Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wise to the words

By Capt. Fogg

This being the last day of 2008, it's customary to bring out my consultant Dr. Syntax and air his views about how none of you speak English properly. Indeed there are a number of stupid neologisms, platitudes,clichés, malapropisms and other linguistic transgressions I'm sick of hearing and you should be too.

It seems however, that academia has scooped old Syntax and released a more official list of awful verbal offal yesterday. Michigan's Lake Superior State University has taken it upon itself, or at least the English Department has, to ban a number of recent common usages, and although my cranky friend is a bit offended at the lack of respect and recognition he feels he deserves, he's used to it and he quite agrees with most of their condemnations.

Carbon footprint has been spewed forth from journalistic smokestacks all year and it deserves to be at the top of the list for many reasons, not the least of which is the inherent misunderstanding of basic chemistry. It's the compounds of carbon fouling the air and carbon dioxide is no more carbon than water is hydrogen, nor does either substance lend itself to having footprints. Find a better term, says my friend Syntax, or you may find his footprint on your you know where.

What else has brought forth the wrath of Syntax this year? Green: yes it's easier to type than ecologically advantageous and easier to attach to every trivial thing, action or policy the creativity of Madison Avenue and other enthusiastic simpletons can dream up. A thermos bottle isn't particularly green, for instance, unless it's made by Stanley, and virtually all things advertised as such wouldn't make a bit of difference even if most of the world bought them -- unless being green in the face from disgust counts. Algae is green and we could do with less of it in our rivers and ponds. Organic? Crude oil and snake venom are organic. Don't look for them at Whole Foods.

Syntax, you'll note I'm not calling him "the good doctor" because that's vapid cliché number 147 on his list, remains thoroughly opposed to a number of hackneyed metaphors, so overused that they have often obliterated more accurate and legitimate words. The now permanent fatwa on the carrion metaphor impact has been joined by ass kicking and references to suction to indicate incompetence or disapproval. These stopped being creative or even mildly humorous before you were born. Stop it.

Perhaps it will be another 4 years before we have to arrest anyone for using stumping and campaign trail, but please use the time to think of more direct replacements for these bits of verbal road-kill.

Syntax has nearly beaten efforting and texting to death, as he does with "verbed" nouns in general, but nearly isn't enough, is it?

Euphemisms such as right-sizing don't disguise the fact that your company is firing your department and it just makes your boss more of a jerk then you knew he was.

Changing the sign on your Chinese, Korean, Thai, Indian or Japanese restaurant to say "Asian cuisine" makes you sound like a moron and it's an insult to the ethnicities you're attempting to cover with some gluey "Asian sauce." There's no such category as Asian, Asiatic or Oriental food - or sauce, and yes all three words mean exactly the same thing. And while we're on the subject of food, what the hell is comfort food and what would discomfort food be?

Graphic doesn't mean scary, and issue isn't synonymous with problem or concern. A bowel movement is an issue -- constipation s a problem.

There's been nothing new in rocket science since Newton and as a metaphor for technical difficulty, you'd be better off talking about rocket technology. All you'd lose thereby is the association with the lemmings of language.

Warfighter. Did we really need that one and doesn't it serve to dehumanize a soldier? As the military ( right after the business school) is often at the forefront of promulgating misleading and opaque usage, I'm suspicious, although I will admit with some degree of guilty feelings that I've always liked Overkill.

So anyway, the old man is getting a bit tired of you and the thoughtless way you talk and of having to remind you of it every year. We both know you'll be eating double bacon cheeseburgers in front of the TV by next week regardless of all your resolutions and you'll still be using "fell swoop" and "control freak" as though you knew what you were saying, you reprobate you.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home