Every year I’m amused by a certain catch phrase that sweeps the media. Last year it was “cold snap” — at least here in the Northeast United States. Everyone was using this phrase. Predictably, every weatherman found a way to work in the hip term, but hearing it being used in normal conversation was the real true sign that “cold snap” had made the big time.
At the grocery store: “that’ll be $29.54. Can’t wait till this cold snap ends. It’s been brutal.”
Previous to last year I had never heard these two words used in conjunction. And this last winter it disappeared and was never uttered again. It had reached its Tipping Point, and people moved on to other ways of describing how cold the weather was.
This year, it’s “reveal”. Specifically when used as a noun. This word is everywhere, and we can blame reality television for it. Any makeover show — or one with a surprise ending will use this to describe the portion of the program that you just can’t miss.
“The big reveal is coming up… right after the break.”
I’m guessing that “reveal” has almost reached its tipping point. And I’m wondering if that moment will be obvious to us all. Perhaps this coming November, Tom Brokaw will tease the announcement of the next US president, by stating that the “big reveal” is moments away. Then we’ll be looking to what next year’s catch phrase will be.


  1. Simon Jessey says:

    “Cold snap” is pretty popular in England , and “reveal” and “big reveal” are common in the television and film industry, in which I used to be involved.
    I forsee that latter being used when new web designs get unveiled.

  2. monkeyinabox says:

    I thought it was I approve this message. That reached it’s tipping point about 2 months ago.

  3. Rob Cameron says:

    I’ve heard lots of “You’re Fired” a la Donald Trump. Most effective when paired with that little flicking hand motion seen here:
    The Donald

  4. Todd says:

    I’m getting sick of “Extreme” anything. That is one word that has to stop being used!

  5. web says:

    I’m just glad I dont have to “Cowboy up” anymore.
    Business is this way too.. Somebody hears a new business catch phrase and then NEEDS to work it into every phrase, email and meeting.
    I think we need “a line in the sand” on this one.

  6. Jonas Sveningsson says:

    Actually, in Sweden we say “köldknäpp”.
    Köld = Cold
    Knäpp = Snap
    And this has been used for a long time. Strange, isn’t it?

  7. Kevin says:

    I like the term “cold snap.” I know it’s played out, but it’s catchy. If my last name was Snap and I was having a kid I would consider naming him “Cold.”
    The one that drives me nuts is the term “snapfit.” (Yes, one word.) Every sales guy here freaking loves it — “This software will snapfit right on to your current system!”

  8. Sumaira says:

    “The one that drives me nuts is the term “snapfit.””
    Yeah, snapfit is annoying, Ive heard it before…..esp around sales guys.

  9. Eric Meyer says:

    “Cold snap” is a phrase I’ve heard and used my whole life, and will continue to use well into the future. In fact, it’s so familiar to me that if you’re right and it was a catch phrase, I completely failed to notice anything out of the ordinary.
    “Reveal,” on the other hand– that one’s new to me. And already annoying.

  10. Matt Powell says:

    “Cold snap” is a fairly common phrase here in New Zealand, but really it has to mean that the cold weather has come suddenly or unexpectedly — otherwise, where’s the “snap”? If it’s been going on for ages, then it’s just a bout of cold weather.
    Incidentally, we Antipodeans have a word for this as well, which might be useful for your weather presenters and grocery store owners: we call it “winter”.
    Boy, it’s crazy down here.

  11. Dave Mohrman says:

    Okay, you guys oughta love this site:
    It should be antedotal to those feeling “apathy registering on the richter scale” (#12)

  12. jacob says:

    I’ve also heard “cold snap” used all my life. I grew up in south Texas, for what it’s worth.
    The use of “reveal” as a noun is mind-boggling; I don’t watch much TV besides cartoons and Japanese cooking shows, so I’ve never heard it used in that fashion. Perhaps “revelation” carries too much biblical baggage for comfort? Maybe they’ll address this over at the Language Log.

  13. Jeremy S. says:

    I’ve also heard “cold snap” used quite a bit, but it’s understandable as I live in Winnipeg, MB, Canada. During the winter, when it gets really cold (-30C) we usually call that a “cold snap”.
    On the other hand, I’ve never heard of “reveal” used in that manner. So thats a first.

  14. Ryan C. says:

    You see, I thought I was the only person noticing the (over)use of “reveal”! Regardless, all this reminded me I have a copy of Mr. Gladwell’s book sitting on my shelf, read only once though. I think I’ll give it another read-through… it was certainly inspiring the first time around.

  15. David says:

    May rodents infest the next one of you who says “coldsnap” or “reveal”…

  16. Bryan says:

    I have using “ZING” lately. I think I heard it on SNL one time and then on Bob and Tom, they say it alot.
    So whenever a good joke is cracked, you say,

  17. Mike D. says:

    The first time I ever heard “reveal” used as a noun in this manner was after Janet Jackson’s super bowl stripshow this year. Her handlers were trying to explain what went “wrong” and said something like “She was supposed to finish the song with a costume reveal, but the undergarment was still supposed to be on underneath.”
    Hence, my positive association with this newly crowned noun. Mmm, Janet.

  18. <rant> I’m just hoping that the reality makeover shows move along as fast as these phrases that have reached the tipping point. Stop cluttering the TV with more garbage! </rant>

  19. Wally says:

    “Cold snap” wasn’t a new expression to me, so I too didn’t notice that it was suddenly popular. (I’ve lived all my live in Missouri and Illinois.)

  20. Tom Werner says:

    I have never ever EVER (not even once) heard the term “cold snap” in my entire life. Not in Iowa -or- California. I think you’re all mad, MAD I say!
    Now, “oh snap,” that’s a different story altogether.

  21. Blinger says:

    I’m also from Winnipeg and use cold snap in the same way that Jeremy does.
    The cold there, forced me to move away as soon as I finished school..

  22. Interesting that “cold snap” is so widely known. It could mean a few things — weatherpeople in New England are slow to pick up common phrases, or I just didn’t notice it until last year. Or, maybe it was really cold last winter. Chances are… yes. But no colder than any other.

  23. krf says:

    What we really need is a “sea change”. I’ve never heard this and now it’s all the rage.
    Funny how these things get picked up. “The Tipping Point” was a very good book, btw.

  24. tig says:

    we will reveal
    we will show you how to reveal
    we will do a reveal
    please, gag me with a spoon, why don’tcha!
    what do you folks over there do with the language you’re still somewhat anachronistically calling english?

  25. Bryan Buchs says:

    I wrote a post about a similar phenomenon back in January… I like to pick out the Business Catch Phrase of the year prior to Jan. 1st.
    This year, it’s “The Game” (and variations thereof – “Player”, etc.)

  26. waylman says:

    I have heard “cold Snap” all my life and never noticed a sudden influx in use either. As a matter of fact, here in western New York State (Buffalo) it is quite common to hear the phrase to describe a day or two of colder than normal weather, and always has been. Actualy, this last winter was unusualy cold as a whole so I don’t recall the phrase being used much. We mostly had ‘cold week(s)’ or ‘cold month(s)’ – not exactly a “cold snap”.
    Generaly speaking I am very annoyed by catch phrases. “Reveal” would certainly fit that catagory. Its just that “cold snap” doesn’t in my experience.

  27. Kevin Tamaura says:

    Hmm I thought last year’s was “perfect storm”. Don’t know about “reveal” out here in Seattle. I’ll have to pay more attention.

  28. joel says:

    The phrase “cold snap” appears on one of the “Farmer’s Fate” cards on the excellent Farming Game board game. I believe the cold snap causes you to miss a harvest, but I’m not sure.

  29. Dave Mohrman says:

    Speaking of “gagging”, how about “low carb”? I think our culture needs to go on a diet to reduce the use of that one!
    Unfortunately, there’s a marketing feeding frenzy around that one so we’ll have to see when it reaches the tipping point on the scales under the flacid feet of public popularity.

  30. Jim Pettit says:

    If I may be Cliff Claven-like for a moment: the term ‘reveal’ is used as a noun in architecture; it’s what you call the sides of a window or door opening. The sill is the flat horizontal piece, and the reveals are the sides. Simple, no?
    Anyway, another highly overused practice getting on my nerves is *log. That is, the placement of a verb or noun in front of the term ‘log’, then the compaction/truncation of the duo. Blog (for ‘web log’, of course) is nice, and original, and should be allowed. But now that the major media are getting wind of this, and blogging is gaining in popularity, you can best believe that things are going to get out of control really fast. So, be ye not surprised when NBC rolls out a Friends spinoff sitcom next fall titled My Flog, or Entertainment Tonight uses flashy/trashy graphics with accompanying electronic fanfare to hype its upcoming ‘ETlog!‘ segment, or the Speaker of the House extolls the virtues of the new real-time ‘Congressional Log’, or Clog.
    Wait. Come to think of it, that last one fits, no?

  31. Kris says:

    The catch phrase of the new millenium is undoubtedly the “smoking gun”..

  32. Micah says:

    I bet “I’m SPICCCAAAY” will be the next big catch phrase.

  33. AllSpiritsEve says:

    Yeah, being a junior in high school you hear a lot of fad phrases…
    “My Bad”
    “Golf Ball”
    “That’s Intense”
    Quite annoying.

  34. Paul G says:

    Re: #30 – Hear, hear! I’m so incredibly sick of seeing “low-carb” this and “net carb” that. It makes me want to go out and eat the biggest freaking loaf of sourdough (mmm…sourdough…aughghghgh) you’ve ever seen, just to flaunt my complete disdain for the low-carb insanity.
    Also, although I rather like the expression, “jump the shark” is getting awfully close to taking its own flying leap over the ocean-dwelling, cartilage-reinforced carnivore.
    Oh, and “cold snap”, at least where I’m from (Jacksonville FL), has always referred to a sudden downward shift in temperature, usually temporary in nature.

  35. Lucian says:

    I live in Singapore, and have never heard of “reveal” or “cold snap” being used the way they are. What happened to “revelation”?
    The overused term here is “Passion”, thanks to Mel Gibson. Everything is a passion.

  36. Chris says:

    OFF TOPIC: Did Dan change the color of his background or am i going crazy?

  37. Scott says:

    One of the most over-used (and annoying) phrases has to be, “At the end of the day.”
    Followed closely by, “..The bottom line.”

  38. Ray says:

    A further data point: I (southern UK) have also known “cold snap” all my life. According to the Gale online archive, it was first used in the (London) Times newspaper in 1914.

  39. Hans says:

    Chris, you’re not going crazy :).
    I notice that right away when I came here today… The background has changed, and so has the color of the sidebar! (it’s now sorta bluish instead of brownish) Also, I think he added a little tiny gradent to the header… It seems “shiny”…
    Now that the background’s darker, the little stripes on the sides make it look more like a “proper” drop shadow…

  40. Hans says:

    Thank you, Dan, for infecting my mind. I’ve never heard of “cold snap” or “reveal” before, but now I can’t them out of my brain– and they’re getting annoying. Aaaaargh!

  41. John says:

    Architecturally, one might wonder why something in plain sight would be called “a reveal” (as with the window jambs mentioned above). I first heard of the noun-usage in stage set construction, for the joint between two panels, which needed to be painted “in case” it were revealed to the audience; supposedly the back edge of a door where the hinge is is also called “a reveal”.

  42. myself says:

    Has anyone besides myself noticed the use of the word “myself” as a replacement for me and I? It seems to myself as if the speaker doesn’t know which to say so opts for “myself” to avoid being wrong.
    They offered it to myself.
    The class and myself wanted to leave.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t “reveal” really used by magicians / illusionists?

  44. Chris says:

    Yes! “At the end of the day…” has got to be the worst of the current crop of stinkers. It’s heavily favored by middle management toadies to summarize something utterly stupid. Let’s hope it tips back to nowhere.

  45. zippy says:

    someone touched on it earlier, but it’s always amazing to me when someone in a meeting uses a likeable phrase that everyone in the meeting then immediately picks up and uses seemingly without thought. it’s fun then to watch it spread from the meeting to larger orbits of project/dept/company.

  46. Matt Frost says:

    And here I believed that “tipping point” had made its exit. Oh well. No such luck.

  47. Andy Travers says:

    I blame Janet Jackson personally…

  48. Carl Peterson says:

    I can’t wait for the big reveal of the next extreme cold snap.

  49. Chris Gwynne says:

    Janet Jackson is great. I watched an interview of her last night and she’s really down to earth, polite, cute and funny.
    Just thought I’d add hat ;)

  50. Annie says:

    You guys have got it easy I HATE THE WORDS “BLING BLING”!

  51. SD says:

    I agree with Annie, “bling” beats “cold snap” any day. It’s in mainstream media now (a news anchor used it yesterday on Global Winnipeg News) so it’s gotta end soon (oh please do). Next will probably be “crunk” or something else from hiphop culture.

  52. Kerri says:

    Anyone remember, “Double Thumber”? This was a popular catch phrase when I was a pre-teen ager back in the early 80′s….