I have to preface this edition of The Phrase Freak with the following caveat: I don’t have an advanced degree in physics or philosophy, so I’m probably not the best person to discuss the nature of time.
I do have an MA in Lexicographic Wankery, and I can tell you for sure this is an annoying cliché. It is irritating because really, aren’t we are ALWAYS at “this point in time”?
According to Newton, time is a kind of comic, in which events exist in the different frames of the stip. The other view of time (supported by Newton’s arch-nemesis, the powered exo-skeleton-wearing Gottfried Leibniz) is that time is neither a thing nor an event, but more of an intellectual structure (like space or number or grooviness). In either case, the phrase “at this point in time” is superfluous because time travel is not possible.*
No doubt you’ve heard the chestnut: “yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today is a gift, and that’s why it is called the present.” Despite the treacly nature this phrase, there is truth to it. We live our lives in the present, and time’s arrow goes in one direction. So, “at this point in time” is understood. You might as well use phrases such as, “as a mammal,” or “moving forward in time.” (Often shortened to “moving forward” in business settings.)
Other related, annoying phrases: “presently” & “currently”. (Sorry to the everyone at CBC’s The Current, I enjoy your program, but you commit this heinous phrase freakery every. Single. Day.)
*Yes, Newton might say it’s possible, but we don’t yet have a working time machine — I blame the shortage of flux capacitors. Don’t even get me started on Schrodinger’s semi-existent cats or Heisenberg’s waffling.
Six gobsmacks out of ten: