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March 3, 2007

At the End of What Day?

At the end of the day, public figures often use clichés to sound sophisticated and smart. As these phrases proliferate in popularity, they become meaningless and stray far from their original meanings, if they had any. Consider, for instance, "at the end of the day."

Here is an excerpt from one of the many speeches by Colin Powell that include the expression: "There are a number of economic and political steps in existing agreements which, if we implemented, could contribute to momentum toward peace. But notwithstanding everything we do, at the end of the day, it is the people in the region taking the risks and making the hard choices who must find the way ahead."

But really, what day is he talking about? This useless phrase implies some time element, or perhaps finality, without really saying anything.

The phrase also is popular among athletes:

Washington Wizard forward Brendan Haywood told the Washington Post, "Whether the race tightens up or not, so what? At the end of the day, I feel that when we get healthy, we'll come out on top."

Nets owner Bruce Ratner, in the New York Times: "Before, I was all concerned about the luxury tax. I realize, you know, that at the end of the day we’ve got to have a competitive team."

Comedian Sarah Silverman uses the cliché in her slams. This was on the Sarah Silverman Program, according to the Toronto Star: "I learned whether you're gay, bisexual, it doesn't matter, you know? Because at the end of the day they're both gross."

The end of the day means the end of someday. Lots of public figures take refuge in this nonbinding modifier.

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