At the End of the Day
A blog reader recently emailed me the following question:
Please tell me why people constantly say “at the end of the day” when explaining the final results of something and seemingly everything now? What the heck happened to using your brain to explain the finality of a situation.
Here’s how I answered:
I’m sorry to say I cannot tell you why this idiom has become so popular. That is a mystery beyond my intellectual powers.
But I agree that it’s quite common. And you are not alone in finding it annoying. Researchers at Oxford University found that it was at the top of the “Top Ten Most Irritating Phrases” in 2008.
I find the expression overused and therefore a bit bland but not particularly annoying. It is identical in meaning to an older expression: when all is said and done. I wonder why people are not annoyed by that idiom. I had to abbreviate the expressions, but the chart below indicates that at the end of the day passed when all is said and done in popularity in the 1930s (among English publication). Of course, both expressions can be used in different contexts and without the particular idiomatic meaning we are discussing here. Still, the rise in frequency of end of the day since about 1970 indicates the kind of growing usage you’ve observed.
Idioms and clichés become idioms and clichés because they express something that often needs expressing without requiring much thought. They are linguistic shortcuts. They cease to be clever, but carry meaning in tidy packages. And there are thousands of them in English. I recommend getting used to them and, if you find they bother you, work to eliminate them from your own communication while trying to develop patience with those around you who don’t share your disdain.
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