This is not the first time I’ve written about offences against language, but I would like to return to the subject today to talk about another of my main bugbears, that being the verbal diarrhoea that makes up the title of this piece.
I last heard this phrase during football commentary over the weekend, the quote was something along the lines of “The goalkeeper needed to expect the unexpected there.” Jesus wept (well, presumably if this was said in ancient Aramaic anyway). What does that even mean? If you expect something, it is no longer unexpected. If it unexpected, then you can’t expect it. Is this some form of Schrödinger-like thought experiment? I trust not, I think it’s just a trite, idiotic expression that people with little imagination or cognitive ability trot out. In fairness, this characterisation does account for many football commentators. Why can’t we get more intelligent, interesting ex-footballers to commentate? Imagine Cantona waxing philosophical over the airways. Of course he would never sell out and do so, but we can dream.
Of course it’s not only sports commentators. The majority of times I’ve heard this putrid phrase has been on road safety ads. “When using the road, always expect the unexpected.” No wonder there are so many people killed on the roads if that’s the sort of meaningless bullshit advice the Road Safety Authority is coming out with. What’s the point in those ads anyway? It is evident that nobody pays attention to them, as the streets and road are still full of idiots. Maybe some of them are watching the road safety ads on their phones as they are driving? Don’t expect the unexpected. Expect people to be fucking stupid. Most people are stupid. Most people drive. Ergo, most drivers are stupid. And yes, the same goes for pedestrians and cyclists. The difference being that they are mainly a danger to themselves, whereas moronic drivers are a danger to all around them. Perhaps there should be a cap on the amount of driving licences issued every year. This would also see fewer cars on the road and be better for the environment, and the air quality in the city. I doubt this will happen though. There’s money to be made after all. That’s more important.
In the end, the credo I follow on the road is to pay full attention (including NOT wearing headphones when cycling – that’s a Darwin Award waiting to happen) and simply assume that everybody else is an idiot. This philosophy works surprisingly well. You’ll find you get less annoyed when somebody does do something stupid on the road. You can feel smug that you predicted that driver would cut across you without looking or indicating, or the other would jump the red light. And when you see a driver behaving with good sense and manners, you will be pleasantly surprised by it.
Expect the worst, then everything is a bonus.