Monday, March 24, 2014

The vague cliche “all set” (3)

In two previous posts (here and here), I’ve discussed the vague cliche “all set,” which is the worst cliche in use today. Here are two simple, real-life incidents that demonstrate how lazy and inconsiderate the promiscuous use of this cliche really is.

The champ

A waiter served me an entire dinner using only six words, consisting of the question “All set?” three times:

When he first approached the table, he didn’t say a word of greeting; he simply left the menu.

When he saw that I had finished looking at the menu, he approached and asked, “All set?” I went along with the gag and assumed that he meant “Are you ready to order?”, and I ordered.

When he brought my dinner, he said nothing.

When he saw that I had apparently finished eating, he approached and asked “All set?” I stuck with the gag and assumed that he meant “Shall I bring the check?” I said “Yes.”

He brought the check folder and left it, saying nothing. I counted out a quantity of cash and put it inside the folder.

He noticed, approached, picked up the folder, waved it, and asked “All set?” for the third and last time. I assumed he meant “May I keep the change?” – he was hustling a tip. I said “Yes,” by which I meant to say “Yes, you may keep any money in excess of the check total. However, I believe that I have left the exact amount, to the penny.” I’m usually a heavy tipper, but this stiff was asking to be stiffed.

The comrade

Recently I began to wonder if I was the only person left in America who noticed the lazy and inconsiderate use of the expression “all set.” But then I eavesdropped on a conversation that proved I had at least one comrade.*

I was at the supermarket, in the frozen-food aisle. At the far end of the aisle, three men were stocking: one middle-aged man, who appeared to be the supervisor, and two young men. One of the young men looked alert; the other looked confused. The supervisor, who was standing closer to the alert clerk, raised his voice slightly and asked the confused clerk, “How are you doing?”

Without looking up, the confused clerk mumbled, “I’m all set.” The supervisor said, “Good. I’m all set, too.” His voice had taken on a mischievous tone. He winked conspiratorially at the alert clerk and then asked him, “Hey, are you all set, too?” The alert clerk announced, “Yep. I’m all set, too.”

“Well then,” said the supervisor, “I guess we’re all going to Heaven.” I laughed out loud, blowing my cover.

The Takeaway: Try not to rely on the vague cliche “all set.” It is almost always a vague substitute for a more precise expression. It’s bad manners. In some situations it may even be unethical or immoral, because it is evasive. Join me in the effort to eliminate evasive diction, our own and others’.

See disclaimer.

*I humbly call your attention to my refusal to add “out there” at the end of this sentence, as most Americans would have. I try to practice what I preach.

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