NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome back our popular contributing columnist Terry Gallagher.
How did we come up with the phrase “kicking the can down the road” as a way of saying “to procrastinate”?
Apparently, it’s got nothing to do with the children’s game called Kick the Can, which is a mashup of Tag and Hide and Seek.
A note on Wikipedia says, “As outdoor and unstructured play of children continues to dwindle, the game of Kick the Can is becoming less and less known to each generation.”
No one in my neighborhood ever played it, and I bet my kids never heard of it.
But the politician’s game of “kicking the can down the road”? That looks like it will never go out of style.
In 2007, the phrase was featured in the American Journalism Review’s invaluable “Cliché Corner,” with citations from the Washington Post, Reuters, the Weekly Standard and others.
Last December, it was dinged in a column on the New York Times “After Deadline” blog written by Philip B. Corbett, the paper’s associate managing editor for standards.
After citing an instance of the phrase in a story about the budget standoff, Corbett said: “This colloquial ‘kick the can’ cliché has been rampant in Washington lately, but that doesn’t mean we have to adopt it. In fact, it’s a very good reason to avoid it.”
Avoiding the phrase might be a good idea. But it’s probably also time for political leaders to make some tough decisions, to stop kicking the can down the road.
So, what do you think of Kick the Can? The game—or the political process.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: In recent years, Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics; you can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. We invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).