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Something to consider—at the present time.

There are many ways we inflate our language to make either ourselves or what we say seem more significant. One phrase that never seems to lose its popularity is “at the present time.”


The phrase comprises about twenty key strokes and, when spoken, five syllables. Not bad, but replaceable by one word with three letters and one syllable: now. They mean the same thing.


If you run to your favorite store at the mall to buy your favorite product, but the store has none in stock, expect a phrase like “I’m sorry we don’t have that available at the present time,” which isn’t a whole lot different from “We’re out of it.” Now the former does imply that the situation is going to change someday, and that the product will eventually reappear. “We’re out of” it sounds a bit too final, but “We’re currently out of it” provides the spark of hope that the customer is looking for while not wasting words.

Meteorologists making forecasts like to talk about, for instance, events occurring in the “Wednesday time frame.” Now I’m not sure how the “Wednesday time frame” differs from plain old Wednesday. When I tell someone I’ll call him tomorrow, I don’t tell him it’s the tomorrow time frame, although I suppose we could apply it to other areas. For instance, sentencing a criminal to a long prison sentence might sound less harsh if the judge were to say “I sentence you a five-to-ten-year time frame in the state penitentiary.” And schools could eliminate the problem of tardiness by demanding that the students arrive in the 8:00 o’clock time frame instead of 8:00 o’clock.


There are probably more ways we can utilize that time-frame expression, but those were the only two I could come up with—at the present time.

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