Monday, October 17, 2005

Words that must die.

Recently, Mr. Galloway (highly recommended!) detailed his loathing for the term “actionable.” This word is just one of many examples of what I call “Dilbert-speak”: business terms designed not to communicate, but to make the speaker seem more intelligent.

Matt’s post reminded me of all sorts of linguistic ticks around the meeting table. Since the readers of this impotent important site are deeply interested in making my life less stressful, would you kindly stomp down co-workers using these terms? My public gratitude shall be your reward (I don’t have any “The Inkling™” coffee mugs or leg warmers to give away just yet).

Utilize: The over-long replacement for “use” when a person wants to sound smart or high-tech. I once tried to thin out a large stack of resumes by removing every one that used this word. The problem was that EVERY ONE used it. Or should I say “utilized” it.

Very unique: Unique means “unlike anything else” or “one of a kind.” It’s binary. Something IS unique or NOT unique. There are no degrees. Can someone be “kind of pregnant?” Same with “unique.”

A whole nother: Rarely written, but ubiquitous in speech. “Nother” is not a word. Say “another whole” or “a whole other.” Or I’ll slap you.

Tentative: Another spoken gaffe – even academics and NPR types regularly get this one wrong. There is a second “T” in there that gets angry when forgotten. Ten-TA-tive, not ten-a-tive.

Leverage: See “utilize.”

Implement: To paraphrase Nancy Reagan, “just say ‘do.’”

Actionable: As in “actionable information” – why not just say “information?”

Out of the Box: We’re all sick of this one. I actually heard myself using this in a big meeting last week. I felt so… dirty.

Authenticity: Never use this self-referentially. It’s like the word “humble” – the adjective no longer applies if you use it about yourself.

110 percent: You can give 100 percent. That’s all. More annoyingly, offices are in the midst of metaphorical percentage creep. Since 110 percent is now expected, now employees are giving 150 or 200 percent. Until human cloning is commonplace, never cross the century mark.

Deliverables: I once bludgeoned a middle manager with his stapler for using this thrice in one paragraph. Stop me before I kill again.

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Anonymous mariannb said...

Oh, I could come up with a dozen, but for now I'll just jump in with:

I could care less.

You could? Then, you're not getting your point across. When did the n't leave this phrase, and how did that catch on?

It's "I couldn't care less," because, well, you just could NOT care less, which means you hardly care at all.

How 'bout irregardless? Isn't even a word.

The latest buzzword at my company (which published that Blog Marketing book, BTW) is vet. I thought we had free veterinary care, but it turns out everyone is vetting something, as in evaluating. Coming to a staff meeting near you soon!

6:55 AM  
Blogger inkling said...

Ditto on both of your additions. And so far I've only heard "vet" used to discuss a political appointee. I'm sure I'll hear it around the office tout suite.

Yesterday I did hear someone say "solutioning." Apparently the word "solving" just didn't sound impressive enough.

Thanks for stopping by, Mariann!

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Dave in Peoria (That would be the said...

Some "'ate-ful" examples:

• Facilitate

What if...

911 Operator: "911 emergency"
Caller:"Yes, I need someone to facilitate me."
911 Operator: "What!?"
Caller: "I need immediate facilitation!"
911 Operator (annoyed): "Sir, we don't take those kind of calls here. You need to dial 976..."

Sometimes, it’s OK to ask for help.

• Orientate

One goes to an orientation to be "oriented" not "orientated".

Telling the officer who pulls you over that you are a little "disorientated" will land you in tent city faster that you can say "facilitate."

• Misunderestimate

Actually, I sorta’ like this one.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous dave in peoria said...

Sorry...tapped the [Enter] key a little too quickly when typing my username.

5:45 PM  
Blogger inkling said...

I don't know why, but both "misunderestimate" and "strategery" are keepers in my book.

However, "facilitate" and "orientate" are most definitely words that must die. Thanks!

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Jen said...

Okay, first of all, this blog is officially my hero... because I spend most of my time obsessing over this sort of thing.

1) Where are you at?
For those of us who are paying attention, the sentence ended at 'you.' 'At' is a completely extraneous word. It doesn't even fit if you move it somewhere else in the sentence!

2) The 'could' family.
Until I moved to the South a couple years ago... I truly believed that this only existed in Jeff Foxworthy routines. Don't get me wrong, I like it here, and I like the people... but the next person who says "I might could help you out" or "I ustacould afford those" or "you ustacouldn't do that"... I can not be held responsible for my actions.

3) Ironical
Alanis Morisette's song from a few years ago may not have contained anything that was actually ironic, but at least she can pronounce it.

I'll stop now, but seriously... I could do this all day. And mariannb - "I could care less" - AMEN!!!

That was cathartic.

8:27 AM  
Blogger inkling said...


I have a favorite “Southernism” offered by two McDonald’s customers in South Carolina this April…
Husband: “Hey hon, do you want a Coke?”
Wife: “Yeah.”
Husband: “What kind?”
Wife: “Orange Coke.”

And a great call on “ironical” – it’s now on the list!

8:50 AM  
Blogger Dan Lovejoy said...

I literally laughed out loud, but I refuse to use the acronym. So, "HA HA HA."

My wife would like to add:
"proceeded to"
"The subject proceeded to run away" This is completely useless police argot. JUST #!(!#$)!%^#) SAY "RAN AWAY!"

I would like to add "dialoguing." What's wrong with "talking," or "discussing?"

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

I'm sorry but you misspelled "a Whole Nother". It is correctly spelled "a hole nuther".

My vote for word destruction?
Opportunity. In the business world the meaning has changed to "We hate you & all of your future generations, therefore we will saddle you with work/program/project that is doomed to total failure. This Doom-ination has been has been foretold from the dawn of all mankind. We hate youe, we are screwing you, go to work. We want a progress report on Tuesday."

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Lynn said...

I love this kind of post, although I usually find something to disagree with.... oops... with which I disagree. Whatever. I also hate this kind of post because it makes me self-concious about the way I talk and write.

ustacould - I'm from the south and I hear this all the time. I don't use it myself (or, I try not to) but sometimes I'll catch myself about to use it in a sentence and then stop and think, "well how the hell are you supposed to say that?" Be kind to us southerners. It's hard sometimes.


One expression that always bugs me is "in actuality." It always sounds so uppity.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Dymphna said...

Ohhh...I love this. Marianb has one of my faves. Makes me cringe when someone I like says "I could care less." Makes me want to ask "how *much* less?"

In one of the recent Ben Franklin biographies, there's a quote from one of his letters in which he admits to his English friend that yes, he was wrong to use the term "colonize" since it wasn't really a word. That's made me think about neologisms, the ones that last, the ones that don't.

In order to endure, the new word has to have some value past the generation (or the field of endeavor) that first creates it.

I wonder if "bidness" will ever come into general use?

I think 'vet' originated in the intelligence community. Not sure. But it's been around more than twenty five years by now.

Good luck on that fingers-on-the-blackboard-sensation of that excresence of a word: "orientate." Makes me think of potentate. Orientated is an ugly dumb stinky word. But it persists, perhaps, because "oriented" may sound like it means you're becoming more Asian?? Just asking.

But y'all forgot "general consensus" and "at this point in time" -- both favorites with politicians.

My nominee for the field with all the best new words: I.T. I love their jargon. My favorite so far is the expression one uses when coming upon an obstacle that can't be worked thru: you "build a work-around."

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

I work in I.T. & that caused some problems with my son's homework. back in 4 th grade he had an assignment. He had to fill in blanks. One sentences was "The job __________". He wrote, "The job blew up." It was checked as wrong.

I puzzled over this. I worked in Operations support and the jobs were always blowing up (the programs were failing). It finally dawned on me that not everyone KNEW that the jobs blew up. I wrote a note to his teacher & explained the meaning. She was nice enough to count it as correct & I made sure he didn't us IT jargon in his homework again.

2:52 PM  
Blogger miriam said...

"New paradigm" always get my goat.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous wheels said...

I enjoyed this post and the comments. I have a post on a few words I'd ban (in a specific context) at

(I'd have left a link, but your comment box wouldn't accept it it said the tag was broken. I think the URL was just too long.)

10:27 PM  
Anonymous timekeeper said...

"Orientate" is one of a whole boatload of malformed words created by the manifestly subliterate in an attempt to sound vaguely sophisticated. Pronunciate (makes me want to barf) is another, and of course there is "foilage" and "verbage" and several others that have already been mentioned.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about the vile and vomit-out "empower"? There is no such word in the English language!!! What ever happened to enable? Did it got dis-empowered?

9:54 PM  
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7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy all of your comments. They make me smile. I do know where many of our "new" or re-defined words come from...Becareful for the near future will include one word that I hear many of our young using. (young as in 10-17 year old youth) "more funner" What is that? The hair on the back of my neck stands up when I hear this. I do correct them, but I feel it is a lost cause.

4:47 PM  

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