I am not a word snob. Heaven forbid. I make my daily living in advertising, after all, where the words and the sentences that hold them are a palette from which to paint the readers’ rhythm. This ain’t the BBC. Don’t get me started.

I do have my peeves and prejudices. And they are fierce. Take, for example, the word I heard on NPR this morning…”effectivate” or something of that sort (I was so incensed by the offending word that I scrubbed from my brain.) Social media—not exactly the place to find sterling uses of language—sets itself on fire whenever cable news reporters fail in their sworn duty to speak in coherent sentences.

For me, there’s an even worse arena for the Butchery of Air: Business.

Net-net. Leveraged. Dirty the paper. Brain dump. Synergies. Touching base. Proactive. Spearhead. One could fill a book with coined terms like these. They exist for no other reason than to make the normal everyday workings of thought seem arcane and inaccessible; to show the speaker to be the smartest person in the room.

I remember, particularly, the word used all the time when I was at Ogilvy in NY: Learnings. Attached to a sound principle of using the data from a completed job to substantiate the approaches to the next, it was also a magic elixir. Speak the word to a client and everything was suddenly legitimized. Believable. Proven. Done—next topic.

I react to these terms the way I react to legalese. “Why can’t it be English?” I ask. Full disclosure (yikes, I’ve actually written that!): I use some of these words myself from time to time. Mea culpa.

But they make my ears bleed.

 

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