Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Destruction of the English Language

NGO's (that's non-governmental organization for those of you not in the biz) do good work, mostly. There are a few bad apples out there, who do more eventual damage than good by ruining the fabric of the community in which they work, but overall, they've come a long way since the scandal-ridden days of big, useless development projects in the 80s and 90s.

But there is one way in which I fear they are doing irreparable harm: inventing horrible, long, redundant jargon.

My organization is in the midst of a strategic planning process, which has been going on for months. Some of the words that frequently make me cringe are:
  • Impact, used as a verb. (Is it so hard to say "make an impact"? Although this has now apparently made it into English dictionaries, to me it is still wrong).
  • Complementarities
  • Modalities
  • Methodologies (what's wrong with methods?)
  • And the very worst, the one that makes my skin crawl every time I hear it: Orientate
I know it was surely a mistake, but I recently saw on the cover of a goverment document: "Preventation of malnutrition."

Yesterday I used the word "operationalize." Someone please pray for me.


Dad said...

And then there's "paradigm" and "ontology".
And why "burglarize" (American) instead of "burgle" (English, from which burglar was derived in the first place.)

And do you know what QANGO stands for? They were very popular a couple of decades ago.

I also object to people using TLAs and FLAs without explaining what they are :-)

Just happy to see another blog at last.

Gwyneth said...

Ooh, sorry dad - sounds like you're up against much worse language miscreants than I am!

If I were to get onto the variety of acronyms I use everyday I could fill this blog! CTC, OTP, NRU, RUTF, IMCI, ENA, CAS, MOH....

Miriam said...

Oh don't think you are alone in the acronym world. They have even infiltrated the education field. WASL, ITBS, FST, IEP, ELL, FBA... You would think they would save all that acronymization for the business world!

Joy said...

Could I just speak out against people using the word "utilize" when they mean "use"? That one frequently irks me.

Joy said...

And another note, when starting to work in the entertainment industry, it's not just the acronyms that get you. It's all of the other words that mean something different from what you expect. Like deck, bible and talent.

Gwyneth said...

Miriam - "acronymization"? You are one of them!! There is a traitor in the midst!

shutupproust said...

Oy. "Impact" is a pet peeve of mine, too. What's wrong with "affect?"

I find even my freelancers have a tendency sometimes to just grasp at words without any real understanding of what they mean. One recently described the view out of a downtown highrise as "bucolic." Ummmmmmmmmmm... no.