icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle


Fighting words

Choose your words carefully.
Remember that scene in Silkwood where Meryl Streep’s character has been exposed to plutonium and has to take a rather intense shower in order to decontaminate? I feel like I need a Silkwood shower after my exposure to the outrageous bullying by a conservative radio talk-show person who shall not be named. I’ve read op-eds, blogs, and participated in several Facebook conversations about the bellicose host’s ridiculous rants. And none of it has been at all cathartic. It’s terrifying to think that just because I have ovaries, some who lacks ovaries will call me names for taking control of my own health decisions. They’re not just shameless about it; under the guise of family values or entertainment, they proudly broadcast their insults.

So here’s my Silkwood shower. I’m going back to the way it was a week ago, to a more innocent time, when the words and phrases that annoyed or amused me were things like “at the end of the day” or the incorrect use of “myriad.”

“At the end of the day” has become a nervous tic among business executives, politicians, and anyone with an opinion on anything. In meetings where an executive is pontificating, I like to make little hash marks each time he or she says “at the end of the day,” with double marks for using it literally and figuratively in the same speech. (Listen carefully; it happens more often than you think, at the end of the day.)

Here’s another word that made the rounds a couple years ago: robust. Processes were robust. Systems were robust. The economy was not robust, but that’s only because we were facing some strong headwinds. Ah, yes, strong headwinds—another popular corporate-speak phrase. And notice the headwinds are always coming from somewhere else, external threats over which the speaker has little or no control, Dorothy stuck in Kansas with dreams of Oz.

And why are people taking perfectly good nouns and turning them into verbs? A month or so ago, I heard a CEO use “context” as a verb: “Let’s context this.” Is it so hard to say “Let’s put this in context”? It’s two extra words, and in this economy, why put two whole words out of work? “In this economy” is another phrase that’s over-used. As my husband pointed out, we’re always in “this” economy.

I used to express moral and linguistic outrage every time I heard someone modify “unique.” Now I’m just lucky to lock eyes with a family member or friend who feels my pain. The language evolves. I can accept that. But I can’t accept it devolving or regressing, to a time when the talking heads and politicians use language to insult and degrade others, shamelessly. At the end of the day, those aren’t just strong headwinds, not in this economy.
Post a comment