More language pet peeves: finding yourself. One of the highest ranking overused phrases is when someone writes that a person “found himself/herself…” an example would be something like, “John was walking through his regular route in the city when he suddenly found himself in an unfamiliar place.” Another would be “John was just trying to keep a good pace with the other runners when he suddenly found himself in the lead.” It seems that the intention is to express the idea that someone was progressing towards something or someplace, followed by a period of inattentiveness and then a moment of revelation came upon him during which he was in a place that he did not expect to be at – or something like that. What bothers me is not the idea that we could lose track of attention and then be in an unexpected situation, but there have to be much better ways to write it.
“John was walking through his regular route in the city when he sensed that he had walked into an unfamiliar place.”
“John was just trying to keep a good pace with the other runners when a twinge of surprise ran through his spine as he took the lead.”
The point is that we can’t “find ourselves” unless there was a period of time in which we were lost or a moment of unconsciousness occurs. Of course there are allowances for figurative language, but that’s not the case here. It’s more of a tendency of people, specifically writers, to find an easy way to express something and then repeat, repeat, repeat until readers have been so bludgeoned with the phrase that they will easily accept it based on familiarity alone. Writers have to do better. We have to find a new way to say it, otherwise we may as well just write greeting cards.