4 Comments

Words I Would Rather Never, Ever Hear Again

THE LIST OF WORDS:

  • entrepreneur
  • innovation (and innovate)
  • branding
  • learnings
  • gift (and the equally odious “gifting”)
  • ping
  • The Market
  • onboarding
  • resource, when used to mean “a person.” “We need a new accounting resource.”
  • resourceing, or the process of acquiring resources. “We’re resourcing some new accountants.”
  • organization, often shortened to “org” as a means for corporations to refer to themselves and their internal fiefdoms.
  • technology, in the overused software sense of any program, device, technique or method its proponents believe to be sufficiently complex and radical that it deserves coronation as a “technology,” instead of just another copy or variation of some longstanding thing. For instance, “Our new map technology provides robust haptic foldability.” (In other words, it’s a paper map.)
  • reporting. There are two senses here, one for data processing and another for what journalism has devolved to. In the first sense, reporting is the process of delivering reports, which are by definition tedious, opaque, and offer meticulous data about a process or status that is either too small to be relevant or too large to have meaning as charts and graphs: “We’ll need more resources to finish the TPS reporting on time.” The second sense can be seen twenty-four hours a day on cable television.

I am a writer. I know many other writers, and many others who write for a living or for pleasure who are writers in all but name. We treasure words, wrestle with them, hate them, luxuriate in their curve when fit together just so. Writing provides the most horrible sort of play: a game that is never quite good enough but you can never walk away from.

Words mean things. I’m not the nihilist Frank Zappa was when he shouted “they’re just words” to Robert Novak, but words must have some degree of fixed meaning to make comprehensible communication. Why didn’t I know what those third grade Texas kids were talking about when they asked to borrow a “payin”? Because my Ontario-trained auditory processing couldn’t figure out if they wanted a pen or a pin. Confronted with a pop test the answer was obvious, but I felt the need to make a point: these words sound different because they signify different things. (That doesn’t work with homonyms, homographs and homophones, of course, but that’s English for you.) The slop in meaning allows for poetry, but the slop flows through a solid center.

Words listed above break the rules. They have become tools of those who want their true motives hidden, or–even more bizarre and dangerous–desire to erase any sense of art or humanity.

Cubedwellers will recognize all as corporate language, and everyone will recognize some as the undying patter oozing from every mass media orifice.  These words have been designed to be numbing. They deny basic humanity and elevate the rigid authority of those who buy and sell. I don’t think this is going too far. What’s the difference between a resource and a slave?

I am tired of these words, of this list, of the blank-eyed quarterly statements that generate them. I have resisted them small-scale, refusing to ping but instead contacting or reaching out to. When referred to as a resource, I correct or ignore the speaker or writer, shifting the word used to person. (It doesn’t stick, and I can feel the weird looks through email, but I’m not afraid of this modest sabotage.)

Now I’m turning my back on these words. They are empty shells, obfuscating with their Potemkin village show of fullness and plenty. There is no there there so why be cramped by empty space? The Market can stay rich with its innovative paper fluff. Value is solid, whether it’s held in the hand or on the tongue, and I cast out these derivative collateralized words.

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4 comments on “Words I Would Rather Never, Ever Hear Again

  1. I would add “proactive” to that list. I remember hearing it for the first time at an interview at Microsquish back in 1995, when the manager who was interviewing me said “I like to be proactive.” My first thought was, “Did he just say ‘proactive’? What does that even mean? You can’t be retroactive…” Fast-forward a couple of years or so, and it’s been everywhere ever since.

    Oh, and the word “issue” to mean “problem”. No, I don’t have an “issue” with that; I have a *problem* with that…

    Synergy. The list goes on and on. Since I’m not looking to hijack yer blog, I’ll quit there.

    • I can’t remember a time without “proactive”. It’s entered the language as proper form, like “impact” as a verb. (How shameful to have left THAT one out.)

      Issue isn’t such a problem for me. (Bah dump bump.) I first heard it used in TV production. Then and now it was intended to mean something larger than a problem: a general hindrance, question, or ambiguity. So that’s the kind of malleable language I’m okay with.

      The hijacking of words, trendy warped senses of words correct in the strict sense but clownish, and the invention of corporate garbage words are what bother me.

      And comments are never hijacking. Comment away!

  2. uh? Does this mean you are taking my advice and quitting? Good for you!

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