RE: To coin a phrase

Subject: RE: To coin a phrase
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: "Porrello, Leonard" <lporrello -at- illumina -dot- com>, "'dana -at- campbellsci -dot- com'" <dana -at- campbellsci -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 2011 13:18:48 -0700

Porrello, Leonard wrote:

> Sorry, the scare quote suggestion was apparently Richard's.

No, that was Kevin's from early this morning:

> By the way, when writing it, I believe one should place
> scare-quotes around "to coin a phrase" unless one is
> really coining a new phrase, and not being ironic.
> In spoken communication, you can probably manage with
> tone of voice or the ironic eyebrow. (Handy things, those
> eyebrows - insurance companies really should pay more
> for the loss of one in this post-ironic age.)

Scare quotes, irony tag, eyebrows -- if you're going to use a phrase to mean the _opposite_ of what it really means, you need to do _something_ that distinguishes that usage. Otherwise, there are no good answers to the cogent questions Leonard asked earlier:

> Thanks for the link. I had no idea that the phrase is generally used
> ironically. What do people say when they literally mean, "to coin a
> phrase"? For that matter, what do you say when you really could care
> less?

Humpty Dumpty would simply <ahem> coin a new phrase to literally mean "coin a phrase" -- and it would no doubt be some odd catachresis that others couldn't understand. We're all free to do the same -- as Dana noted, people use words incorrectly all the time.

But improper usage and inventing your own meanings tend to hinder communication and understanding. You'd think technical communicators would frown on that. :-)

Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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Re: To coin a phrase: From: Dana Worley
RE: To coin a phrase: From: Porrello, Leonard
RE: To coin a phrase: From: Porrello, Leonard

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