Author Topic: Debaters' frequent use of the expression "at the end of the day"  (Read 5320 times)

Justine A.

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Debaters' frequent use of the expression "at the end of the day"
« on: December 30, 2013, 08:29:02 PM »
I wonder why most of college debaters always use the phrase "at the end of the day"? Is there any way to minimize such use or totally avoid it?

Joe Carillo

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Re: Debaters' frequent use of the expression "at the end of the day"
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2014, 12:12:07 AM »
It’s really no surprise that many college debaters, even the finest of those who joust in the long-running TV debate competitions on ANC, use “at the end of the day” much, much too often for comfort. They have the misguided notion that very liberally spicing their talk with that figurative expression for “ultimately,” “in the end,” or “after all” is a sign of wisdom, discernment, and sophistication. Being young and mostly impressionable, they have become unwitting copycats of the wrong adult role models for spoken English.

Indeed, the high incidence of “at the end of the day” in college debates is abetted by the fact that even the highest official of the land, perhaps one out of four legislators and public officials, and probably the same ratio of TV talk-show hosts, news anchors, and guests use “at the end of the day” with such annoying frequency. They are embarrassingly unaware that this expression has been repeatedly condemned over the years as the most irritating cliché in the English language.

Way back in 2004, in a survey conducted in 70 countries by the London-based Plain English Campaign, “at the end of the day” ranked first among the most hated English clichés worldwide. The group’s spokesman commented about that finding: “Using these terms in daily business is about as professional as wearing a novelty tie or having a wacky ring-tone on your phone. When readers or listeners come across these tired expressions, they start tuning out and completely miss the message—assuming there is one.”

Again, in 2005, in a poll of 150 senior executives in corporate America by the temporary staffing company Accountemps, “at the end of the day” ranked first among the 15 most annoying clichés. And in 2006, in a poll of 10,000 news sources that included 1,600 American newspapers, the Australian-based database company Factiva found “at the end of the day” at the top of the 55 most overused English clichés.

In truth, adverbial phrases like “at the end of the day” are not meant to call attention to themselves but just to flag an important point to be made by the speaker. As such, they must be used sparingly to avoid irritating the listener or reader. For many college debaters and public speakers, however, such phrases have become a pernicious semantic crutch, creating such a strong dependency that the speakers encounter serious difficulty speaking their minds without it.

But yes, now that you ask, there’s definitely a way to minimize the use of “at the end of the day” or totally avoid it.

First, high schools and colleges should conduct a no-nonsense program to instill awareness in their students that clichés like “at the end of the day” aren’t desirable English.

Second, public officials from the national level down to the local governments should undergo an English reorientation program designed to, among others, curb their predilection for using “at the end of the day” and other dreadful clichés in public speaking engagements and media interviews.

And third, TV and radio network owners should seriously consider penalizing talk-show hosts or news anchors with hefty fines for overusing “at the end of the day” and such clichés, and to never again invite talk-show guests who habitually spout them more than, say, twice in a row during a particular show.

Only through draconian measures like these, I’m afraid, can we put an end to the plague of “at the end of the day” in college debates and in public discourse as a whole.
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This essay first appeared in the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times, January 4, 2014 issue © 2014 by Manila Times Publishing. All rights reserved.

RELATED READINGS:
Doing battle with the most irritating phrases in English
« Last Edit: January 11, 2014, 12:24:24 PM by Joe Carillo »

Joe Carillo

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Re: Debaters' frequent use of the expression "at the end of the day"
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2014, 10:25:21 AM »
Feedback e-mailed by Isabel E., Forum member, from Hong Kong (January 6, 2014):

Joe—I’ve been laid up with a plaster cast on my fractured ankle since Dec. 8 (it comes off Jan. 21st).  Can’t remember my password to your forum, so I am replying directly.

I, too, bristle whenever I hear all manner of folks, journalists & politicians, etc., use “at the end of the day.” I believe that originated with a literary Brit who used it correctly & didn’t mean it to be hijacked by one & all. As it is, we have all types of pretentious characters using it to display their supposed erudition.

In the old days, you’d use “all in all,” “therefore,” “in a nutshell,”  “in conclusion,” even “and so.”

The filler “like” is one I’ve given up on. I always tune in to BBC WorldService radio; their presenters are great, sailing right through reports & only occasionally using “um” or “ah” for pauses. (The Canadians use “er.”)

I have just read a review of a book by a Brit essayist, titled “For WHO the Bell Tolls,” which sounds both informative & hilarious; “who” & “whom” are two words I always emphasize [using correctly].

Finally, I’m always on the alert for wrong prepositions use, as in cases like “the gift is for you and I” (it should be “me”) or “me and my pal went to the cinema” (it should be “my pal and I went to the cinema”). Folks forget that “me” should be used as an object and “I” always as the subject. It’s sheer laziness not to think of the correct usage.

Of course, there are liberties taken by lyricists who like to rhyme things like in “the sun shines bright in the sky/it’s shining for you & I”; if they used “me,” it wouldn’t rhyme with “sky” !

All the best for the new horsey Chinese New Year!

Isabel

Feedback e-mailed by Oscar L. from Manila, January 6, 2014:

Joe,

“The bottom line” is another expression that, to me, is as pernicious and irritating as “at the end of the day.” At least “at the end of the day” has a more generic implication. “The bottom line” has an esoteric meaning understood only by those knowledgeable of accounting or business administration. “The bottom line” only causes disorientation and bafflement to the uninitiated, sometimes even serious misunderstanding as when the bottom line is enclosed in parenthesis or is in red. Speakers should use “the end result” or “the final outcome” instead.

Oscar     

Responses posted by readers of my “English Plain and Simple” column in The Manila Times:

Says Ramon, January 4, 2014:

No wonder Pnoy always irritates me with his overused “at the end of the day”…wistful thinking that he means to say “at the end of my term”… In either case, I will stay irritated til then.

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Says Nik, January 4, 2014:

Should include “basically” & “as well as”

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My reply:

Nik, what’s your objection to “basically” and “as well as”? They look perfectly acceptable to me.


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Says aaron legaspi, January 4, 2014:

Bottom line, after all, net result and yes at the end of the day are reality expressions very much needed in this country because of numerous uncertain and unfair state policies or even laws that bedevils ordinary mortals 24/7. Even purely business decisions are based on net results. Unlike Monopolies like Meralco and Manila Water who are assured of profits and unlimited clients every person must compute what happens at the “end of the day” whether the stateside/euro statistics agrees or not.

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Says Allen Luzuriaga, January 4, 2014:

At the end of the day, there are far greater problems in the world to worry about than the use of the phrase ‘at the end of the day,’ So, at the end of the day, does anyone really care?

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Says caloy, January 4, 2014:

What about the phrase “at this point in time?”

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My reply:

Caloy, for the lowdown on “at this point in time” and other dreadful clichés, check out my omnibus essay “Doing battle with the most irritating phrases in English?” in Jose Carillo’s English Forum.

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Says C. Gordon Hale, January 4, 2014:

Thank you for condemning the excessive use of “at the end of the day” and similarly annoying clichés. But not only in the Philippines has both spoken and written English become badly corrupted by vulgar colloquialisms and abysmal grammar. The state of contemporary English usage in the U.S. is truly lamentable!

Please forgive me, but I couldn’t help but react to the split infinitives in your paragraphs 9 and 10 above–”to never again”–really?

Yours for the use of correct English,
Gordon

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My reply:

You are most welcome, Gordon! As to infinitives, I actually split them at will for stylistic purposes, but I’m also aware that splitting infinitives indiscriminately can be bad for prose. I spelled out my position on this in “Splitting infinitives and the misuse of ‘whom’” in Jose Carillo’s English Forum. You may want to check out the posting.

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Says jesse usa, January 4, 2014:

Could you please send this article to: Pinky Webb, Karen Davila and the hosts of ANC morning news?

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My reply:

Jesse, they might take offense if I did that. Let’s just hope that someone will call their attention to this discussion of that dreadful cliché.

Joe Carillo

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Re: Debaters' frequent use of the expression "at the end of the day"
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2014, 11:45:59 PM »
Feedback e-mailed by Rene, Forum member (January 11, 2014:

Another irritating clause is “ . . . the bottom line is. . .”
« Last Edit: January 11, 2014, 11:49:11 PM by Joe Carillo »

Joe Carillo

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Re: Debaters' frequent use of the expression "at the end of the day"
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2014, 09:09:03 AM »
Feedback e-mailed by Shirley A., Forum member (January 9, 2014):

Dear Joe,
 
Thanks for the 6th January email regarding the “at the end of the day” plague. I heard it again--twice--on TV today. Our PNoy uses it often and so with the phrase, “at this point in time.” You probably have to put it in screaming headlines so that we can stop embarrassing ourselves using those stupid American-invented, no doubt, phrases.
 
Sincerely,
 
Shirley A.