Linguistic Cliches: Progressive Edition

Now that we have a Democratic Congress and White House, the linguistic cliches have changed. On the one hand, this is an enormous relief, as I was heartily sick of the GOP’s cliches. But pol-speak being what it is, relief is short-lived. So here’s a progressive cliche that has always puzzled me: working families.

What is a “working family” supposed to be?

It should mean the staff you might have seen at a Greek diner or Korean grocer: Mom working the register, little brother unpacking fruit or cleaning tables, deadbeat uncle purportedly keeping an eye out for customers with suspicious demeanor – that sort of thing.

But I don’t think it means that. As used, I think it’s supposed to mean something like “working class families” but of course we don’t have class in America so you can’t say that.

So what you wind up with is a literally meaningless phrase that is supposed to imply support for work and support for families and support for the kinds of hard-working people who are just trying to put food on their families, and could really use a hand up not a leg out.

Anyway, in the same way that James Fallows would like to see our word-savvy President abandon “God Bless America” as the all-purpose speech-closer, I would like to see the phrase “working families” replaced by something with a plausible literal meaning.

/curmudgeonly rant