Monday, January 08, 2018

Why do we need new phrases when the old were working just fine?

On the train in to work this morning I heard that phrase which really just scrapes its way along every nerve in my body.

'Moving forward...'

Its a business term which has crept into the language of non-business conversion.

The phrase is clunky and awkward - wouldn't 'Going forward' be less harsh in everyday conversation? It also disregards the old 'In future' which is a whole syllable shorter and easier on the tongue.

The question is why has this business phrase has been taken up by people outside of a business environment? Personally, I think people use it to sound smarter - or should I say more knowledgeable? I think people feel they have more authority if they use language outside of every day speak. Just like the use of slang in young communities separate them from the herd (deuce doesn't mean the same thing to my sixteen year old that it means to me, think two, number two... Yeah, you've got it), I think some people think using business jargon or formal language separates them from the crowd. To them it says, 'Hey, look at me, I'm so sophisticated!'.

The thing is, phrases out of context, sound less sophisticated. They sound like a person doesn't really know what the words mean, or how and when to use them. This happens in academia a lot. People use passive, long winded, language in the hopes of sounding more sophisticated. It may be fine when speaking with or writing to other academics - though why people would want to use three words where they could use one is well beyond me. In language that is supposed to reach out to people who are learning or who are not working in the area of research the academic works in, it's just confusing and boring.

If the academic writing is teaching new terms, that's fine, it's part of the education process, but if the academic is just spouting clever words right over the target audience without explanation, well, then they're missing their target - which is just dumb.

Often apprentice academics fall into this category. They desperately want to impress, not only their peers and those whose positions they aspire to, but their friends and everyone else too. They're writing and speaking in an alien language which creates a barrier between them and the person they're talking to. They sound... up themselves.

If they use the language inappropriately, not actually understanding the language they speak - the test is whether or not they can translate their gibberish into plain language that everyone can understand - then they're doubly dumb because it may not be understood by those people who aren't academically trained, but to everyone else, it soon becomes obvious they're really just the little scared man behind the curtain from the Wizard of Oz.

So, this morning when I heard a middle-aged man on the train talking about how 'moving forward' he was going to get back into his gym routine, I didn't know if I wanted to cry or punch him (okay, so maybe I need to take a closer look at my over-reaction there).

Come on people, plain language is great! It doesn't make you sound unsophisticated, it makes you sound approachable. Use it, it'll save you having to explain what you mean all the time, it'll save you time.

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