DELTA: “1. the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet (Δ, δ); 2. the consonant sound represented by this letter; 3. the fourth in a series of items; 4. anything triangular, like the Greek capital delta (Δ); (Mathematics) an incremental change in a variable, as Δ or δ; (Geographic) a nearly flat plain of alluvial deposit between diverging branches of the mouth of a river, often, though not necessarily, triangular: the Nile delta; (Financial) The ratio comparing the change in the price of the underlying asset to the corresponding change in the price of a derivative” —entries from Dictionary.com
I spend a lot of time on my computer, and here’s why: I’m a fraud. I have no business being a strategic marketing consultant for Fortune 500 corporations. I don’t have an MBA or even a BBA. As a matter of fact, I have a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts). I can explain chiaroscuro and color theory in detail, but when everyone else at the table starts bantering about ERPs, “drill-downs” and “straw-man propositions,” I’m an idiot. Fortunately, there’s wireless internet and Wikipedia. I look like I’m busily typing memos, but in reality I’m frantically translating jargon just to keep up.
I’m not the only fraud in the room. Amidst all the buzzwords and needless acronyms being flung about like monkey poo, there are also lexicides — words used wrongly! I’ve started chronicling these as they happen, and today, I heard — for the second time — delta carelessly slaughtered.
About two weeks ago, my team conferenced with a client who embraced verbiage. Within his barrage of DVTs, PPORs and USPs (don’t look them up — they are all acronyms specific to his company, and he did not stop to explain them to us or use commonly understood terms), came delta: “We have 660 employees in this program, plus 200 in the other, which is a really big delta.” I paused, gears whirring. I knew delta referred to an amount of change, but my client did not refer to change. I dove onto the ‘net and came up snake eyes. I found no source using delta as a synonym for “number” or “sum.” I must have misheard.
Then today, the same client did it again: “The program rolls out to 350 managers, which is a smaller delta point than originally anticipated.” Delta point? After 30 seconds of furious Googling, here’s what I got:
In biometrics and fingerprint scanning, the delta point is a pattern of a fingerprint that resembles the Greek letter delta.
I kept at it. Finally, I realized the awful truth — my client was full of it. He really did use delta and the even haughtier delta point as pretentious stand-ins for “number.”
Because my wife so vigorously defended the abomination of lexicide in the past, I recounted this new development to her. “But delta means something very specific!” the former CPA protested. “Hey,” I replied, “you said it. If someone wants to misuse a word, he can and we should call it ice cream.” “But this is not what I meant!” It was satisfying to see her indignation. I shrugged and served myself some mashed potatoes, which were getting cold. “What can we do? Now may I please have a larger delta of gravy?”
— Otto E. Mezzo
References: Delta point according to Webopedia (http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/D/delta_point.html)