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Friday, August 20, 2010

Ain't Ain't a Word....

...until recently!  Just completed a two-day training session.  It made me glad I've been blogging, so I had some clue when they referred to a wiki, a gadget or HTML code.  But there were other words tossed about that defied all logic. 

For years I've been railing about the mangled word "orientated."  The word is "oriented" or "orientation."  But have no fear, because all three have been replaced with the verb "onboard."  As in, "How do I onboard a new employee?"  I wanted to ask if their flight was overbooked?

And then there's the word "around" as in "a discussion around..." or "vision and thoughts around...insert topic of your choice."  I have visions and thoughts about stuff. This word is also used in the quilting world.  Judy Martin refers repeatedly to "dancing around a color."  I read an entire book before I figured out she was trying to tell me two shades were not a perfect match.  I pictured empassioned quilters in colorful garb, beating drums and chanting to summon the Mighty Quilting Gods...for a new fabric line, perhaps?

Other words: "navigability", "actionable," and the phrase I heard at least 25 times today: "real estate" meaning page space.  "Page space" is two syllables; we all know what it means.  "Real estate" is four syllables, and only the "insiders" know what it means.  Occasionally it was called "PRIME real estate.  Need I say it?  FIVE syllables - just to say "header."

This flies in the face of everything I ever learned about journalism.  I hope these words fall from favor before they too, find their way into the dictionary.  I don't know about you, but I just can't get orientated!


Wayne Kollinger said...


I'm with you.

I always thought the first rule of writing was - eschew obfuscation (avoid making things unclear). There is no point in writing if you don't make an effort to be understood.

If jargon is unavoidable then it should be explained. Not to do so is rude.

Everyone tries for correct spelling and proper grammar. But bad spelling and bad grammar are not nearly as annoying as imprecise, unclear and unexplained words.

Speaking of grammar. "Ain't " has an interesting history. Contract "am not" in the usual way and it becomes "amn't" "In olden days when "I am" was pronounced "Ee aim" it was easier to say "ain't" than "aimn't". That pronunciation has carried on until this day. "Ain't" is now also used, or rather misused, as a contraction for "are not", "is not", and "has not".

Ironically, the phrase "Aren't I?" is often considered proper grammar even though the subject and verb don't agree while the phrase "Ain't I?" is frowned upon even though subject and verb do agree.

Barbara said...

Years ago my supervisor said something to me about a policy or procedure being institutionalized. My response was "Spring Grove or Sheppard Pratt?" (2 psychiatric hospitals in the area)

I work for the government so we get a lot of this crap.

One thing that I don't like is the use of the word grow for inanimate things, like "grow our business". I don't know if that's wrong but it just sounds wrong to me.