“OAKLAND, Calif. – A liquor store was heavily damaged by an apparent arson fire Monday, just days after it was trashed by well-dressed vandals who told the owners to stop selling to black people, authorities said.”

This arson fire phrasing appears in print often these days. Why? Arson is a noun. Why not say “A liquor store was heavily damaged by apparent arson” or “A liquor store was heavily damaged by fire, apparently arson”? Arson fire is not technically incorrect, I suppose, since just about any noun can be used as an adjective. But it sounds dopey and out of place in a newspaper article, like widow woman or pizza pie.


Stop me before I exact again:

Any mention of overused words and phrases, as was made here a couple of weeks back, will elicit more nominees. Dr. Patrick Carroll of Pocahontas has a couple:


Exactly. Of late, when I hear someone make a statement that precisely expresses my own opinion, I catch myself responding, ‘Exactly!’ I hear others doing it too. It’s beginning to get on my nerves, but I can’t stop myself.”

No problem. I do not use this one myself, but it’s become annoyingly popular with people in the service sector. I stop by the hotel desk and ask for my room key. The clerk says ‘no problem’ as he hands it to me (as if I thought getting it WOULD be a problem for him). The waitress asks if I want a refill on my iced tea. ‘No problem,’ she says as she tops my glass off. I suspect use of ‘no problem’ was started by some management consultant who thought it was a good idea, but it’s being badly overused.”


“While the ACLU has been successful in kowtowing locals over Christmas constitutional law, Ventrella said that ‘their legal position is extremely weak; it’s rarely sustained when challenged.’ Ken Parker writes: “I have never seen ‘kowtowing’ used in that sense.” Me either. Kowtow is an intransitive verb. If I kowtow, I do it on my own. You can’t kowtow me. Intimidating or browbeating would have fit.