Brian Edwards Media

An invitation to readers of this blog to nominate the words or phrases most overused or misused by the New Zealand media.


The previous post on the misuse by media reporters of the word ‘miracle’ produced a number of other examples from correspondents of words and phrases overused or misused  by the New Zealand media. So I invite readers to send in their favourite (or non-favourite) examples, so that we can compile an ongoing list. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll make a start:

Most Overused/Misused Words/Phrases in the New Zealand Media

  • icon, iconic  
  • shock, in shock, shocked 
  • miracle, miraculous
  • exclusive, exclusively
  • live, reporting live     
  • across the story
  • in breaking news
  • now…
  • showed no emotion [on being found guilty of murder]
  • inferred [for implied]

Over to you, dear readers!

  • dramatic
  • carnage
  • decimated
  • under the microscope
  • injury cloud
  • refute [deny]
  • fulsome praise [high praise]
  • gutted
  • going forward
  • long fight with cancer
  • slam, slammed [strongly criticised]
  • Colmar Brunton Survey, Reid Research Poll
  • it was a game of two halves 
  • awesome
  • crossing now for a live update

Many more follow so: 

  • 5am in the morning, 4pm in the afternoon
  • don’t get me wrong
  • to be honest
  • damping down hotspots [firemen always doing it]
  • still full of running
  • slain [killed]
  • stepchange [?]
  • 24/7
  • at the end of the day
  • it’s a nonsense [it’s nonsense]
  • shell shocked [shocked]
  • found battered to death in her own home [her home]
  • first with breaking news
  • gunned down [shot]
  • standing water [puddle]
  • loved ones [relatives]
  • gruesome discovery [body]
  • welcome back [never left!]
  • anything with the suffix ‘gate’
  • no suspicious circumstances
  • devout Catholic [not totally lapsed]
  • devastated [upset]
  • closure
  • here in the far North [Whangarei]
  • we’ll see you at the same time tomorrow [you wont!]
  • residents woke to discover
  • surreal [incredible]
  • absolutely essential [essential]
  • personal friend [friend]
  • look, I know [Mark S]
  • incredulous & credulous [often confused]
  • credulous [credible], incredulous [incredible]
  • kick-start [start]
  • our [One News]
  • glitz and glamour of…
  • worst nightmare
  • situation, hostage situation, locked down situation
  • razed to the ground
  • raised to the ground
  • exclusive footage
  • riddled with cancer
  • don’t go away
  • almost palpable
  • weather bomb [which is a technical term in meteorology]
  • binge drinking culture
  • epidemic
  • gotten
  • hung [hanged when by the neck]
  • sources close to X confirmed
  • meanwhile, over on 2
  • just about everything that Jim Hickey says [unkind!]
  • a flat pass [blatant forward pass]
  • robust [policies, systems…]
  • one/3 news can now reveal
  • released from hospital [discharged – it’s not a prison]
  • stunned [very surprised]
  • shock-jock [moron – BE]

Thank you, dear readers, we’ll call it quits at that. And, thanks to Danyl McLauchlan, we’ll leave the last [ironic] words to the  Economist style guide:

‘Lazy journalists are always at home in oil-rich country A, ruled by ailing President B, the long-serving strongman, who is, according to the chattering classes, a wily political operator—hence the present uneasy peace—but, after his recent watershed (or landmark or sea-change) decision to arrest his prime minister (the honeymoon is over), will soon face a bloody uprising in the breakaway south.’



  1. “Paul Henry”

  2. Qantas Media Awards.

  3. Clearly it must be “dramatic” as in TV1 breathlessly intoning, “in today’s dramatic developments”. Intended of course to make the news sound significant to draw you in.

    Runner up is “carnage” frequently used where no one was hurt, for example a multi-car accident.

    Highly commended is “decimated” (see original Roman origins) used to describe a minor to moderate adverse impact.

    Honourable mention to “under the microscope” because more words is better, and in the same vein “green light” to describe approval for no reason I can ever discern.

    In the sporting category clearly the ubiquitous “injury cloud” which seems to hover over any sports person awaiting a diagnosis or prognosis.

  4. refute, when they really mean reject or deny…
    fulsome (as in praise), when they really mean “high praise”…

  5. Gutted..absolutely….totally (as if there is a partial alternative)…Never been so..blah blah

  6. Especially in the business news: going forward, moving forward and variants.The only time recently I’ve heard it used non-redundantly and usefully recently was referring to a batsman who was consistently playing off the back foot.

  7. After the break, we’ll tell you… [without actually revealing any meaningful information before the break]

  8. “Fighting for his life” – said of person lying in hospital unconscious. See also “Long fight with cancer”

  9. Slam/Slammed. Never a day goes by without something or someone being slammed. Grrr..

  10. From the Economist style guide:

    Lazy journalists are always at home in oil-rich country A, ruled by ailing President B, the long-serving strongman, who is, according to the chattering classes, a wily political operator—hence the present uneasy peace—but, after his recent watershed (or landmark or sea-change) decision to arrest his prime minister (the honeymoon is over), will soon face a bloody uprising in the breakaway south.

  11. “Colmar Brunton Survey”
    “Reid Research Poll”

    (perhaps only when they’re being used to create news)

  12. It was a game of two halves

  13. “awesome” especially when used by older people trying to look hip.

    “Crossing now for a live update” from outside the empty house that someone lived in as a child and was a distant cousin of the defendant.

  14. “back to back”

    “The smorning and the safternoon”

    “5 a.m in the morning”
    “5 p.m in the afternoon”

  15. “Passionate” – admittedly used mainly by pollies, but reported verbatim by media – has taken over from “vision”

  16. “their running between the wickets… has been brilliant”

    Where else do batsmen run FFS?

  17. Does misuse of disinterest (impartial) and uninterest (not interested) qualify? (my personal bugbear)

    • Does misuse of disinterest (impartial) and uninterest (not interested) qualify? (my personal bugbear)

      Sorry Leopold, both are correct.

  18. Discussions “around” a topic rather than about it.

  19. Two constructions that particularly irritate me in articles and blogs are “That said” and “Don’t get me wrong”.

    Oh… and “dampening down hotspots”. Firemen are always bloody well dampening down hotspots.

  20. Sporting commentators are terrible offenders.Least favourite is “Full of running”followed by “still full of running”whatever that may mean.

  21. Not so much used by the media, but the people they’re interviewing “like a war zone.”

  22. Here’s one that irritates me. Why are homicide victims never “killed”? They are always “slain”.

  23. “at the end of the day” John Key uses this frequently, presumably for want of nothing else to say…

  24. I can’t stand “bid”, as in “pressure groups made a bid…” etc.
    And my other hate is “eye” which is mostly used in headlines, like “Ngai Tahu eyes tourism”.

  25. Stepchange, used all the time govt to describe… I don’t know something

  26. Kia ora
    Good evening

    Howdy doody, folks
    Wrap yerselves up
    Over to you

    The fact of the matter is…
    At the end of the day…
    It’s “a” nonsense…
    He oughtn’t’ve have done what he done, but he done it anyway; so what’s done is done and can’t be undone because it’s done. (cringe)

  27. People who stumble upon dead bodies are always reported as having made a “gruesome discovery”. There must be other ways to say this…

  28. Oh, and people are never shocked; they’re always shell-shocked.

    No they’re not!

  29. “….was found battered to death in her own home….”, as though this is both much less likely, and far more unpleasant than being battered to death in someone else’s home.

    I’m also amazed at the number of times the name of a prisoner is subtitled with the phrase “…who has ALWAYS protested his innocence…” as though most prisoners own up to murder, GBH, drug peddling, and wholesale mayhem as soon as they’re sentenced.

    “OK m’Lud – it’s a fair cop. I really DID do ‘im in after all. I only dismembered the priest because I wanted to be a butcher, but me mum never let me play with knives….”

  30. The cliches uttered by our media are irrelevant. They merely highlight, with one or two exceptions, a lack of depth in reporting and a focus on sensatationalism.

    Newstalk ZB prefaces its new bulletins with the words “first with breaking news”. Together with many media orgnanisations there should be a subtle change to, “first with breaking wind”.

    It would describe perfectly the flatulence that passes for news reporting.

  31. And PS: “gunned down” – news-speak for “shot”; a “fire fight” – meaning a gun fight (surely they’re very different?); and when inclement weather prevails “surface flooding” – that’s where you’ll see it first, folks; and “standing water”, meaning “puddles”…..

  32. Oh this is easy
    “Loved ones”
    To indicate relations of people who are now dead

    Anybody who has relations knows they are not all universally loved

  33. @ Pam: Yeah, I agree. How about this:

    “As they approached, the overpowering sickly sweet smell of decaying body putrification induced a sudden torrent of projectile vomiting. And the rising crescendo in the hum of the swarming blowflies, drowned out the hitherto soothing dulcet sound of native bird song”.

    Much more delicate, this.

  34. Welcome back ( I never went away…they did!)

    ‘We’ll have this compelling story for you on Thursday’ (if it really was news they’d tell you tonight).

    Since when did ‘now’ become the most overused, approved bridging-device in broadcasting?(it must be because editors aren’t jumping on perpetrators) Do they teach it at journalism schools nowadays?

  35. “Reeling” “devastated” “Closure”

  36. “Slammed” (as in criticised)

    A Herald favourite. As in “At a press conference in Wellington today, senior DHB bureaucrats and doctors slammed the Medical Laboratory Workers Union and the Association of Professionals and Executive Employees, which represents radiographers.”

  37. “no suspicious circumstances”

  38. Apparently anyone short of totally lapsed is “a devout catholic”.

  39. Oops, I see “slam” has already been put forward. I hope I’m not slammed for my poor reading skills!

  40. “an investigation by TV One/TV3″.

    Yeah, right

  41. “Closure”

  42. “I’m here in the Far North”, when they’re standing on a road in Whangarei.

    Yes TV3, I’m looking at you. Whangarei is south of the Far North. Write that down somewhere.

  43. Anyone, person, station, organisation or broadcast that suffixes a thing with ‘gate’

    There’s a freaking ‘gate’ for everything

    can’t wait for fencegate

  44. no no no, actually you know it’s not even the language – its the body language that is killing me these days. Media training right out of the US or wherever that allows our news presenters or reporters to use their ridiculous overly dramatic head bobbing, false concern, faces of indignation, pained sadness etc etc.

    It’s like watching FOX affiliate wkrp Reno 1323 or whatever inanely idiotic over hyped news organisation they are using to teach so called journalism in this country.

    Sod the language, it’s the body language which is the most offensive of all.

  45. “That was translated..”

    This invariably done on Natrad.

    The news item is delivered.

    A sound piece is played of whoever saying what we have just been told.

    This is irritating enough when done in English.

    The grump hormone really rises when a foreign language is involved.

    News item. “50 people have been killed or wounded in a car bomb explosion in Nodlon, capital of Pomgolia.”

    Sound piece. Some Pomgolian personage is heard speaking in Pomgolian, this is accompanied by someone (with a strong Pomgolian accent)translating the speech telling us exactly what the news reader had told us one minute before.

    Newsreader. ”
    That was translated..

    While it may have been difficult to understand thetranslation, do we really need to be told it was translated?

  46. “We’ll see you same time tomorrow, meantime goodnight.”

    No, the news jock can only see as far as the lens of the camera and not into our rooms… at least I am hoping so.

  47. trauma, traumatic – instead of “upset”

  48. “We cross now” … to the stuffed dummy standing in front of a closed building, parliament etc

  49. going forwards
    the facts of the case
    disturbing new images are emerging
    residents woke to discover
    its still unclear


    Big events are often now described as being “surreal”…mainly by the general public, but more and more by reporters.

    eg…Wellington is hit by a storm. It rains lots. There are slips. Floods. Wind.
    Joe Public to reporter: “There’s water everywhere. Its windy and my car wndows were left open and my seat is wet…Its surreal”.

    No…if it was really surreal it would be raining giant pink worms. Green noses would be growing from the cracks in the rubber road and Joe’s car would now be an orange slug with televisions for eyes…

  51. Sainsbury’s Gems:

    absolutely essential
    utmost urgency
    personal friend (An impersonal friend exists?)
    I, personally, feel
    Look, I know
    But, do you really think

    Misused words in print media and on TV:

    economic and economical
    practise and practice
    who and whom
    effective and effectual
    uninterested and disinterested
    infer and imply
    adverse and averse
    affect and effect
    phase and faze
    compliment and complement
    loath and loathe
    lightening and lightning
    ingenious and ingenuous
    passed and past
    incredulous and incredible
    nauseous, nauseated, and nauseating

  52. “Kick-start” for “begin”

  53. Strike action — do you remember when people just went “on strike”?

  54. TVNZ News:


  55. “Glitz and glamour” – every single showbiz/red carpet news “story” on TV is introduced by the autocue plug-in with this phrase.

  56. “worst nightmare” as in a mother’s, a father’s, a parent’s, a principal’s, an employer’s, a driver’s, (you name it occupation or familial role) worst nightmare.

  57. oh, oh, and “situation” as in “hostage situation” or worse a “locked down situation”. Aaaagggh.

  58. “President XXX, speaking through a translator…” What? Was the President shouting into the translator’s arse so the words came out through his mouth?

    Razed to the ground. Or its even more heinous print cousin “raised to the ground.”

    “Disgraced former…” Not everyone who leaves their job under a cloud is disgraced.

    Exclusive footage. Well, it was taken with your camera, so the angle will be exclusive at least.

    One that intrigues me is in the death notices when it says “Joe Bloggs, 108 years young, went suddenly…” If he’s been around for more than 80 years, it ain’t sudden…

    An interesting one I noticed back in Ireland was that no one ever simply had cancer. They were “riddled” with it, as in “they opened him up and he was RIDDLED with cancer. RIDDLED with it…”

  59. Im a broadcast journo and i think a lot of you are talking crap. Yes a lot of those words are overused. But if we said “Shot” for example in every sentence, we’d be critisised for not being able to think of another word.

    And “hotspots” are just that.

    and “no suspicious circumstances” are words fed to us by emergency services, and imply something else.

    Someone can be killed in a car crash, so it’s not appropriate when someone has been murdered.

    If we want to be the first to break news, we rely on cliches. Eg” Police have released the name of . . . .

    It means you get the information FIRST.

    aside from that, many of u have valuable points.

  60. As well as “surreal” (mentioned above by The Real Tony), “ironic” is also over-used and inappropriately used.

    And the classic NZ “yeah, no” – although that’s the people interviewed, not the journalists themselves.

    Pronunciation – “bin” instead of “been”

  61. Weather bomb.

    It has a very specific meaning in meteorology for when pressures fall more than 1 millibar per hour. In the media it’s more of a buzz-term.

  62. My (least) favourites are:

    “Speaking for the first time today…”

    It’s, well, miraculous how victims of car crashes, political scandals et al can make it to adulthood without uttering a word… until some TV journalist gets an exclusive chat with them.

    And the overuse of the word palpable. Everything is “almost” palpable these days, especially fear in suburban streets where TV journalists stand doing live crosses 20 hours after something newsworthy happened.

  63. “binge drinking culture”

  64. The word ‘gotten’ – gets me wound up. An American import?

    Also I recall from my school days, when the word for being strung up by a rope around the neck, I believe is hanged not hung.

  65. Well of course in the absence of any confirmation of a story they can always make it up and claim

    “a source close to ******* confirmed”

  66. And use of ‘student’ where ‘pupil’ is more appropriate -

  67. “Meanwhile, over on 2 (or 1)…”

    The stilted attempt to sound hip when promo-ing TVNZ’s other channel.

  68. “Toe-poe”

    A town with a large lake.

  69. Just about everything Jim Hickey says.

    Just give us the info, f’heavens sake.

  70. “a flat pass” – rugby commentators on a blatant forward pass by their team..

  71. Robust

    Moving slightly off-topic, I’m also a little irritated by the way news items in the print media increasingly come across as very, very bad short-stories. Articles that begin: “Assaria woke with a shudder in the cool early morning breeze. The sun was just breaking over Kabul and as she peered out of the window…” Whenever I come across something like this, I immediately – after emitting a few expletives – scan down the paragraphs looking for anything even remotely resembling hard fact.

  72. And, of course the most irritating of them all. The dreadful ‘Lockdown’

  73. Journo I can’t follow your logic. Its not that you use a variety of words to replace a single one that might get overused (your example being “shot”). Rather instead of overusing a perfectly fine one, you overuse another word or phrase and often misuse it at the same time.

    So, going back to my early example, if “accident” consistently becomes “carnage”, one still has overuse but with it misuse because an accident is generally way short of being carnage.

    I think there are a few inter-related things going on. Firstly the quest for harder impact words as others get devalued through… overuse, especially when combined with the marketing imperative to make us think we are part of something significant. Secondly, poorly trained journos and finally the tendency of words to have (if I can use a political concept)a “dog-whistle” component which provides context as well as meaning without saying too much. Thus it is easier to say “x is under an injury cloud” than “It is not yet clear whether x will be able to tour and won’t be until examination of his injured pectoral by a specialist”.

  74. Expanding on @markus@16:24’s comment, background music during news items also annoys me.

    @Journo@10:17: Glancing at your comment, is there still any requirement when hiring in your industry for spelling and grammar qualifications? I know I’m not perfect myself, but I do actually try. More to the point, the industry I work in isn’t centred around communicating information to people clearly and unambiguously (though it helps as with anything).

  75. @ journo: “Im a broadcast journo and i think a lot of you are talking crap.”

    If fecal matter flows downstream, so do the plaudits. Lighten up.

  76. “One/Three News can now reveal …”

    = there was a press release, which you could have read on the internet several hours ago. Our reporter found it on a blog.

  77. “Released” from hospital
    (should be discharged)
    Hospital is not prison, even though it may feel like it. If you can make it to the door, you are free to go.

  78. ‘Gunned down’ should have been ‘gunned down’ long ago. President John Kennedy was ‘gunned down’. So were Anwar Sadat, a Pope, Ronald Reagan (in the same year, from memory), and Indira Gandhi.

    Yitshak Rabin was ‘gunned down’ by one of his own.

    So was the Viet Cong officer in Saigon during the Tet offensive in 1968.

    So were Northern Irish protesters by paras of The Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday.

    And as the years have passed the media have added to the toll of the ‘gunned down': in New Zealand most recently the policemen Len Snee, Don Wilkinson, and the two constables in Christchurch. The dog of one of them was ‘gunned down’, too.

    Not a policeman, but the Manawatu farmer Scott Guy was ‘gunned down’ a few months ago. So was the Hawke’s Bay farmer Mr Nicholas a few years back.

    Still in Hawke’s Bay, a man was recently acquitted of the killing of his neighbour who didn’t keep his sons under control. He had ‘gunned down’ the neighbour.

    A question for those who use the term: what is the image or picture you are trying to convey when you use this expression?

    Don’t you think that it might now be retired for a while?

  79. “The deep south”

  80. “stunned” for surprised.
    “devastated” for upset.
    The worst one:
    “moving on” moving on bloody where?

  81. A reporter being “across the issue” (eg “Over now to Jack Tame, who is across the issue”) seems to be gaining in popularity.

    The term always makes me imagine said reporter sprawled out on his/her tum, trying to get fully “across” whatever the issue is.

  82. @Paul Corrigan: A question for those who use the term: what is the image or picture you are trying to convey when you use this expression?

    I’m confused by this sentence construction. To whom, exactly, do I convey the “picture” to, should I use the expression?

  83. Hello, Merv:

    I am confused by your confusion. Sorry.

  84. Sek-e-tree (instead of secret-ary)



    Rushed to hospital

    So-and-so was sentenced for killing so-and-so in the court today (very public crime scene?)

    How are YOU? (enquiry by interviewee to interviewer,irritating as well as irrelevant)

  85. “Shock jock”

    It’s either shocking, with appropriate downstream responses/repercussions, or it’s not. The hypocrisy is profound.

  86. “closure”

    The public, often inarticulate at best in stressful times, is now virtually forced to use this falsely legitimised weasel word in circumstances where no such thing is possible. Thus does life imitate: not art, but the media.

  87. Passionate – often an excuse for an offence of some kind.
    the reality is –
    quite frankly & moving on (don’t wish to talk about it any more)DB & HC
    apologise – prelude to a spun and woven contrition

  88. “Racist”

    A very handy word, because it prevents the person deploying it as an argument having to actually THINK.

  89. To be honest (immnediately raises a doubt)

  90. Oh, come on, guys! At this rate, the announcers will be imparting the news by way of sign-language.

    • Oh, come on, guys! At this rate, the announcers will be imparting the news by way of sign-language.

      Judy made the same point to me. But probably 60% or more of the comments seem to me to have merit. And we don’t expect to find all these overuses/misuses in the one bulletin.