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Consider this hypothetical expression,

I use Mr Smith as my go to example, when it comes to how to parent your kids.

"go to" sounds too corporate lingo to my ears. Can somebody recommend similar idiomatic phrase to me?

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  • 12
    "go to example” looks like a command — this seems a perfect opportunity to use a hyphen: ‘go-to example’ seems much clearer to me.
    – gidds
    May 19 at 11:23
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    When used as an adjective, the phrase "go to" is hyphenated: "I use Mr Smith as my go-to example when it comes to how to parent your kids."
    – chepner
    May 19 at 23:26

9 Answers 9

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Mr Smith is your role model. You could either use "role model" as a noun, or you can use model as a verb "I model my parenting on Mr Smith's".

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    Just to clarify: "role model" means a person others aspire to be like (either in general or with respect to a specific attribute). This may apply to the example in question, but "role model" does NOT mean the same as "go-to example". Ted Bundy would be a go-to example of a serial killer, but he would certainly not classify as a role model by any reasonable person.
    – NotThatGuy
    May 19 at 9:41
  • That's a good example, but in the context given (my go to example of a parent) the term "role model" is appropriate.
    – James K
    May 19 at 18:45
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Substituting "prime example" would do.

I might rewrite the sentence this way:

Mr Smith is my prime example when ...

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  • Can I use frame of reference and base model, as well?
    – Rohit
    May 19 at 0:49
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    I wouldn't. The first does not suggest as clearly as I think you mean to that Smith is an example of good parenting. The second is jargon, May 19 at 0:56
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Examplar would work here:

one that serves as a model or example: such as

a: an ideal model

b: a typical or standard specimen

The corresponding adjective is exemplary, although this can also mean, “very good.”

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'Go-to' is commonly used to refer to a specific person, e.g. 'Smith is your go-to guy'. I haven't heard 'go-to' applied to a concept, e.g. 'a go-to foreign policy'. In the sentence 'go-to' refers to the example and not Mr. Smith. Word you are looking for is 'exemplar'--one that serves as a model or example. 'Mr. Smith is an exemplar as a parent.' It avoids the cringeworthy use of 'parenting', a regrettable practice of turning nouns into verbs. My answer may not offer an idiom but uses far fewer words than the original sentence. Only drawback is the hearer has probably never heard 'exemplar' in spoken English.

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    Conceptually, in 'The I.T. Crowd' what is Roy & Moss' go-to response to a customer call? At a concert, what is the go-to hand gesture when the band come on stage? :-) While I like your answer, I'd suggest the more common adjectival form 'exemplary': 'Mr. Smith is an exemplary parent.'
    – mcalex
    May 19 at 8:04
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    "Go-to" is very commonly applied to concepts based on my experience.
    – NotThatGuy
    May 19 at 12:29
  • The idiomatic use of "exemplar" is "exemplar of/in" (although then one might use e.g. "parenthood" instead of "a parent"). I'm not so sure about "exemplar as". And "exemplar" may be a bit uncommon, but most native speakers should be familiar with it.
    – NotThatGuy
    May 19 at 12:30
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You could use "poster child":

Cambridge:

a person or thing that is seen as a typical example of something.

The term is in wide use, and I admit this specific example.might be a little klunky, but I'd say it's okay: "...Mr. Smith is the poster child for being a good parent..."

However, I do think using "go-to" is completely fine to my AmEn ears and I don't associate it as strongly with corporate speech.

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A slightly higher-register word rather than a phrase, but paradigm would fit here:

EXAMPLE, PATTERN especially : an outstandingly clear or typical example or archetype. Source: Merriam-Webster online

In your case you could write

I use Mr Smith as my paradigm when it comes to how to parent your kids.

You could also write 'paradigm example' which is slightly redundant but would make the meaning clearer for anyone who is a little fuzzy on the meaning of the word.

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  • The OP was concerned that "go-to example" sounds too much like corporate lingo. If that's the case, "paradigm" is even more-so... May 19 at 18:34
  • @DarrelHoffman It doesn't sound corporate to me at all; slightly intellectual, perhaps, but that's all. As with all vocabulary different people will receive it differently.
    – dbmag9
    May 19 at 19:21
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I use Mr Smith as my customary example, when it comes to how to parent your kids.

From Google:

according to the customs or usual practices associated with a particular society, place, or set of circumstances.

Or a variety of other words with similar meanings: normal, standard.

Or you could reword,

I always use Mr. Smith as my example when it comes to how to parent your kids.

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The word 'paragon' means

a model of excellence or perfection

source: Merriam-Webster online

You could rephrase:

I use Mr Smith as my go to example, when it comes to how to parent your kids.

to

Mr. Smith is a paragon of how to parent your kids.

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  • “Paragon” and “go-to” do not have the same function in your example. “Go-to” is used to convey information about the speaker or writer. It tells the reader that, when looking for an example of good parenting, the speaker/writer will most often select Mr. Smith; it doesn’t say why. This says nothing about Mr. Smith. If the composer of the sentence uses “paragon”, the intention is solely to identify Mr Smith as an outstanding example, but it conveys no information about when or if the composer would use Mr Smith as an example. May 20 at 17:54
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You also might say, "Mr. Smith is the first person I turn to when...."

If you want to retain the same structure for some reason, you could substitute first resort in place of go to person.

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    "Last resort" is certainly commonly used, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone use "first resort". You'll probably get a few funny looks from native speakers if you use that.
    – NotThatGuy
    May 19 at 10:07

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