at this time

“This is the downside of starting to pay attention. You start noticing, you know, all the people who say ‘at this time’ rather than ‘now.’ Why did they just take up one third of a second of my lifetime making me parse ‘at this time’ rather than just saying ‘now’ to me? And you start being bugged. But you get to be more careful and attentive in your own writing, so you become an agent of light and goodness rather than the evil that’s all around.” — David Foster Wallace

“At this time” means “now.” It also means someone is going out of his or her way to sound smart or important, which in turn means it’s time for us to start asking questions.

If a politician doesn’t think it’s appropriate to discuss the details of the investigation at this time, it means he’s never going to tell you about it and would like you to stop asking. If a college says it is unable to accept your application at this time, it means you can’t go to school there. If your company is terminating your contract at this time, it means you’re fired.

So why don’t they just say that stuff? Well, I’m no mind reader (nobody is), but I did notice that in each of the above cases, the at-this-timers wanted to minimize something unpleasant they did: a crime/cover-up, a rejection, a firing.

Overly formal language like this is almost always defensive — a clue that the person speaking feels guilty or vulnerable but wants you to think they’re righteous or powerful.