English is still dumb.

Let me get something out of the way before I delve into two more oddities of the modern English language. I have no problem with people who make grammatical “mistakes” or usage “errors” in everyday speech, and neither should you. That’s not what we’re doing here. We’re not making fun of people who don’t use “proper” English. (And, yes, all these scare quotes are intentional.) We’re making fun of people who, in trying to sound more sophisticated, muck up some perfectly good sentences in the process. The people who replace short words with long words because they’re longer. Those people. I’m convinced those people would realize how dumb they sound if they just stopped to think about the words they’re saying for two seconds, so let’s think of these as some community service.

Second-Chance opportunity

Mike Breen is my favorite play-by-play announcer in the NBA. He, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy make for extremely entertaining television, and I think they are, far and away, the best broadcasting team for any American professional sport. Breen never says anything that makes you question your sanity, he never gets tripped up on unnecessary verbiage, he never distracts you from the action, and he never fails to shift the spotlight off of himself and onto the glowing personalities of his colleagues in the broadcast booth. Which is why it pains me to pick on him before I pick on Jim Nantz or anybody else you’re forced to listen to on nationally televised sporting events — he really is the cream of the crop. Maybe this one thing sticks out it’s because Breen is so good at not sounding like a moron, but you know what they say: the loftier your high horse, the more rocks get thrown at your glass house.

A “second-chance opportunity” is what Breen and other play-by-play guys have started calling offensive rebounds. The second you see this written, your brain should burst out laughing at its ridiculous redundancy. ‘Opportunity’ is just a synonym for ‘chance,’ so what he’s actually saying is “second-chance chance.” Doesn’t that sound silly? Now, I do realize that there is some method to this madness. In basketball, when a team scores a basket after having already missed a shot and gotten an offensive rebound, that basket counts towards a team’s second-chance points, which is an officially recorded stat. Technically, an offensive rebound is a opportunity to get second-chance points, so I see where this expression is coming from. But come on. Just call it a “second chance” (since that’s what it is — a second chance at scoring a basket) or, better yet, an offensive rebound (since that’s what it actually is).

moving forward

This one is the worst. This one is the absolute worst. It has left the land of public relations office-speak and entered mainstream English, leaving its friends “positive impact,” “task force,” and “synergy” in the dust. People are moving forward in interviews, emails, press releases, business meetings, and commercials. They’re moving forward all over the place. But here’s the real question: WHERE ELSE WOULD THEY GO?

People use “moving forward” to mean “in the future.” But from the context of the sentence, everybody should already know we’re talking about the future. It’s obvious. Let’s look at an example to see how unnecessary this expression can be:

“So, as you can see, this trend is going to continue. And moving forward, we need to be aware of it.”

Remove the “moving forward” and what do we have left? The exact same sentence. Who decided this was a good idea? What moron thought, You know what would sound great here? Moving forward?

Now, that’s not to say that you can’t come up with a legitimate way to use “moving forward.” You can using it in the same way as you “move on from” or “get over” something: I’m moving forward after the passing of my pet turtle. Or you can use it in the same way as you “proceed with” or “carry out” something: I’m moving forward with my plan to adopt a new pet turtle. These are acceptable uses of the phrase, although I’d contend that there are better alternatives.

In the acceptable sentences, you may have noticed that our formerly offensive phrase was used as part of the main verb phrase. These sentences tend to take the following form: [somebody] moves forward [from/with] [something]. “Moving forward” is an integral part of the sentences, and if it were removed, the sentences would fall apart. However, when “moving forward” is used as an adverbial phrase (sometimes called a “gerundive”), as it is in our example from YouTube, it’s totally worthless and adds absolutely nothing to a sentence. The “moving forward” bit is just floating around, not attached to anything. You could put it at the start of the sentence, put it at the end, put it in the middle, surround it with commas, precede it with a dash; you can do anything you want with it. You know what I would do?

Get rid of it.