For many years, I worked with a guy with a real talent for creating phrases. One example was, “spear carrier.”
This was when we were invited to a meeting with an important visitor (Since we were a subsidiary of a giant British company, this was often a company director or vice president from England), but we had no reason to be there, no information to exchange. We were, as my friend said, “spear carriers,” referring to opera scenes where extras stood around holding spears with no function except to add importance.
In our case, someone had thought, say, 10 people would be an appropriate audience for the visitor, but they could only come up with 8. Well, bring in Roger and Don as spear carriers. We knew how to act: don’t rebut or comment on anything said. In fact, don’t say anything at all, good or bad. We were not there for our thoughts. We were spear carriers.
This occurs more often than you might think. Watch carefully any TV news conference. Often it is held in a small. crowed room, but half the people there are only spear carriers. The appearance of chaos is deliberate.