Even in light of "1984", we would be better served by reducing
our bloated vocabularies than by augmenting them. Each person
introducing a new bit of jargon is obliged to condemn two
existing terms that can be demonstrated to make us less
intelligent with each use.
I am not proposing a new term, but I will nominate
some candidates for the memory hole, to prime the
Let us begin with "currently". In every context of its
use I have encountered this year, simply leaving it out
would have improved the sentence.
Now consider, "going forward". Again, leaving it out
appears to improve almost any conceivable sentence.
Judging from its typical use in management memos (e.g.
as posted on
its true meaning is "the following statement
is false: ...". This expression serves a useful function,
once decoded, but the reader would be better served by
omitting the entire sentence.
I hereby extend permission to pour the entire remaining
contents of any accessible beverage container into the
lap of anyone who heard to use any form of the word
"blog" in conversation.
Be warned that using the expression "heightened security"
is now grounds for having an e-mail sent to whitehouse.gov,
apparently from you, and threatening detailed bodily harm
to its (putative) President.
We welcome additional nominations.
During a lecture in Melbourne, John Ralston Saul (author of such neo-humanist
books as Voltaire's Bastards) raised an interesting point about vocabulary.
He claimed that a sure sign of a decaying civilization is the coining of
arcane and generally useless terms by various professions or special interest
groups. As soon as this begins to happen, other groups begin to lose grasp of
the ideas and thinking of these groups, causing rifts in society. He said he noticed this in many past civilizations that he has studied.
Even if this is true, perhaps the effect of this in our civilization can be
mitigated by the free access of this kind of information on the internet.
Still, it bears thinking about when we decide to invent words for no other
purpose than to differentiate ourselves from others, or just to be
"enterprise" -- Isn't everything an enterprise?
"solution" -- I think this was coined to describe things that aren't
exactly a product or a service but some combination, but now it doesn't
mean anything at all. In my hometown a garage renamed itself
"Automotive Enterprise Solutions" during the 90's boom.
"robust" -- This isn't a bad word, but it's commonly misused. If you
look up the dictionary definition, it means something like "strong",
"reliable". In IT, however, people really want to say "featureful"
but that isn't a word so they misuse "robust" instead. Apache is more
robust than IIS because it doesn't crash -- not because it has more
bells and whistles.
After exploring the rest of the drivel-land known as the Wild Wild Web while
Advogato was down, I'd like to throw this word into the pile:
civilization. Even the form of the word itself encourages fuzzy
Someone says: "We're a civilized society."
Intended meaning: "We're an enlightened society."
Actual meaning: "We're a society which boasts lots of weapons of mass
destruction and lots of silly laws and customs, so it doesn't matter even if
our minds are roughly the same as that of the Stone Age Man."