A Message For Wolf Blitzer, Serial Language Killer

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Dear Wolf Blitzer:

Do you ever watch your own show on CNN?

I don't think so, because if you did, you'd notice that you have a very odd verbal tic. You obsessively, weirdly punctuate comments and questions with the phrase "if you will."

You use it as often as some people say "ummm."

But you use it incorrectly. All the time.

Just the other day I heard you use it twice inside the same sequence of questions. Once you mentioned hacking and added "if you will." But you were talking about straight-up hacking. There was absolutely no need to add any qualifier.

Maybe you're not aware of this, but "if you will" is a more formal version of "so to speak." When someone uses "if you will," the person is indicating that what they've said might be something of a stretch.

As grammarist.com points out somewhat tartly:

Writers often use it to apologize for a weak phrase--often a bad metaphor, a corny coinage, or a phrase the writer is reluctant to use. And sometimes it's used when a writer doesn't trust his or her readers to understand a metaphor.

But you don't use it that way at all. You use it after perfectly normal, understandable, clear-cut words and expressions. I've heard you talk about tensions between Turkey and Russia, and you've asked someone, "What will Russians do to retaliate, if you will..." Why? There's nothing ambiguous or unclear about the word "retaliate."

For some reason, you seem to be addicted to this phrase, and it undercuts the quality of your reporting.

It's time to seek help. Please.

Because Laurie Anderson got it right when she said "language is a virus" and your bad habit has been infecting other reporters on CNN--and even MSNBC!

Sincerely,
A Concerned Viewer

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Lev Raphael is the author of The Edith Wharton Murders and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery which you can find on Amazon.