this morning (we thank the Majority Night Owl for the Missouri Senate) a friend suggested some additions that will make the collection more complete. We have chosen the best ones and added them for the sake of history and for those who will be sixteen years from now students of legislative clichés.
A COMPENDIUM OF LEGISLATIVE CLICHES, 2013
The Reality is I have heartburn
At the end of the day, this is a simple bill, a solution looking for a problem, with a belt and suspenders amendment to the physical note that avoids picking winners and losers while we kick the can down the road. That said, the truth is, it is an effort to incent more discussions offline in which I can entertain your questions about another tool in the toobox. It might cause some heartburn; I get that. I sincerely believe we can get it to the finish line, or perhaps, across the goal line but I don’t want to belabor your bill.
Wonder what phrases will be fingernails on a blackboard in 2029.
Bob, You forgot to “call out” the press for consistently picking up the language used by legislators to describe their own bill; “reform” being the chief misused self identifier overused by the press.