Dictations

"Take short views . . . and trust in God"

"At the end of the day," declared the minister—or bleated the commentator or droned the expert. . . . But why continue? Phrases like at the end of the day are useful signposts, saying: IGNORE THE FOLLOWING COMMUNICATION.

Other such warning signs include: "the bottom line" and its Italian equivalent in fin dei conti, "it is generally agreed," and "no one would defend the practice." When I used to attend conferences, the joke went around that my nom de guerre (like that of Odysseus) was Nobody, because whenever some little professor declared, "Nobody today would defend the Roman father's right to kill his children" or "Nobody now would oppose women's suffrage," that was my cue for doing just that. These expressions are the tell-tale indications, the unconscious tics of people who not only haven't thought through a subject but positively refuse to think about anything. It was the Republicans' answer to Jesse Ventura, when he said that red light districts were an idea to consider: Some ideas cannot be considered. Period. What they really meant was that no ideas are ever to be considered.

"At the end of the day" is even more pernicious than most of its rival expressions, because it implies that after considering all the aesthetic nuances and moral textures of a question, all that really matters are the practical consequences...

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