At the end of the day, the elephant in the room is the dreaded cliché.
Pedantic people like myself, who deal with the English language to earn our living, tend to fume and fuss over other people’s clichés and buzz phrases while unconsciously allowing them to slip into our own writing.
But the cliché that’s the daddy of them all (oops) which has to take the biscuit (oops again) as the overworked cliche of 2013 is “hard-working families.”
This phrase is much loved and much used by Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, each claiming that they know what’s best for such families.
But what exactly is a hard-working family?
I presume that Mr Cameron means a neatly-suited Mercedes-driving management consultant with a blonde estate agent wife, overcharging their clients to put their offspring through private school.
Mr Miliband possibly has a mental picture of a sweaty welder, cycling home to a tea of fish fingers fried by his missus after her shift at Tesco while the kids play on Xbox.
Mr Clegg, I suppose, will imagine a college lecturer and his wife who is, erm, a college lecturer, whose kids attend the same comprehensive as the welder’s – on principle, of course – but secretly wish they’d sent them to private school.
You see, “hard-working families” can encompass a huge range of people of all classes.
It’s meant to appeal to anyone and everyone. I mean, who doesn’t consider themself to be hard working? Even the incorrigibly work-shy believe they’re working hard to fill in all their benefit forms.
“Hard-working families” is a phrase that can mean anything and nothing at the same time, and it spares whoever uses it from the tiresome business of thinking.
There is a plethora of other clichés and buzz phrases that I would love to excise in 2014.
They include the tired old “giving 110 per cent”, “robust procedures”, “not a happy bunny”, “multi-agency partnership”, “step change”, “national treasure”, “gaining closure”, “does what it says on the tin” and “let me be perfectly clear.”
The late Ray Horsfield, news editor of the Burnley Evening Star, would mischievously declare: “Clichés must be avoided ... like the plague!”
And if we give them some blue-sky thinking in 2014 it will be an optimal opportunity to manage expectations for a win-win situation on an ongoing basis.