Comment: This phrasing is wrong on so many levels that that I’d have to delve into gerunds and participles to explain . . . which nobody really wants me to do. However, it’s easy enough to detect why it’s wrong using the time-honored linguists’ principle of substitution: Imagine saying “How’s that dessert tasting?” or “How’s that fish tasting”? or even “How are all the foods on your table tasting?” In short, servers could just say “How’s everything tonight?” or “Does everything taste OK?” (Admittedly, those friends who are willing to go to a restaurant with me are tired of me harping on this to otherwise innocent servers.)
Comment: at the risk of sounding churlish, we could do without the excessively good-buddyish “you.”
Someone observing you trip or stumble: “Careful!”
Comment: If the kind-hearted person had cautioned you before you tripped, that might do some good. But though the empathy is appreciated, it’s really pretty pointless to call out after the fact. Frankly, I don’t have a replacement that conveys the well-meaning concern you have so we’re open to suggestions.
Someone disagreeing with you: “That’s just your opinion!”
Comment: There can hardly be a more pointless argument since most things are someone’s opinion or someone’s interpretation of an expert’s opinion or someone’s interpretation of the data. But if one is really giving an opinion, countering it by calling it an opinion puts the discussion in a meaningless downward spiral…”Oh yeah? Well, calling it my opinion is just your opinion!” etc.
Service agent or tech representative wanting to know how to get back in touch with you: “What’s a good number to get in touch with you?” or “What’s the best number to call you back?”
Comment: Y’know, I was thinking I might give you my old discontinued telephone number or my ex-wife’s number or the fax number that I haven’t used for 10 years, but since you want a “good” number I guess I’ll just give you my actual current phone so you can call me when we get disconnected or you need to give me a price quote or whatever.*
Olympic coverage: “And now, in swimming news…”
Comment: I’m all for swimming, and they’re certainly magnificent athletes and I suppose it’s great when someone sets a new world record, but I can’t think of a more boring thing to actually watch (unless you’re a lap swimmer yourself) — half the time the athletes are under water and basically all you see are arms flapping in the water — and the number of times I wonder how the swimming world is coming along is approximately equal to . . . well, never.
Presidential candidates: “Believe me” and “Trust me, it will be hyuuuuge” and “I heard…”
Comment: I’m not sure when “I heard” became a legitimate way to judge whether “thousands and thousands”
of people were celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey, or that the unemployment rate is actually 42 percent, or that your opponent’s email was hacked by foreign governments, or that Vladimir Putin used the N-word about Obama—but I’d like any candidate using this lame phrase to . . . well, fire it.