Friday, May 8, 2009

Phrases, we got phrases, we got lots and lots of phrases . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

I'm a huge fan of HGTV and apparently some of the people who appear on the various shows are fans as well, because they all spout the same popular phrases as they wander through other people's houses, looking to buy. Lots of natural light. Light and airy. Gotta have hardwood floors. Gotta have stainless steel appliances. Gotta have granite counter tops.

We live in the Midwest, where you can buy an entire house for the price of a small bathroom in California or New York. We have light. We have airy. Granite counter tops aren't quite as numerous but our walk-in closets make theirs look like glorified shoe boxes. So there.

Favorite phrases. They pop up in novels as well. I forgot to grab my cell phone off the charger (translation: the protagonist is now without any way to call 911 for backup, so must chase and/or run from the killer aaaaall alone. The cop/sheriff/DA (take your pick) is so stupid, he/she will never solve the case, and since I was in the neighborhood when the murder took place, I'll be arrested (never mind that 100 or so other suspects were there too) so I'll have to solve it myself. I never carry a firearm, they're too dangerous, so I'll face the bad guy bare-handed. I don't suspect this person, so of course, I'll accept a ride to a remote location. And the ever popular, I heard a noise in the basement. The lights are out, I can't find a flashlight, and the phone isn't working, so I'll just skip down there and see what's going on.

Okay, the last three aren't actual phrases, but it's what the protag often does that has the reader grinding her teeth.

Are there any common or popular phrases in books that drive you nuts? If so, would you share them with us? How would you word yours differently?

And what color are your granite counter tops, by the way?


Paul Lamb said...

Old fashioned formica countertops in my house.

One phrase that I'll be glad to see buried is "there for me," as in "She was there for me."

What does this mean exactly? Or what doesn't it mean? It's one of those vague, automated expressions that come from too many mouths. I would never give that line to one of my characters unless I wanted to show that character as someone who isn't very thoughtful with words (or feelings) and is merely a media casualty.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Good morning Paul, and my counter tops are formica too. Love your contribution to favorite phrases! Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Lonnie, I'm right there with you about the cell phone and I gotta solve this case.

Here are my favs (not)
"None of this makes any sense."
[Of course it doesn't. We are only on page 33.]

At the cop shop, the coffee is always bitter, the furniture ratty, and the cops are chowing down on trans-fatty acid filled foods. [Come on, even cops have gotten the nutrition message and some cop shop, somewhere, must have been redecorated since the Eisenhower administration.]

Sandra Parshall said...

You don't get much house for your money here in the DC area either, Lonnie. You'd be astonished at what sells for $1 million-plus around here. And my countertops are, alas, not granite.

Your list of pet peeves includes most of mine. I was VERY annoyed when Elizabeth George had Barbara Havers leaving her cell phone in her car in one book (then walking into the villain's clutches). Barb is smarter than that.

Sheila Connolly said...

Cell phones are the bane of mysteries. If you have one, it can't possibly work (sunspots, you know). If you don't have one, everyone in the story yells at you. But try to find a pay phone these days!

I was in Florida in January and drove from somewhere to somewhere (I have no clue where I was--this was only my second trip there), which involved passing a lot of tacky strip malls. I swear, every other store was selling granite countertops. Me, I tiled my own. Ceramic tile.

Sandra Parshall said...

My characters live in the mountains, in a rural county with only one cell phone tower, so it's possible for them to be out of touch -- but even though it's realistic, I haven't done much with that because I don't want to try readers' patience. :-)

Law enforcement officers in the mountains also have real problems with communication. In some spots, their two-way radios simply don't work because signals are blocked. Police communication systems in many small, poor areas are very outdated.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Thanks for the cell phone comments everyone! And would you believe, just this very afternoon hubby wanted to check out a campground about 15 miles or so from us. I needed to call a friend but could not get a signal until we were nearly back home. Perhaps the cell phone gremlins paying me back? Sigh.

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