I have proactively endeavored to embrace new paradigms, but it’s beyond my skill set and violative of my worldview.
The problem is this: I love the language. I think words should mean what they mean but concede that meanings shift over time. I think pretense gets us in needless trouble.
I have allies. Among them are the good defenders of common-sense English at Lake Superior State University in lovely Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
At the beginning of each year, they nominate several words and phrases “to be banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.” Even that highfalutin wording with its random acts of capitalization suggests this more about fun than scolding.
But scolding there is, so let’s get to it.
It seems to be most dead-on of this year’s list is “onboarding” and “offboarding,” euphemisms for hiring, firing, retiring and plain old stomping out the door with a few choice words. This wording is “the creature from the HR lagoon,” LSSU suggests.
Others just need a rest: drill down, unpack and – bleh – impactful. It’s the same for “gig economy,” LSSU says, but we’re living in it, so I’m afraid we’ll have to get used to that one.
Looking back over the 43 years of LSSU’s work, it seems that these annoying creations and bastardizations fall into a few broad categories:
• Faded fads include epic, the information superhighway, going forward, anything-ageddon, anything-pocalypse, it’s a good thing, and don’t even go there. I’m not sure what happened to the polar vortex but it’s reported that today a “bomb cyclone” resulting from a “bombogenesis” is hammering the East Coast.
• Others we can hope are on the way out. Back story, man up, bromance, perfect storm, re-engineer and it is what it is.
• Ones we’re stuck with. Synergy, proactive, signage, viral, Google as a verb, impact as a verb, grow as the wrong kind of verb, at the end of the day, and – much as this pains me – the lazy and trite “iconic.”
• Don’t verb me. Dialogue, fellowship, leverage, transition, conference, office, mentor, gift, helm, author, pen and medal, as in Olympic medal. These are nouns. They come in peace. Let them be.
• Pretentious and wordy. Price point, skill set, fan base, zero-percent financing, pre-planning, pre-registration.
• And, friends, we must unite against one particular common foe. I mean, of course, curate.
Allow me to add a few, more or less aimed at journalists. Lawsuits don’t allege things or seek damages. Plaintiffs – human beings, that is – do that. “Bucket list,” like “perfect storm,” once was clever but now has been pushed beyond usefulness. I saw an ad this week suggesting I add such and such to my 2018 bucket list. As I understand it, that also implies that I plan to croak in 2018. I could be wrong.
The real annoyers are now and then. “In 2014, then-President Obama ordered more protections against workplace discrimination.” Of course he was president then. He’s the only one we had that year. It’s just as ridiculous to say “In 2008, then-candidate Obama” said whatever. Running for president is pretty much all he did that year. The logical extension of this is a construction such as “soon-to-be-former-President-elect Smith.” Don’t make the reader – remember her? – trip over and decode yet another needlessly hyphenated phrase.
Now then, I expect most of this rant in the form of advice to be ignored, relegated to another cliche, the dustbin of history. The world marches on, and the language strains to keep up. For some, muttering is our only solace.
– Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter: @Fox EJC