Tag Archives: language

Lazy language

Regular readers of these blog posts will know I have a series of ‘red rag words’ that get my goat. (You’ll also know I like alliteration). Just three are ‘engage’, ‘deliver’ and ‘disrupt’ (as related to business innovation).

I think what I dislike about current use of these words is that, more often than not, they’re lazy language; used so vaguely as to be meaningless. ‘We will engage with the community’We will deliver Brexit’We’re in the business of disruption’– but how, why and when? Just saying it doesn’t commit anyone to anything. Lovers get engaged, letters are delivered – although both increasingly rarely – while train delays increasingly disrupt people’s lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted if one word can take the place of three and when a single word used in the right context needs no further explanation – that’s the beauty of our language well-used.

I’m now fast developing a collection of red rag phrases – ‘agile working’ (see my blog on the subject), ‘fit for purpose’, and ‘blended learning’ are three recent additions to the list. I think people use phrases like this because they trip off the tongue (there goes that alliteration again) and they sound positive and definite. In reality, they don’t have any consequences for the speaker or writer so they’re safe to spout.

Say what you mean and mean what you say’ is sound advice. Yes – language has to evolve, yes – grammatical rules are there to be broken, but clear communication is too important for words to be carelessly used and abused by lazy linguists.

Further rants…

On agile working https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/is-agile-working-the-answer

For other blog posts in this ‘communications matters’ series, go to https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/communication-matters


The three letter word

IMG_6116Is it me, or is there something just plain wrong with describing a group of people as ‘the poor’ ‘the rich’ ‘the disabled’ ‘the young’ etc? That small word – the – relegates any number of individuals to a homogenous blob with all the prejudice that dehumanisation implies.

We know from recent events with a Labour MP that trying to stick sections of society into boxes can be at best inaccurate and at worst plain offensive.

To me even describing a group as ‘poor people’, ‘rich people’, ‘disabled people’ is much preferable. And while I’m on the subject…

At 59, I have a thing about being plonked in a group called ‘the old’. It has all sorts of connotations – perpetuated by the media and wider society – that are alien to me and I imagine most others in the 50+ age group (which is what I understand policy wonks define as ‘older’) Note: I’m quite happy to be described as ‘older’ – it’s accurate if you’re comparing me to someone younger and, to me, it doesn’t have the same baggage.

There may be some valid reasons for needing to categorise groups of people – so-called segmentation has been very much a part of my 35 years in not-for-profit marketing – but, when looking for common characteristics, we try to be a bit sophisticated in how we do this.

And before anyone suggests I’m just being a grumpy old git, I take exception to that description as well – I’m not grumpy!