Under guise of (heard in a webinar)

“Sell your clients bundles under guise of collective buying.”

I have already covered under guise of as a bad, bad, bad substitute for “under guidance of,” but this is far, far, far worse. What this presenter was trying to say was, “Sell your clients bundles in the name of collective buying.” (Even better, try “Sell your clients goods in bundles, which will lower the price per unit. That’s collective buying.”) What he actually said was, “Sell your clients bundles and deceive them into thinking they’re taking advantage of bulk costs.”

And by the way, he was trying to sell us a bad Powerpoint presentation under guise of a merchandise bundling program. I wasn’t fooled.

Otto E. Mezzo

It’s actually ironic

That Copy Kat requested I address the misuse of ironic, which we both agree reached its pinnacle with the song by Alanis Morisette. But the Lord (and VH1) works in mysterious ways! The song “Ironic” focused a flurry of attention on how un-ironic the song’s narratives were. So my work here is done.

Until I saw this video. My work here was only half-done. Now it’s all done, thanks to collegehumor.com. You oughta know.

Otto E. Mezzo

UPDATES: It’s actually ironic, episode II (March, 2010). It’s like word advice that you just can’t spell.

It’s actually ironic, episode III (November, 2015) Alanis revisits the song twenty years later. She must have read my article, Who would have thought?


BOON: “1. benefit, favor; especially: one that is given in answer to a request; 2. a timely benefit: blessing; from Old Norse bōn request; akin to Old English bēn prayerbannan to summon” —Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition

BOOM: “2. a rapid expansion or increase” —Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition

My wife has had two equally distinguished careers — as a lawyer and as a CPA. Both pay extremely well (yes!), both have trained her to say “no” with great frequency (boo) and both demand extreme precision. So imagine my surprise when she spoke up in defense of corporate illiterates who perpetrate persistent and willful lexicide. “They’re businesspeople!” she intoned. “They’re not word experts. What do you expect?” She then proceeded upon the dread path I’ve been dragged down so many times: “Why not say you leverage new technology? You could say you’re gambling with a new, untried technology.”

This post-facto justification drives me crazy. People who speak of leveraging technology or talent do not think of incurring risk, any more than those who speak of stagnant websites think of fusty odors. Sure, they’ll tell you the website “stinks” or is “stale,” but they and I know the speakers are desperately covering their mistakes.

I lead off with this bitter jeremiad as a preemptive strike, for today’s lexicide is boon, which is being crowded out by the incorrect boom, as in “Ajax has been a boom to the development of social media platforms.” No. The word is boon, for which read “blessing, answer to our prayers.” Boom is not the same thing. A “publishing boom” or a “futures boom” is a rapid increase in activity in those areas. Now, I know what you’ll say: “Well, Ajax has certainly enabled social media to prosper, so it is a boom.” If you cannot see how imprecise, inaccurate and poorly reasoned that fallacy is, then this is not the website for you. This is.

Precision matters. In your pursuit of profit, are you focused or singleminded? Is your team enthusiastic, zealous or fanatical? Is your spending plan frugal, thrifty or miserly? If you care so much to avoid problems in favor of issues, then why use a word that is clearly wrong? Boon describes the cause; boom describes the desired effect. They are not interchangeable just because they sound similar.

So the missus refused to back down (she is a lawyer, after all), even after admitting that some usages are just plain wrong. So targets of my scorn, you have a defender — a boon to lexicidal maniacs everywhere. Me, I’d prefer delivering a boom — from the muzzle of a Remington 870 12-gauge. Fortunately for you, the wife says no.

Otto E. Mezzo