Language Abuse: blah, blah, ‘LOL’, blah,blah, ‘iconic’, blah …..

Our language has become corrupted. It has become bent to fit modern forms of communication so that it becomes a drag if you have to spell things out rather than speed texting. Not only that but most messages on social media are constructed without any attention paid to the quality of the words.

I guess Blaise Pascal was correct when he apologised for the length of a letter on the grounds that he didn’t have time to write a shorter one. Many people don’t appear to have such time or the inclination to expend much thought on what they write.

This is not the only area guilty of language abuse. It permeates the spoken word in political speeches, TV programmes and the views of ‘the man/woman in the street’.

I have started a list of some common words, phrases or sayings that demonstrate an unthinking, lazy, adoption of cliche in place of considered thought.

Here is my starter for ten, by no means comprehensive. ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR ADDITION WELCOME.

  • ‘on-going situations’. This is a golden oldie that you don’t hear so often theses days.
  • ‘At the end of the day’. This irritating phrase has been around for years and shows no signs of imminent death, regrettably.
  • euphemisms for death e.g. passed on/passed away/lost. No. you haven’t ‘lost’ your partner – as in putting him/her down somewhere that now escapes you – they have died.
  • the verb to ‘address’. A bland word that implies some non-specific action and, for some, sounds business-like.
  • ‘issues’ a close relative of the above and often used in conjunction. What are we going to address? Why ‘issues’ of course. Sometimes used as a pejorative description of a person with problems (usually psychological), – ‘well of course he has ‘issues’ about his mother’.
  • An even less specific sub-set is ‘issues around’. Yuck.
  • ‘With respect’, ‘with the greatest respect’, ‘with the greatest possible respect’. Which roughly translate as ‘you’re wrong’, ‘you are so wrong’, ‘you must be out of your mind’.
  • ‘iconic’. Somehow this has caught on, perhaps because it sounds erudite, and now applies to almost anything even mildly famous or interesting.
  • ‘impactful’. The illegal conversion of a noun into an adjective.

 

It is possible to blend all of these into a paragraph, which sounds as if it has been honed by the Civil Service to the point where it creates the impression of action, but sidesteps any accountability for doing anything.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have an on-going situation that we need to address. There are issues around the speed with which this must be tackled but we must be cognisant of the possible nugatory effects of hasty action because, at the end of the day, there are a number of issues on both sides of the argument that could have very impactful consequences, and with the very greatest respect to my colleague, we cannot allow this iconic topic to be kicked into the long grass. We need a safe pair of hands and at the same time we must be seen to be taking this matter very seriously, so taking everything into account, we believe, by and large, that on balance the best outcome is to set up a multi-disciplinary, inter-departmental working party to produce terms of reference for a major study to be commissioned at a later date. Let no-one say we are not treating this matter seriously.’

In a slightly similar vein I once saw a notice on Waterloo station that read

‘We would like to apologise for the lack of timetables available. This is attributable to printing problems. If you are in need of advice, please approach a member of staff.’

Any offers as to how this might have been better written?

Blah, blah, ‘LOL’, blah, blah, ‘iconic’, blah … …

 

Our language has become corrupted. It has become bent to fit modern forms of communication so that it becomes a drag if you have to spell things out rather than speed texting. Not only that but most messages on social media are constructed without any attention paid to the quality of the words.

I guess Blaise Pascal was correct when he apologised for the length of a letter on the grounds that he didn’t have time to write a shorter one. Many people don’t appear to have such time or the inclination to expend much thought on what they write.

This is not the only area guilty of language abuse. It permeates the spoken word in political speeches, TV programmes and the views of ‘the man/woman in the street’.

I have started a list of some common words, phrases or sayings that demonstrate an unthinking, lazy, adoption of cliche in place of considered thought.

Here is my starter for ten, by no means comprehensive. ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR ADDITION WELCOME.

  • ‘on-going situations’. This is a golden oldie that you don’t hear so often theses days.
  • ‘At the end of the day’. This irritating phrase has been around for years and shows no signs of imminent death, regrettably.
  • euphemisms for death e.g. passed on/passed away/lost. No. you haven’t ‘lost’ your partner – as in putting him/her down somewhere that now escapes you – they have died.
  • the verb to ‘address’. A bland word that implies some non-specific action and, for some, sounds business-like.
  • ‘issues’ a close relative of the above and often used in conjunction. What are we going to address? Why ‘issues’ of course. Sometimes used as a pejorative description of a person with problems (usually psychological), – ‘well of course he has ‘issues’ about his mother’.
  • An even less specific sub-set is ‘issues around’. Yuck.
  • ‘With respect’, ‘with the greatest respect’, ‘with the greatest possible respect’. Which roughly translate as ‘you’re wrong’, ‘you are so wrong’, ‘you must be out of your mind’.
  • ‘iconic’. Somehow this has caught on, perhaps because it sounds erudite, and now applies to almost anything even mildly famous or interesting.
  • ‘impactful’. The illegal conversion of a noun into an adjective.

 

It is possible to blend all of these into a paragraph, which sounds as if it has been honed by the Civil Service to the point where it creates the impression of action, but sidesteps any accountability for doing anything.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have an on-going situation that we need to address. There are issues around the speed with which this must be tackled but we must be cognisant of the possible nugatory effects of hasty action because, at the end of the day, there are a number of issues on both sides of the argument that could have very impactful consequences, and with the very greatest respect to my colleague, we cannot allow this iconic topic to be kicked into the long grass. We need a safe pair of hands and at the same time we must be seen to be taking this matter very seriously, so taking everything into account, we believe, by and large, that on balance the best outcome is to set up a multi-disciplinary, inter-departmental working party to produce terms of reference for a major study to be commissioned at a later date. Let no-one say we are not treating this matter seriously.’

In a slightly similar vein I once saw a notice on Waterloo station that read

‘We would like to apologise for the lack of timetables available. This is attributable to printing problems. If you are in need of advice, please approach a member of staff.’

Any offers as to how this might have been better written?

Author: catch22andahalf

I’m retired, a grumpy optimist, writer, and shallow humourist. Before retirement my ‘career’ looks like it was cobbled together from a few different CVs - clerk, slightly more senior clerk, top notch clerk, Personnel Director before they downgraded the name to Human Resources, Advertising and Marketing Director, Partner in a management training outfit and owner of a small B&B

3 thoughts on “Language Abuse: blah, blah, ‘LOL’, blah,blah, ‘iconic’, blah …..”

  1. Ah! Well done. To use the old fashioned phrase ‘You’ve twigged it!’
    This has been going on ever since ‘Common Folk’ started to read and write, and those who felt they were their betters had to come up with ways to put them in their place(s)! Or keep them at arms length!
    The example you’ve constructed is no doubt at bit of classic political speak.
    In my Civil Service career when endeavouring to make arcane laws workable and at the same time not give the person the chance to complain to their MP it would be necessary to construct a letter which basically said “We’re letting you get away with it this because you are a cantankerous @@% and you just an’t worth or time and effort anymore. If you try and encourage your equally annoying associates to try this on, we’ll pull every trick in the book to deny we let you get away with it”…only in an A4 length polite and seemingly polite. missive.
    Ah, happy days.
    I wouldn’t have bothered with the ‘attributable’ bit, if it was the printers’ fault I would have dropped them right in it (politely of course)
    My favourite is a longer one “Mistakes have been made. But lessons have been learnt”…. sure.
    Although….. “Taxpayer’s Value for Money ” comes in a close second.

    Like

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