Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Words Please Stop Edition

I like words, which is why there is a Wednesday Words theme here.  I like them as things to play with, as objects that behave oddly, or that have curious histories.  Language--what happens when words get strung together--is a bit different.  I dislike the abuse of words, such as the use of "impact" as a verb or the myriad atrocities of businesspeak.  But I have become horrified lately by the abuse of language, and I am going to ask you, who may read this, to help stamp it out.

The language in question conveys a meaning, one that is corrosive to society.  We should, as individuals in society, recognize that we are all elements in a larger whole; that every other person in that larger whole is as much a person as we ourselves are.  In short, we should have compassion.  We may occasionally bump into each other the wrong way, we may intentionally or unintentionally slight one another, we may fail to live up to our ideals, miss the mark, or sin.  If we do this, we should own up to the fact that we have wronged another person who is just as important as us, and as part of that, we should string together some words into language that expresses compassion and actually helps to make things better.

So, if you find yourself in this situation (and, being human, you will), do not use the following language:

"Mistakes were made."  That's not in doubt.  Who made them?  As any editor will tell you, use the active voice.

"I regret if anybody took offense at my remarks."  A dodge to throw things into the passive voice; it makes the action come from, and the blame fall upon, the person wronged.

"As the [relative] of a [female, minority, immigrant, person of minority faith, or other too-often-picked-on-group], I am appalled by so-and-so's statements."  Compassion is recognizing the humanity of others.  If you only recognize humanity when it's your own, you don't really have compassion.

Okay, I'm probably preaching to the choir here.  But still, we are exposed to these dodges all too often, and those who commit violence to language go on their way freely.  Do what you can to call them out.  Heck, I'll even tolerate the use of "impact" as a verb if I could see these phrases disappear.

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