Not Catchphrases

Posted by Bob on September 29, 2005

In Reply to: Catchphrase? posted by Smokey Stover on September 29, 2005

: : : I've been having this debate with a friend about what you would call word groupings that sound grandiose but upon further scrutiny are almost non-sensical such as: "Stand strong in the face of adversity", "cease the moment". A tangible action with a intangible foe. "War on Terror". Something which uses key words to evoke a familiar emotional reaction with something intangible.
: : :
: : : What is the linguistic term which would describe it? I think it would be a type of phrase i.e.: catchphrase. He thinks it should be something like superlative.

: : : Any help you could offer would be greatly appriciated.

: : This isn't exactly what you're looking for, but it makes me think of jingoism -- bulletin_board 5 messages 561.html

: Almost non-sensical. Well, that would certainly include "cease the moment." The phrase is rather more often rendered "seize the moment," which means something. I have a short list of "almost non-sensical when analyzed" phrases, or more correctly "completely non-sensical." To avoid inflammatory language I'll only mention one, "The public has a right to know." This used to be uttered in an almost oracular fashion by a reporter for the L.A. Times who used to be on "Washington Week in Review." Since "to know" is a transitive verb, one has to ask, "The public has a right to know what?" SS

The question is a bit confusing, since the three examples have little in common. "Stand strong in the face of adversity" is a bit pompous, but it's a reasonably clear elaboration on "be brave." "Seize the moment" is also clear, but not as mis-heard. "War on Terror" is a bit of sloganeering that doesn't stand up to close inspection, but that doesn't stop millions from saluting. It might be considered a catchphrase, but not the other two. "Superlative" just doesn't apply; consult a dictionary.