Good sense and clear language are under such assault that picking on just one institution seems both arbitrary and pointless.
So let’s dive in.
The good folks at Ohio State University – sorry, The with a capital “T” Ohio State University – have gotten well-deserved derision for the The. It comes across as pretentious and a little thin-skinned.
Pretense always sells, and being thin-skinned is no biggie any more, as any glance at social media will confirm, so you might think these qualities would be shrugged off. But Ohio State is a successful, high-profile university, and its many rivals are eager to take it down a peg.
And OSU just keeps stepping in it. Word came the other day that it’s trying to copyright the “The” in “The Ohio State University.” It’s all about brand protection, which after all is any university’s core function. Gotta sell those hoodies and beer koozies.
Ohio State is but one of many on the cutting edge of language silliness. I’ve noticed a new word that’s crept into the business world. Whatever you do as you focus on topline growth to move the needle and drive bottomline results, make sure you keep an eye on “optionality.”
Apparently that means the pursuit of strategy and tactics that yield a maximum number of options moving forward in time/space in contemplation of infinite profitable or nonprofitable scenarios.
Ohio State copyrighting the whole “The” thing preserves its optionality vis-a-vis its litigious interests. And who could blame them?
It gets worse. It’s been a rough time for IPOs, that is, initial public offerings, that is, taking a private company to the stock market to raise money, grow and get that summer place in the Hamptons. Uber and Lyft both came out of the gate like bumper cars rather than Corvettes, but more IPOs are always in the works.
The other day one of the business news channel people blurted out IPO as a verb, and no one batted an eye. That use of I-P-O made me want to U-R-P, but it won’t be the last verbification to cause folks to wince and grumble.
Many of life’s answers are found in the Webster’s New World College Dictionary. It keeps up with the language but also keeps this grand experiment called English between the rails. Lots of good words in there. Light on the pretense, heavy on the common sense. All the optionality you would ever need.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @FoxEJC.