At this moment in time, an even more annoying expression has emerged. It’s just not right
Right now the most irritating expression doing the rounds is … right now. It’s everywhere – TV, radio and in the public prints – giving apparent urgency to what are usually vague general statements about tendencies in contemporary society. Nick Clegg has even tried, somewhat fruitlessly, to turn it into a soundbite: “This is the right government for right now.” Ugh.
Here are some other examples:
“AKA Radric Davis is rap’s go-to guy right now.” (Guardian Guide)
“There is a huge focus self-evidently on the global economy right now.” (Tony Blair)
“Right now it is a political jungle out there.” (Nancy McLernon)
“Right now the issues are around the economy, around the Green new deal, around social justice and fairness.” (Caroline Lucas MP)
“If we were in the euro right now, all of your taxes, all of your national insurance – some of that would be taken to bail out Greece.” (David Cameron)
“I wouldn’t be able to be playing this very important role right now as the party goes forward” (Harriet Harman, deputy Labour party leader, on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour)
Now read those sentences without the “right now”. They mean exactly the same. The right now adds nothing. It doesn’t mean “right now” as in “I need to go for a wee right now!” What, I ask, is wrong with that serviceable old periphrasis “at this moment in time”?
This isn’t the only fashionable phrase that has emerged in recent years, usually from America, to infect our language – rogue memes subtly infesting our speech patterns and thus changing the way we think. Their function seems to be to associate the users with something they feel is modern, fashionable and cool. Indeed “cool” itself has had a very good run of late, tending to come towards at the end of an informal business discussions and meaning: “Excellent. We are in agreement. Let us proceed on the basis of our consensus.”
Or take the expression “Can I get an espresso and a bagel”. This use of the word “get” crossed the Atlantic and replaced the perfectly acceptable and polite: “I wonder if I might have a buttered scone and a pot of Earl Grey” some time in the Gordon Gekko 1980s when “getting” seemed the most important thing in the world. It felt insistent, edgy, impatient. For a brief few seconds the speaker was in a trendy New York coffee bar, not just his or her local greasy spoon.
Harman in the above quotation also comes close to a “going forward”. You know the one: “We will be able to leverage synergies from this, going forward.” It is a wholly redundant way of saying “in the future” – redundant because it is always in a sentence implying or formed in the future tense. Yet the people who say it just can’t help saying it. It is their badge of acceptance within a particular narrow community. It shows they are corporate, entrepreneurial, in with the particular in-crowd that’s particularly in right now (oops) – the business/marketing community. That’s why politicians say it: it is a signifier to show they are on message with the corporate world.
I’m pretty sure Clegg’s somewhat uncomfortable use of the phrase will have come at Cameron’s suggestion. He is a serial user, as in his first speech as prime minister: “And I think the service our country needs right now is to face up to our really big challenges …”
You can imagine, as he was checking Clegg’s notes for the keynote Lib Dem speech, Cameron might have said: “Why not try this line: ‘This is the right government for right now’? I was going to use it myself, but your need is greater than mine, old chum.”
So by their expressions shalt thou know them – who they want to impress, whose gang they want to be in, even what particular fantasy world is playing out in their minds. Right now, it is a hyped up, jargon-ridden US corporatism that holds sway so that’s the way we want to speak.
But, you know what? You won’t likely find me slipping into modish Americanisms any time soon. No way, Jose!