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High-Profile Circumlocutions

July 24, 1994

* A Times editorial (July 11) cites 601 uses of the meaningless term high profile to date this year in just one major newspaper. Why stop there? Other high-profile circumlocutions abound both on paper and in speech. Have you noticed that every change has now become a sea change ? How many sea changers even recognize the origin of this phrase in "The Tempest"?

While hooked on watching the O.J. Simpson preliminary hearing, I noticed that a jarringly high number of questions, from both the defense and prosecution, began with the useless phrase with respect to . "With respect to the second glove, where was it found?" Just jump in and ask, "Where was the second glove found?"

Doctors no longer ask us if it hurts but want to know if we're experiencing discomfort. Used cars have turned into previously utilized vehicles. In fact nothing is used any more but instead is utilized . Does utilized tell us anything that used can't convey? When we fly, we no longer take planes but rather utilize aircraft and sit on a flotation device (which we're supposed to utilize "in the unlikely event of a water landing"--especially unlikely when we're flying over Kansas).

As a corporate writing consultant I may be more attuned to these annoyances than most, but I have to agree with George Orwell's thesis in his timeless essay, "Politics and the English Language": The more our language deviates from clarity and conciseness, the fuzzier our thinking becomes--and our civilization is the poorer for it.


Sherman Oaks

* I enjoyed your editorial. Perhaps you should also examine the ubiquitous use of area . Newscasters, weathermen and even The Times precede all geographic locations with "the" and follow with "area." Is Downtown Los Angeles different from the downtown Los Angeles area? I am sure you have also heard and seen in print metropolitan Los Angeles referred to as the metropolitan Los Angeles area. I have also heard the freeway right shoulder called the right-hand shoulder area (two extraneous words). Are local schools, hospitals and residents now area schools, hospitals and residents? What happened to neighborhoods, communities and locales?

Enough said. Perhaps The Times could also do some syntax editing.


Playa del Rey

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