Property people are like sheep. They like to move at the same time, in the same direction and, it seems, they like to make roughly the same noises as each other. There are the odd black sheep breaking from the herd but generally I can predict with some accuracy stock phrases that will arrive during an interview.
The desperate times of the past two years have made developers and advisors even more cautious about what they say.
With monotonous regularity, the fall into recession and slow rise out of it has been punctuated with a new cliché at each milestone.
We started with the disarming "No one's immune" in early 2008 and by the summer the gallows forecast of "Time for a long holiday". The panic and fire-fighting triggered by the banking collapse in autumn '08 freaked produced brief hilarity such as "I don't know what's going on I haven't seen the news for an hour". Within months MDs and managing partners turned from commenting on market conditions to explaining their redundancies.
Eventually, we got "seen the worst of it" and "the parachutes are out, let's hope they work" and "bouncing along the bottom", which remains in vogue today.
The second half of 2009 being better than the first half of the year produced some optimism. "Busier than we have been" and "talking about re-hiring" encouraged us to believe 2010 couldn't be any worse than 2009.
And it won't be, but the strangest thing seems to have happened, the current clichés are all on a theme of silent gestures. When asked how things are people are rendered speechless. There's the sucking through the teeth, or the long sigh or the puffing out of cheeks and the long lazy raspberry exhalation. My least favourite, I wonder if a nurse should be present at times, is the rather disconcerting glazed stare into the middle distance. Eventually the brave few break the silence with "been better" or something equally uninspiring.
My guess is it reflects the fact the optimism of a better second half last year didn't follow through to a great start this year. And there is more than a little fatigue about, not least as people face the prospect of an indefinite hard slog to complete deals, even having survived the year of all years.
Still, we've got to print something so get your brains and mouths in gear again you lot.