By Joe Rector
I taught English for 30 years. During that time, I corrected students’ grammatical mistakes and writing errors. Sometimes, they filled essays with flowery language or words which they couldn’t define. While I always believed that expanding a student’s vocabulary was a worthwhile endeavor, I refused to allow the person to write in ways that made understanding content difficult. Today’s business world is paving the way to vagueness through its adoption of buzz words that are unnecessary. Some of their words drive me nuts.
The first one is “transition.” People transition from one job to another; departments transition from one type of software to another; students even transition from one school to another. It hasn’t been that long ago that we used a different word: “changed.” That word works just as well as transition, but I suppose that changing doesn’t sound as sophisticated or technical as transitioning.
Today’s world is caught up in “experience.” At least it seems that way. Many companies are interested in improving a customer’s buying experience. I’ve listened to recordings that ask if I would participate in a survey about my customer service experience. In my opinion, any time I have to spend time on the phone to listen to a recording instead of talking to a human, my “experience” is going to be rated poorly. Do companies think that using “experience” will in anyway improve the time I spend with them or their representatives? It “ain’t” happening!
Businesses have decided that they need to “reach out” more. They do so with customers, employees, and other companies. Taken literally, “reach out” means to extend or stretch out. I don’t need a company to stretch out to me. Instead, executives and company spokespersons might try “contacting” those people and entities that are important to them.
The news media is always analyzing things. When that happens, someone will state that she is “unpacking” the information behind a story. Sometimes they will work to “pull the threads” of breaking news. To them, I would say that what they are presenting is the news. One of their goals is to present information objectively; they want to give the facts. When stories are important, reporting them by analogies and figurative language is of no value. To the contrary, adding such things weakens stories. As Joe Friday used to say, “Just the facts ma’am.” Better words for what they do are “analyze” or “examine.”
I’m also more than a little tired of all the made-up words coming at the public. A reporter talking about the fires in California referred to “flamage.” The meaning is actually “vitriolic arguments or rants in email messages.” What the reporter was discussing was the wall of flames spreading across the hills in the area.
Another practice today is add “ing” to nouns to make them verbs. “Gifting” is an especially irritating word. These days, some folks are engaged in “conversating.” Folks seem to think it is all right and correct to add the suffix to any words that they choose and that they will sound correct and intelligent. Sorry, folks, such use shows an ignorance of the English language.
Yes, I’m old and cranky; some call me a “grammar Nazi.” Perhaps I am, or possibly, I am a person who knows that the more times the rules of language are broken, the more difficult it is to learn. We have plenty of words in the language, and room is available for the new ones that name a process or item. We just don’t need people making up ones willy-nilly because they are deficient in grammatical skills.