This post was originally published on the blog After the Kids Leave. The author, Karen Irving, is managing editor at The Conference Publishers.
Hang onto your hat, because I feel a rant coming on.
I know it’s only Monday morning, and I really should be savouring my first coffee of the work-week while focusing on the joys to come, but I did something foolish over the weekend. I read a bunch of articles online.
These articles were written by pros—people who make a living putting pen to paper (or more likely, fingers to keyboard, but that sounds much less interesting). I point this out not because I want to slam any particular writer, but because I wish to demonstrate the breadth and magnitude of the problem.
And the problem, sister dear, is jargon. Jargon, baffle-speak, fillers, general all-round dreck. It’s everywhere; it creeps into text while writers (and editors) aren’t looking, and it lurks there, polluting otherwise decent prose, and making the writers (and editors) look like major-league wankers.
For your edification and enlightenment, I’ve compiled a list of my current non-favourite bits of jargon. Yes, I realize I’m farting against thunder, as our dear father used to say. Just call me the Doña Quixote of the Internet. But hey, at least I’ve limited my list to eight items. I am a merciful ranter, you have to give me that. Because seriously, I could go on all day about this. Just ask Mitchell.
- Gifting. Somehow the perfectly serviceable verb “to give” has been replaced by this monstrous, invasive imposter. Suddenly, rather than “giving someone a bloody nose,” we are now “gifting” them. How did this pretentious nonsense begin? Who is responsible? I demand an explanation.
- Lengthy. Okay, I know this one has been around a long time (as opposed to a lengthy one), and it’s part of the accepted lexicon. So I acknowledge that this is just my own pet peeve. But why, oh why, can we not just say “long”? In my experience, people tend to say “lengthy” when they want to sound more important. Perhaps they think that extra syllable conveys a certain gravitas? They are wrong. Also, while the opposite of “long” is “wide,” the opposite of “lengthy” is…? Go ahead, say it. I dare you.
- Incentivize. Or even worse, incent. What the hell, people? Just…what the hell? Yes, the word “incentive” exists. It’s a noun, and it’s quite respectable and innocuous. However, it seems to have spawned these bastard demon children when I wasn’t looking, and I wish to express my strong disapproval. Granted, these words are usually used by people whose work I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, but still. The fact that they exist (the words, not the people) irks me.
- It is what it is.This is one of the most moronic phrases in the entire history of the planet. I am not even kidding. What does it mean? I suspect it’s some kind of diseased offshoot of Popeye the Sailor’s famous, “I yam what I yam,” but that doesn’t make it legit. People tend to sigh, “Well, it is what it is,” when they wish to convey something like, “I have given up hope that this will change.” At least, I think that’s what they mean. Now, if something is what it isn’t, that might perhaps be interesting. It would imply a kind of paradox in the time-space continuum, which would at least make for a plausible, if somewhat overworked sci-fi plot device. As it is, however, this phrase has no business existing. Kindly expunge it.
- Thinking outside the box. Good lord. People still say this? With a straight face? Whatever is the world coming to? (Ditto reinventing the wheel, by the way. Come on, people, show some imagination! And yes, I’m aware that I snuck a ninth phrase into my eight-item list. I’m also aware that “snuck” is not really a word, but tough noogies.)
- Jump(ing) the shark. I started hearing this a while ago, and honestly had no freaking clue what the person meant by it. Was it some kind of veiled reference to that infamous euphemism, “shark week”? If so, why would a person want to jump on that? Or maybe it meant “jump over” shark week, in the sense of skipping one’s period? That was at least possible, if a little unlikely. Eventually, I gave up guessing and turned to that font of learning, the Urban Dictionary. Oh. Happy Days. Seriously? That’s it? Well, that wasn’t even a little bit interesting. It’s just some faux hipster phrase that makes the writer/speaker sound like they’re “in the know.” Or unbelievably pretentious, take your pick.
- Cutting edge. Or even worse, bleeding edge. Honestly, who comes up with this stuff? And could they please stop? Apparently, someone decided that plain old “cutting edge” wasn’t sufficiently hyperbolic as a description of something new or innovative, so they upped the ante and “gifted” us with “bleeding edge.” Wow. Aren’t we the lucky ones?
- Going forward. This one sounds pretty inoffensive. Trust me, it’s not. A phrase that used to mean precisely what it said, it has recently morphed into a speech tic, a bit like hiccups, that reflexively punctuates speech or text, driving some listeners or readers (well, me) to madness. Some time when you have nothing better to do, turn on the radio or TV and count the number of times an announcer or government spokes-thingy inserts “going forward” into his or her speech. Once you’re aware of this one, you can’t become unaware. It’s sheer torture, and I insist that it cease forthwith.
Okay, that’s it for now. Class dismissed. We now return you to your regular scheduled programming. And thanks for bearing with me. I feel much better now.