It all started with my mini-rant When Words Lose Their Impact. Business lingo mavens responded to help create Words That Can Drive Your Listeners Nuts. Which led to even more venting about annoying use of language in meeting rooms around the world.
The -ize Have It
If you want to learn what's going on in the real world, make it a point to check in with Mark Harrison in London. Mark is a master negotiator, so language holds real meaning for him. Here's how to bug Mark:
1: utilise (utilize in the USA?)
It means "use" dammit, which is clearer, easier to say, easier to understand, and represents a 62% saving in the number of letters needed.
2: viral (to talk about FUTURE marketing)
Nope. It's something that basically means "we don't know what we're doing, and we hope that the cool kids will copy us." Seriously, have you ever seen a PLANNED viral marketing campaign that actually got people BUYING the product (as opposed to got marketeers talking about the campaign?) Phil Collins dressed as a Gorilla may have hit YouTube, but I _THINK_ it was an advert for a chocolate brand, but I really don't know.
3: Disinterested (to mean uninterested)
The words are different. Disinterested means that you are impartial. Uninterested means that you're bored. I DON'T want an uninterested judge, thank you, neither in court, nor on the review panel for my funding proposal... but I really hope that they don't have a vested interest in my competitor getting the gig.
Kent Blumberg, long-time executive and coach adds:
Jumping off from Mark's starting point, I have trouble with many of the words ending in "ize." "Strategize," for example. Much better to talk about formulating strategy. Often it seems to me we use "ize" to cover lazy thinking. And as Mark notes, "ize" often confuses the message.
More Pithy Pet Peeves
From Dean Fuhrman:
"The phrase and variations thereof ... 'I'm sorry to bother you and I know you are busy, but could you do such and such?' Why the preface when it basically a command to do such and such anyway. Just ask.'
And Dean adds this one from social media star Chris Brogan
When anyone uses "but" in a sentence, throw away everything to the left of the "but." 'I know you're busy, but..."
My current least favorite is "ping"...as in "I'll ping John and see what he says". I refuse to use it.
Our thanks to Kim for that one.
Utilize is my #1 peeve, so I'm glad it has been discussed. A phrase that makes me cringe is "as per" as in "As per your email, lets meet this afternoon."
I also dislike when someone with a large vocabulary uses words that they know are not commonly known or used. It is ineffective to use language that you know your audience won't understand.
My note: Contributor Kris Robinson has huge cred with me; she once played catch with baseball great Willie McCovey. What other credentials does one need?:-)
Frequent participant JetJaguar adds: "Everything is "amazing" these days. It will never change, but nor will it cease annoying me that people have to blindly follow such trends."
Beware of overstatement and hype. You aren't fooling anyone nor are you gaining any points.
Brain Expert Dr. Ellen Weber particularly dislikes meta-messages that mean the opposite of what one says:
"Sorry, but..." when one is not sorry at all. "That's OK..." when it's not. "It's only because I care that I tell you ..." when you don't really care or would not tell it. "No hurt feelings, but ..." when you feel like a Mack truck just rammed into your brain. "I don't mean to be negative but ..."
Stephanie West Allen got so torqued up, she blogged about the use of the word "around" instead of "related to" or "associated with."
Finally: The UK's Jo at Flowing Motion wins the 1974 Morris Albert Vinyl LP Feelings with this one:
"I feel . . " when what is needed is information, thought, a structured approach. What "we" feel is often not relevant , , as when a lawyer is making an argument in the Supreme Court, or a Professor speaking to the his or her assessment of a student dissertation.
What does all of this mean?
It means that people are looking for straight talk using straight language. Give it to them. It will increase understanding and credibility. Isn't that what words are for?
Thanks to all for keeping this going.