People, Please! Limit Terms Such As—Well, ‘Term Limits’

Every year, the media tends to beat certain words, phrases and concepts to death. Remember the Axis of Evil? Hanging chads? Soccer moms? Shock and awe?

Forget overexposure. These things quickly clock past cliché and head right into the Green Zone (ding—there’s one!) of cultural irrelevancy.

This year, in an attempt to get ahead of the curve (ding—two!) here’s a list of targets that are already due for a pre-emptive strike (three!) from the lexicon:

Surge. Troop surge, resurgent Democrats, insurgent forces, or any other derivation, including Nancy Pelosi as a surge protector, or Hillary/Obama/John Edwards surging forth in a poll. It’s only January, but there are already 48 million citations like this on Google. (Yes, it’s the word of the year.) And so far, as the war goes, why don’t we all just agree to call it “Iraq III: This time, we mean it. Sort of.”

Listening Tour and Exploratory Committee. Enough already. This ain’t our first rodeo; we’ve been down this road before, and it’s thoroughly proscribed: I talk, you listen, you get to ask a few questions, I tell you what you want to hear—and then we all go home happy, in my case with a sack full of campaign contributions. C’mon: In the history of modern political campaigns, has any “exploratory committee” or “listening tour” ever resulted in anything but an announcement that someone is running for office?

2.0 Anything. Internet 2.0, Hillary 2.0, Iraq 2.0. Can’t anybody here count anymore? This convention is woefully overused, not to mention that it usually represents a gross undercount. My advice: Given the surprising success of Rocky VI (a.k.a. Rocky Balboa), Roman numerals will always remain a stylish and classy alternative.

Exit Strategy. Maybe it’s just me, but it occurs to your correspondent that the recently deposed C.E.O. of Home Depot, Bob Nardelli, is the only guy to come up with a winning exit strategy for anything in years: He ran the company into the ground, yet managed to get paid almost $200 million to take a hike. My take on this: Put him in charge of Iraq. We’ve already run the country into the ground; our reputation is trashed. With Mr. Nardelli at the helm, things certainly won’t get any better—but maybe they’ll pay us to leave.

Political Movement. Moving to the center, moving to the right, moving to the left, shoring up the base. Henceforth, let’s all agree to use the far more accurate and concise terminology: pandering.

Bipartisanship. If polonium has a half-life in the human body of about 50 days before it decays, bipartisanship in the governing body lasts about two seconds—just slightly longer than the time it takes to echo through a campaign rally. In other words, it’s a phrase that vaporizes instantly, sort of like “responsible government,” “term limits,” “civil unions,” “campaign reform,” “compassionate conservatism,” “victory,” “staying the course,” “cut and run,” “we’ll stand down when they stand up” or “universal health care.” More prosaically, it joins a list of words like “luxury,” “exclusive,” “gourmet” and “deluxe,” which signify absolutely nothing, save perhaps for: “Want fries with that?”

Bono as World Savior. I won’t argue that U2 isn’t the world’s greatest rock band. But on the other hand, did anyone else notice that for all the millions of dollars and full-page newspaper ads that the Gap took out promoting the singer’s Red Campaign, the retailer’s same-store sales still tanked? In other words, is it possible that the baby boomer’s musical messiah is viewed by the younger generations as a tax-dodging old geezer? Just a thought. If nothing else, the mitigating news here is that at least he had the good sense to adopt all of Africa, wholesale, rather than just retailing it and picking up a single African orphan.

“I”-anything. Such as: iPods, i-music, i-phones, i-video—anything with an “I” in front of it, save possibly for “I-backdated-my-stock-options.”

Hedge Funds Saving Hollywood. Pssst: Wanna know a dirty little West Coast secret? Hedge-fund managers are the new German dentists. In the 1980’s, Texas oil money was going to save Hollywood; in the 1990’s, it was German tax shelters; now, it’s hedge funds. Either way, the outcome is always the same: We take the money, spend it all, and the hedge-fund guys won’t even be able to get into the roped-off section at the Premier. The names change, but one thing stays the same: The fastest way to earn $5 million in Hollywood is to come out here with ten.

Hypothetical Books. For example, If I Did It, A Million Little Pieces, The Iraq Study Group Report: A New Approach. Yes, sir—along with the first two Bob Woodward books on the Bush administration (Bush at War and Plan of Attack), it seems like the time for this new interesting book category has come and gone. Let’s get Obama writing again, fast. And in the meantime, here’s a not-so-hypothetical question: If (I should posit when) Judith Regan writes her memoirs this year, how long do you think it will be before she winds up on Oprah?

Starchitect Buildings. See “Bipartisanship.” But instead of “You want fries with that?”, substitute the phrase “How do you like those granite countertops?”

Any Kind of “Bubble.” The Internet bubble, the real-estate bubble, George Bush living in a Presidential bubble. Personally, I prefer “-mania,” as in “tulipmania,” but either way, the psychological underpinning is the same: Ignorance is bliss. And while we’re at it here, let’s make a deal: Let’s all agree to shoot the first TV news anchor who offers up the exact number of standing ovations and interruptions-by-applause that George Bush receives during his upcoming State of the Union address. (On the other hand, don’t worry about it: Dick Cheney will probably take care of it, particularly if the count is too low.)

Trying to explain the difference between Shiites and Sunnis. Enough, unless the story somehow miraculously incorporates the phrase “both agreed to the cessation of hostilities.”

The Tragedy of Katie Couric. Ah, the unfairness, the inhumanity, the sadness of it all. Has it occurred to anyone else that the very people who are now writing these articles about Her Anchorship’s grounding are also the very selfsame scribes who over-hyped her rise in the first place? No matter. Trust me, by the end of year, we’re bound to see the story “No Exit Strategy Here—Katie 2.0, the Sequel: Moving to the center, restoring her base, she’s surging in the ratings …. ”