by Todd Fulginiti
Note: This post was written before my 50th birthday, before I began writing Old Man Rants. But it fits, so I recycled it into Episode #2.
I like words. They’re like little people. Each one has it’s own sound, its own look, and its own reason for existing. Combining words is, in a sense, magical. It enables us to tell stories, explain concepts, and make plans. Words matter.
So why is it that, over the past several years, it seems like we are overlooking perfectly useful words and substituting them with language that’s really “over-qualified” for the job? Don’t know what I mean? Here’s an example:
Now: An educator, employed at the post-secondary level, was presenting curricula on the subject of educational leadership. As those enrolled were being prepared to assume the duties of a building administrator, they needed to develop proficiencies in a host of areas. The content engaged stakeholders in activities such as budgeting and expense mitigation, as well as more humanity-intensive topics such as team-building and orienting students for success.
Before: A college professor was teaching a graduate class, preparing teachers to be certified as principals. There was a lot of ground to cover. Topics included managing budgets, cooperation among staff members, and preparing students to learn.
My background is in education, so I used that as an example, but I’m sure there are plenty of other professions where perfectly good words are being snubbed in order to make plain-old, normal things sound like rocket science.
I’ve heard a marketing director referred to as a “brand evangelist”. I’ve read where a finance officer called low overhead costs “expense favorability”. Several locals bands describe themselves as “touring” when they play different local clubs in the same month. To quote ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown crew, “Come on man!”
Why do we do this? Are we trying to impress each other with our intelligence? Our self importance? Our job? Maybe we’re just trying to sound pretentious. We sure are succeeding at that!
I’m not against having a wide vocabulary, just the opposite. A wide vocabulary enables us to describe things more accurately, with nuance and distinction. If we always speak in “over the top” terms, we lose the rich descriptiveness of our language. We become the speaker’s equivalent of the boy who cried wolf. And, we irritate word lovers like myself!
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