Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Banned Words, 2008 edition

Dave In Texas (guest blogging at Ace's) put up a thread on words banned for 2008.

But like guns, phrases don't irritate people, people irritate people.

The best one is posted by commenter Andrew: "Transaction denied due to insufficient funds."

The problem with a lot of the others is that either the people don't know what they mean, or they're throwing the baby out with the bathwater: Because stupid people abuse the language, they want to ban the language.

Hmmm. If you outlaw phrases only outlaws will use those phrases? No, in this case, all that will happen is the crushers of language will move on to the next phrase and kill that.

Phrases don't irritate people, stupid people irritate people.

"It is what it is," for example. This is a short-hand way of telling people, "Don't try to change the facts to what you want them to be." Or maybe, "Stop putting lipstick on that pig." If it's used as filler by vacuous athletes--well, come on, what won't they abuse?

"Paradigm. " This word was so abused in the computer world for above five years in the early '90s, I've seen people literally wince when they say it now. But it's a really useful word in software engineering, when it applies. Other synonyms are either not as descriptive (such as "viewpoint") or are at least as subject to abuse (like "mindset").

"Be proactive." One of Ace's commenters suggests simply using "active" here, which suggests to me that it he has only heard it being abused. It's usually used in contrast to being reactive--I'm quite sure its popularity stems from needing a counter to "react". This one...yeah, maybe it's too vague. It can mean anything from "anticipate problems in advance and be prepared to head them off or work around them" to "predict the future" or "if someone else won't do their job, you do it".

"Meme." Whether all of memetic theory is accurate in any way, the concept of the meme is one of the most useful in recent memory. I think of it less as evolution and more as disease, since no one talks of "the sky is blue" as a meme. It's almost always (from what I've seen) a concept, not immediately provable and sometimes completely false. The press trades heavily in these, and they're part and parcel of the various "narratives" that take the place of observation and thought, in situations like the Duke non-rape case. My favorite recent one is the notion that Fred Thompson is lazy. Nobody lazy runs for President as a serious contender, and even most of the "vanity campaigns" represent candiates working to get recognition for a pet project.

Resonate. I agree that this one sucks in a business context. I'm not sure what you'd do without it in the world of art criticism.

So. There you have it. At the end of the day, it is what it is.

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