Friday, 27 May 2011
Close proximity to best practice
My best friend Shelley sent me the above list this morning, and I have quite a few words to add to it.
I find some wild clangers in my job. For example, the prominent TV news reporter who, working for us many years ago, once interviewed a man who had turned 100 and in her report called him a "spritely centurion". Wrong on both counts!
So I'll start my list with the word she thought she had — the word that all young reporters tend to imagine to be the one-word-fits-all when they're writing about old people: sprightly. I can't bear to write about it, I hate it so much.
Young reporters also like to refer to women in terms of their offspring, and generations of offspring, rather than as individuals with skills, personality, character, talents, and entire lives of their own. So if I get the chance, wherever it is irrelevant, I will change "Swanbourne mother-of-two Bronte Smith" to Bronte Smith, of Swanbourne.
We had a great story recently about a 54-year-old athlete and wave-ski champion who was about to go to the world championships in Europe, and the reporter called her a "paddling granny". And the 68-year-old sub-editor (a bloke) had called her that in the heading as well.
I have my work cut out for me.
And our beautiful, logical language is under constant attack by the perpetrators of bureaucratic bullshit-speak (outcomes, stakeholders, best-practice, results-based, key performance indicators, mission statements, and so on ad nauseam), the worst of whom are teachers, local government office staff, and police officers, followed by government workers, "communication consultants" and "media consultants".
Anyway — here are some others I can think of, in no particular order.
Corporate (especially in job titles)
Currently (redundant in 90% of cases when qualifying a verb in the present tense).
Close proximity (which means close closeness). Oh, and approximate means nearly, so more approximate means nearer, not the opposite.
Enormity (has nothing to do with size, just as noisome has nothing to do with sound)
Impact as a verb (I'm retching)
Core, as in core values, core message (see bureaucratic bullshit-speak above)
Synergy, and synergistic
Icon and iconic
Gifted, when gave will do!
Moot, mooted (have you ever heard this word spoken?)
Post-modern (when it is clear the speaker has no effing idea what this means. No effing idea at all. As in, "That's very post-modern of you!")
Plumped (instead of chosen!)
Youth (instead of teenager. Have you ever called a young person a youth? Or even worse, a juvenile?)
Further instead of farther when you mean distance.
Further when you mean more.
Feisty — usually how a young buck reporter describes an older woman who has all her own teeth and won't put up with any crap.
New (as in, "The man is building a new house". Let's see the bugger build an old one!)
Suffered ( "she suffered a fall", "she suffered a fracture to her arm", she "suffered from cancer". And then "the 50-year-old diabetes sufferer ..." Vomit.)
Participate (instead of take part).
Analog, and the even sadder analogue (I imagine people think this is somehow the correct, non-American spelling!), when what is really meant is "non-digital". This has come about because many, many years ago, my children, our first widespread encounter with things digital was watches. The traditional style of watch, with hands and numbers 1 to 12, is called an analog watch because the movement of its hands round its its 360-degree face is analagous to the passing of time in minutes and hours. So the dunderheads have decided this means non-digital.
The phrase, "tributes are pouring in for ... ", which is how TV and radio news wallies always start reports of famous or worthy people's deaths. I've often wished some enterprising photographer or news video-type person could get us footage of "tributes pouring in". I'd so like to see what they look like. I've never seen any, have you?
And when there has been a death in a small town, we learn "The small community of Woop-Woop is in mourning today ..." Presumably they'll all feel better when the tributes start pouring in.
Utilise (use, please)
Signage (signs will do)
No doubt I'll think of more. What words, phrases and cliches drive you nuts?