As we sift through the stacks of emails, Facebook comments and tweets, we at Lexicide find ourselves filled with a warm glow. And it’s all because of you. Yes, we are the few, the literate few. But it’s nice to know you exist, gritting your teeth at the abuse of our language. That makes us a band of brothers and sisters, and it’s comforting to have allies in this unhappy war.
Lexicide began with a specific mission, which is to hold the line against meaning drift. Meaning drift isn’t always bad, but it’s dismaying these days because we’re losing so many handy words (such as leverage, delta and unique) to duplicate meanings — all due to ignorance and pomposity.
A day doesn’t go by when I don’t read an email, memo or webpage without a ridiculous lexicide. However, what really plagues me are “weasel” words — verbal padding. We must truly be an insecure society if we don’t feel we can say what we mean (nicely, of course). Having worked in marketing, PR and human resources, I’m well aware that American businesspeople walk on pins and needles every day, wary of offending colleagues, customers and bosses. But there must be a better solution than making sentences unintelligible.
Which brings me back to our Glitterary Week user submissions. The majority of them were not lexicides as much as unnecessary puffery, following the axiom that if a five-letter word tells the story, then eight is better and sixteen wins the Pulitzer. Here are some of the weasely constructions Lexicide fans submitted:
conceptualization instead of concept
incentivization instead of incentive
motivation instead of motive
medication instead of medicine
You know you’ve used some of these. You’ve probably also written some of these bad back-formations:
administrate instead of administer
orientate instead of orient
conference instead of confer
conceptualize instead of conceive
commentate instead of comment
There are some differences in nuance — motive seems to have gained a sinister tinge, no doubt propelled by the justice system and the phrase ulterior motive. And medication often refers to a protocol where medicine speaks in the singular voice. But if you can tell me why incentivization trumps incentive, I will give you a gold-plated Underwood.
So thank you again, friends, for taking arms against a sea of troubling corporate-speaking hacks. For they hold their corner offices cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us on Lexicide.com.
— Otto E. Mezzo