They’ve got a bank of TV monitors in the gym where I work out at lunchtime and it gives me choices. I can suffer through the insipid banter from the sports “experts” at ESPN, keep up with local news, reminisce during “The Andy Griffith Show,” or just go brain dead watching a network talk show hosted by a former reality TV star.
Sometimes I don’t even plug in my headphones and simply watch the text scrolling across the bottom of the screens. My unscientific experiment has proven what we have long known. Broadcasters cannot write or spell.
Inspired by the nonsense I have watched on TV in 2013, I decided I’d close the year out with a proposition we tighten up our use of the language by abandoning some words and using others correctly, bucking the national trend.
So here’s my short list or words and phrases that seem to have amazing staying power.
Real world: This phrase has become ubiquitous in higher education as a way to refer to what happens off campus. As much as I would like to lock my car each morning and emerge from the parking garage into a fantasy world of fun and frolic, what happens on my campus seems very real to me. The people here seem to be working at just as hard and dealing with practical problems as much as their friends in the business, arts and non-profit worlds. Seems like the real world to me.
Impacting/impact: You cannot impact the real world. (That’s a two-fer.) You can have an impact on it or you can affect it. But impact is not a verb, despite our best efforts to make it one. I understand the motivation behind its use. That word seems to have real heft. But it ain’t right.
That: You can take this word out of almost every sentence you write and not change the meaning. Consider: He decided that he would run for president of the community organization in the real world. (Another two-fer.) Take out “that.” See?
Located: Ax this word, too. Our offices are located at 234 Main St. Take out “located.” Works for me.
Sustaining an injury: All players who get hurt in college or pro sports sustain injuries, sadly for them. Those injuries just go on and on. The good news for most of them is they actually suffer injuries. Somehow sustain sounds more impressive to sports broadcasters.
Utilize: Another word that is vastly more impressive, apparently, than use. Use use.
Currently: Almost always superfluous. Take it out.
Active member: I see the adjective often in reference to people who are on boards or committees. I always envision the inactive members who just do nothing. They’re just hanging out.
High-tech: Don’t know what it means. It’s all technology to me. I guess it is better to be high-tech than low-tech.
Free gift: A gift from advertisers. If it is a gift it is free.
Innovative: Overused and abused so much it has lost its meaning. Heaven forbid if you are not innovative in today’s world.
Acronyms and initializations: These abbreviations for the names of institutions and organizations shut people out. Before you use them in place of the full name of your organization think carefully about the receivers of your message. Are you overestimating the reach of your acronym or initialization?
Commitment to excellence: Still alive and kicking. You most certainly need to be innovative, but more than that, you absolutely must have a commitment to excellence, whatever that means. Just try a commitment to mediocrity and see where that gets ya’.
Marketing: Everything is being marketed today. I guess it means we are all business because we’re selling and someone is buying. Most of the time, however, people who say they are marketing are actually promoting, communicating the value and distinctiveness of a product or service.