The Language Perfectionist: Worldly Goods

Everyone has pet peeves – those irritating verbal tics and bromides that are the linguistic equivalent of fingernails scraping across a blackboard. The following sentences illustrate one of mine:

  • “While we might be a bit partial to the Lamborghinis, the Aston Martins and the Bugattis of the world, we’d be foolish not to openly admit our respect for the Mini.”
  • “Yeah, the quartet’s sound may be geared toward the arena-rock crowd, but these guys can write and produce a song that puts the Coldplays of the world to shame.”
  • “So yes, the Googles of the world might decide there’s sufficient ROI to do the R&D to get something like that in place for their own highly specialized needs, but….”

The expression of the world, commonly appended to various plural nouns, adds little or nothing to the meaning intended. It’s cliched, vague, and amateurish.

Even worse, it’s sometimes used to smear a person by gratuitously lumping him or her with anonymous others, as in this blog post: “The Ron Pauls of the world can espouse all they want about their ideal way of running free markets, no different than the Karl Marx version of socialism, but at the end, human nature will always have the last laugh.”

In many instances, this useless phrase can simply be deleted, as in the first bulleted example above. In other cases, a rewrite is in order. In the third example, “the Googles of the world” might be replaced by “search engine companies,” “high-tech behemoths,” or another phrase determined by the writer’s intent.

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]