07/25/05 — Opinon -- 'Ruminating'

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Opinon -- 'Ruminating'

By Gene Price
Published in News on July 25, 2005 1:45 PM

This column probably should fall in the category of "ruminating."

I haven't checked, but my old friend Daniel Webster probably records the definition as something like this: "Ruminate. To chew one's cud. "

That's probably what daughter Susan, who is North Carolina chief of The Associated Press, had been doing when she called me on a recent weekend.

"I'm curious about the origin of some newly coined terms," Sue began. "Like somebody has 'gone missing."

She also was intrigued by the "sooner, rather than later" response invariably offered by public officials to any question of "when" something can be expected to develop.

How do expressions like "gone missing" come about and suddenly are seized upon by the media? When the missing person shows back up, are we to report he or she has "come found?"

"Sooner rather than later?" The interpretation of that is, simply, "Search me!" (Has anyone ever responded: "Later rather than sooner?")

These things pop up every few years. Like: "At this point in time."

I believe it was presidential advisor John Erhlichmann who coined that one during the Watergate unpleasantness. It has plagued us ever since -- doing away forever with use of the simple little word "now" -- and for sure with my old Bear Town buddy's favorite, "rat now!"

While I try to grin rather than grimace at these things, one I found particularly annoying.

Some people apparently bent on becoming linguistic contortionists in the interest of demonstrating their political correctness attempted for a time to banish from the English language the word "people."

All of a sudden "people" became "persons." I remember a News-Argus reporter several years ago writing that "more than 100 persons attended the meeting."

The inference, of course, was that "persons" somehow was more acceptably gender-neutral and, consequently, inclusive of the females as well as the males in attendance.

And, certainly, more politically correct.

"At this point in time" and old favorites like "between you and I" continue to survive. But "persons" appears to becoming an endangered species. Thank goodness.