Friday, February 20, 2009

Doublespeak, Jargon, and Other Crimes Against the English Language

Maybe it's a sign of the times, but it seems like the movement towards more politically correct language is spinning out of control. I don't have a problem with calling people "disabled" instead of "crippled" or "retarded." That's certainly a less hurtful way of describing their condition. It's the words that don't need euphemisms in the first place that bother me.

Today, words and phrases that are not even offensive are being "sanitized" to sound more pleasant than they really are. We no longer exercise at the gym, we exercise at the fitness center. We don't use banks, churches, or schools anymore. Instead we use financial institutions, worship centers, and learning centers. We don't live in neighborhoods, we live in communities.

In the business world, euphemisms are even more prevalent. We don't have layoffs, we have workforce reductions, outsourcing, downsizing, and displacement. We don't have problems, only challenges and opportunities. We don't have failures, we have deferred successes. We don't wish each other a Merry Christmas, we wish each other Happy Holidays.

I think these modern sugar-coated phrases are bullshit. Is it really necessary to sanitize words like "bank" or "school?" Saying things like "financial institution" or "learning center" is what people do when they try to sound smarter than they really are. I'm all for calling a spade a spade. If you can say something in two words instead of five, do it. Be clear and simple.

The other thing that's been bugging me lately is the explosive popularity of cutesy, mashed-up, hybrid, two-point-oh words that people are making up. Take for example the word "staycation," which is a short version of the phrase "stay at home vacation." I understand that because of the current economic situation, lots of families are still taking time off from work but aren't traveling out of state this year.

Call me old fashioned, but I wouldn't ever tell anyone I was taking a "staycation." I'd call it staying home and saving money. I'd call it not fucking going to Disneyland this year because the economy is in the shitter. Staycation? Give me a fucking break!

Another god-awful mashed up word is "ecopreneur," which refers to an environmentally-conscious entrepreneur. Boy, I couldn't take anyone seriously with a title like that! Then of course, there is the practice of "hypermiling" to conserve fuel when driving. How about slowing the fuck down and driving the speed limit?

I wish people would stop making up such ridiculous names for things that do not need them. It's getting annoying. For more words that disgust me, check out my previous post entitled Language I Loathe.