Wednesday, September 28, 2011


ro·bust Adjective

1. (of a person, animal, or plant) Strong and healthy; vigorous.

2. (of an object) Sturdy in construction.

Is it just me or is robust the “in” word at the moment?

A lot of people like it and are using it. Whether it’s up-against-it police chiefs in the aftermath of the riots in London, politicians defending their policies or banks and bankers trying to avoid a shake-up, robust is in demand.

It’s not a word I dislike, the opposite in fact and one I have used selectively in my role as a PR – but hearing it every day grates.

Some of the coaches at the World Cup Rugby, or Rugby World Cup even, have used the word, too. To me, that’s a sport that involves being robust at all times.

I wonder how words suddenly slip into fashion?

“Devastated” is very popular and has been for many years, as I can recall from my days as a tabloid journalist intruding in private grief. Sports stars, victims of crime, people involved in tragedies all used, and still do use, this one word response.

Transparency and accountability are high in the usage charts, too, alongside credible, incentivise, leverage, tangible, keynote and synergy. They crop up all the time. They are words of the moment. The loathsome “tasked” is another, sadly. I hate it when nouns are suddenly sullied by those who use them as verbs.

“Quite rightly” – OK that’s two words – is a phrase I’m fed up hearing, especially when spouted by a politician who has been challenged on some issue or other and is trying to give the impression of even-handedness while dismissing the criticism. Staying with politicians. The way they dismiss a question by declaring in an answer: “A more important question is…” Blooming cheek. Anyway, I’ve strayed from the topic slightly.

Visceral* and venal**, whose meanings I always need to look up in the dictionary, have been on my radar for some time. Music, book and film critics like, no, love them in their reviews. But they just came from nowhere, it seems to me.

I don’t know if any experts can pinpoint or explain why some words suddenly escape from the anonymity of the dictionary pages and become so popular. And does it work in reverse? What will replace today’s liking of robust? That’s anyone’s guess – what do you think it might be?

* felt in or as if in the internal organs of the body: a deep inward feeling.

** capable of being bought or obtained for money or other valuable consideration.


  1. Excellent post Mike. I offer robust agreement.
    Do you think you could turn your attention to 'appropriate', 'random' and 'stunning'? Oh, and that horrible construction 'ahead of'?

  2. Sorry, Ellen meant to respond ages ago. Don't like the words/expression you mention here, either.

    Repeated use of "firstly" and "secondly" are tiresome as well.

  3. Correction – Repeated use of "firstly" and "secondly" is tiresome as well.