Putting off until tomorrow or the day after or sometime in the future is an age-old strategy to avoid hard choices and leave the hangover for someone else.

The latest way to describe this is "kicking the can down the road", a phrase reminiscent of childhood street games with a tin can.

The more serious game of US debt led to widespread use of the phrase in the mainstream media. Usage hit 500 times a month last month from about 100 two years ago.

 "Mr Obama is often known to agree that lawmakers are too apt to 'kick the can down the road' rather than confront difficult issues." (The New York Times, August 3)

"The outstanding irony of the entire debate is that, despite the participants' declared intention not to merely 'kick the can down the road', that's what they've done." (The Los Angeles Times, August 3)

Eventually, the can stops rolling. Take the case of Jefferson County, Alabama, which faces bankruptcy after "clever" financial derivatives backfired into a debt mountain. "Welcome to Jefferson County. This is the end of the road, where the can cannot be kicked any farther." (The New York Times, July 30)

Cliche of the Week appears in The Australian newspaper Mondays.

 Chris Pash's book, The Last Whale, a true story set in the 1970s, was published by Fremantle Press in 2008

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Published on August 07, 2011 16:44 • 50 views
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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter Hoffmeister I like the idea of writing being the can that "cannot be kicked any further." We have to pick it up. That's what we do. Whether we examine the can, tell a story about it, or kill someone with the rusted edge is up to us.

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