This just in …. I have two nominations for the JEESH (Jeffee’s Excellent English Spoken Here) Award. As you will remember, no nominations will be accepted for someone who uses the word “absolutely” in lieu of the single syllable “yes.” But there is another major hurdle for a JEESH nominee, and that is the following: the nominee cannot have been heard using the phrase “at the end of the day” unless it has something to do with the actual end of an actual day. In other words, no one should be saying “at the end of the day” as a metaphor to mean “in the end,” “in the final analysis,” or “after we’ve looked at this from all directions,” etc.
You see, the phrase “at the end of the day” has a real and useful meaning that has nothing to do with the “some future day” meaning that commentators and policy wonks in the media have foisted on it, instead of using words that have that precise meaning. Even the more poetic “when all is said and done” is perfectly understood as meaning “at the end of our review” or “when all the votes are counted” or “when all policies have been implemented” or whatever point needs to be made about something that will happen in the future.
The difference is that if you use “end of the day” correctly, you have to clarify that you mean the actual end of that or some other specific day. As soon as I’ve uttered it, I feel the need to add descriptors such as “today,” “by 5:00 p.m.,” “before the stroke of midnight,” or “before you go to bed.”
With “at the end of the day,” I am reminded of other metaphors such as “at the end of the trail,” to refer to death, or “the end of the world” to signify big tragedy, “the end of my rope,” to express the end of patience, and “the end all and be all,” as a reference to the essential factor . In the right place and at the right time, they are perfectly acceptable phrases. But just imagine if – instead of “end of the day” – these media folks started using “when the sun sets in the western sky,” like this: When the sun sets in the western sky, we’ll have an answer to that question about [(fill in the blank) our political system, the failing economy, Toyota braking systems, immigration reform, or any one of hundreds of non-poetic issues].” It’s just silly!
So, it should be no surprise that my first nominee, Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst at NPR, has never been heard (at least by me) to use “at the end of the day” metaphorically. I have listened to his prepared commentary on “All Things Considered” many afternoons, but the true test is his Q & A with Scott Simon on “Week In Review,” a segment on NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday.” As far as I know, those sessions are not scripted and — I’ve been delighted to notice — that he has not slipped once. Moreover, he properly responds “yes” or “no” when appropriate. His on-air expositions are precise and simple; there is an eloquence that results in absolute clarity. As he imparts information and wisdom, his words stream into your mind as easy as cool, clear water quenches your thirst on a hot summer day. As his NPR biography notes, he is the last of Edward R. Morrow’s legendary CBS new team still active in journalism. I’m just glad he’s not reached the end of the trail.
Now, my second nominee, Frank Deford, is not necessarily the plain speaker that is Mr. Schorr. And frankly (no pun intended), he may have used “at the end of the day” in his commentary on “Morning Edition,” where he broadcasts every Wednesday at 7:55 a.m. on Austin’s KUT radio. But, if he has ever slipped, I can forgive him because where else am I going to hear someone use words like “jeremiad” (a lament), “immaculate infusion” (how steroids find their way into ball players), “divertissement” (French for diversion or amusement), or “hoosegow” (jail)? And his recent attempt to educate the Wall Street Journal, whose style it is to speak of all humans as Mr. or Ms., made me laugh all day. While he was glad that the WSJ was venturing into sports for its NY edition, he exhorted the paper not to call A-Rod Mr. Rodriguez, and urge it to get “on the same page with the rest of us ‘World’s Jock Glitterati.’” Mr. Deford is a master of language, but he throws these word punches sparingly, increasing their effect. He speaks his mind but his mind is always engaging us as he illustrates how hurling, bouncing, and chasing balls is no less a part of the human drama than running banks, practicing law, or flying men to the moon. I confess to tossing the Sports page into the recycle bin as soon as I unroll the morning paper. But come Wednesday morning, I wait for Mr. Deford…..and when he starts talking, I am a jock!
I will gladly add your nominations to our contenders list if you tell me why they are worthy. In the meantime, listen, love, and laugh with your local public radio station.
For more about our nominees: