Rod Liddle

Rod Liddle: The top 10 most fatuous phrases in the English language

I’m battling my demons, and at my most vulnerable, but I’ve still managed to bring you a column

1 November 2014

9:00 AM

1 November 2014

9:00 AM

An apology. A few weeks back, in my blog, I promised a regular series called ‘Fatuous Phrase of the Week’. Like so many publicly uttered promises, this one has failed to materialise.

There has been no update to the Fatuous Phrase of the Week. This is because for the past two weeks I have been battling my demons — and horrible, vindictive little bastards they are too. While I would have been happy to fulfil that promise, and had plenty of phrases at the ready, the demons crowded around. Nah, they said, take the dog for a walk instead. Jabbering in my ear, poking me with their little pitchforks. Forget the phrase thing, they insisted. Instead try to get to 400,000 points on Bejewelled (Lightning mode): you can do it, Rod. You got 375,000 only a couple of days back. Put in that extra effort. You know it’s worth it. So I battled my demons, briefly, and then succumbed. Demons 1 Readers 0. This article, therefore, is an attempt to put matters right.

Below are a bunch of the clichés, lies, evasions, obfuscations, PC euphemisms and disingenuous balls words and phrases which, in recent years, have annoyed me the most. There are countless others, but these are the ones which for one reason or other stick in my craw. And of course we begin with:

1. Battling my demons 

It was demons who held down that actress/pop singer/reality TV star and rammed four kilos of charlie up her left nostril leaving her with the IQ of an aspidistra and, alas, sans septum. It was demons who injected Philip Seymour Hoffman with skag. The same creatures regularly waylay the former footballer Paul Gascoigne and siphon several litres of vodka down his throat. And it was demons, a whole bunch of them, who grappled with Brooks Newmark’s penis and ensured it was transmitted digitally to the fictitious woman of his choice. This was my original Fatuous Phrase of the Week, an utterly ubiquitous cliché which serves only to absolve people from responsibility.

2. Vulnerable

It’s official — the most abused word in the English language these days. Today, as used by the whining liberal left, it means anyone who isn’t an able-bodied middle-aged white heterosexual male in full possession of his mental faculties. In other words, about 70 per cent of the population. It is frequently used as a euphemism for educationally retarded, or what we used to call ‘backward’; when you hear on the news that someone was ‘vulnerable’, you have to work out for yourself why. It’s not usually hard.

3. Diversity 

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Something brilliant, to be championed. We all love diversity, don’t we? As used by the left it means ‘lots of ethnic minorities’. Quite often it is deployed to mean precisely the opposite of its original meaning. As in ‘the area is very diverse’, referring to a place populated exclusively by Bangladeshis.

4. Denier

A horrible and recent confection of, again, the liberal left. You can be a ‘climate change denier’, which means you might doubt that global warming will cause quite the catastrophic circumstances — annihilation of all living creatures, earth burned to a crust, polar bears howling in agony — dreamed up by the maddest, gibbering eco-warriors. You can be a ‘sexual abuse denier’, which means you have one or two doubts about Operation Yewtree. The term was appropriated from the Holocaust, of course: the implication being that to deny that absolutely all 1970s celebrities were busy molesting kiddies is on a par with denying that Nazi Germany murdered six million Jewish people. Nice.

5. Classic 

I bought some lavatory paper the other day which was described as having a ‘classic design’. It wasn’t papyrus, just the same design the firm has been peddling for 20 years. Has a word ever been wiped on so many bottoms as ‘classic’? Debased is an understatement.

6. Wrong side of history

If someone says you’re on the wrong side of history, it is their smug and stupid way of telling you that you are wrong and they are right, no more. Conservatism is always on the wrong side of history because it is innately opposed to profound social change. Social change is always good, you see, even when it is utterly calamitous or pointless or unnecessary.

7. Bravely fighting cancer

An odious phrase, patronising and meaningless. All people with cancer are bravely fighting the vile disease. All people with cancer who have decided not to fight it, but instead to acquiesce, are also brave — perhaps even more brave. In truth, ‘bravery’ and ‘fighting’ have nothing to do with it.

8. Let me absolutely clear about this, Evan…

Any politician who tells you that he is about to be absolutely clear about anything is actually about to lie to you and probably steal your spoons. It also suggests to me that they are anything but clear in their own minds as to what the hell they are talking about, especially if they say it with great emphasis while banging their fists on the table. As used by Ed Miliband on a daily basis, probably to his family about what he’s having for breakfast, as well as to the rest of us about other stuff.

9. Vibrant

Used as a synonym for ‘noisy’ or ‘thieving’. Almost always used in conjunction with ‘diverse’ (qv) and also…

10. Community

Yes, Huw, it’s a vibrant and diverse community, but it’s also a very vulnerable community, which is why the police have been brought in to stop angry local people attacking them. I think we can say, Huw, that the angry local people are on the wrong side of history.

That’s enough vapid idiocies for now. One of these days I’ll gather up a bunch of other phrases which are deliberately misleading, obnoxious or disingenuous. If my demons let me. Right now they’re waving a bottle of Sancerre in my face and sniggering. Don’t they know how vulnerable I am?

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