My memory wants to pin this unfortunate phrase on the Watergate hearings in the summer of 1973. That is when I recall having heard the phrase for the first time. The entire nation watched several weeks of televised hearings conducted by a special Senate committee into charges related to a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. The hearings uncovered a conspiracy whose participants included President Richard Nixon and several of those working with and for him as he sought re-election. The hearings led to articles of impeachment against Nixon, and he resigned from office.
As we watched the hearings, viewers kept hearing the phrase “at this point in time,” uttered repeatedly by committee members and those testifying. Before we knew it, we were hearing it on the street. We ordinary people were using it. Television is like that. Its influence is powerful.
Some of us find it a challenge to give up the flowery excess baggage and simplify our conversations. One popular meteorologist on television likes to use the phrase and often expands it to “at this particular point in time.” He also likes to introduce the next parts of his reports with “Let’s go on ahead and . . .” Why not simply eliminate the unnecessary words “go on ahead and”? He’s such a competent meteorologist and a likable guy, one hates to complain.
When I worked in radio, excess verbiage was actively discouraged. Simplicity aids clarity, we were told. I believe that. Journalists-in-training are taught to use the K.I.S.S. method (Keep it simple, stupid.) Personally, I would drop the final “S” in that admonition, but the point is important.
OK, wise guy, you might argue, if “at this point in time” is needlessly wordy and unwieldy, maybe even pompous, what substitute would you suggest? What should I say instead?
How about “right now”? Or even simply “now.” Does the job nicely. Keep it simple.
Today’s word: Further or farther? This is easy. Farther refers to measurable distance. My recent move means that I live farther away from my church. Further is used for more abstract distances we don’t actually measure. The committee decided not to discuss the issue further.