“The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.” T. Pratchett
You know how we all have our pet peeves? If you happen to work with words, it’s only a matter of time before you develop some special pet peeves that have to do with words. I’ve been making a living out of words for as long as I can remember, which is about twenty years but I only began to be annoyed with certain words more recently, when I started consuming news in what I suspect are unhealthy amounts. The side effect of a job I love. So, here are my top five loathsome words, words I’d like to stop seeing for at least a month and words that I believe are snakes. And snakes can bite.
Everything anyone does nowadays is a project. Homework is a project. A work of art is a project. Novels are projects, not to mention music. Hell, before long we’ll be calling coffee and breakfast projects. This is a very Black Mirror-y word if you think about it: start using one word to express dozens of different concepts and you effectively rob them of their specific meaning. You let them die, morphed into this shapeless project thing that can mean whatever you want it to mean. This is a horrible thought. Look at how many lovely synonyms project has.
I hate innovation’s guts. I really do. And it’s not the poor word’s fault. It’s the fault of all these millions of people who have been abusing it on a daily basis for years. Ultimately, of course, it’s the fault of anyone who does anything in IT because everything is their fault in the digital age, right? You swap yogurt and water for milk in a cake recipe: innovation! (I innovate on a regular basis because I usually lack ingredients and are too lazy to go buy them) You make a fan out of a cork and a couple of popsicle sticks: innovation (we have one of these)! You can probably try eating soup with a knife and call it innovation. A lot of “innovation” is exactly as dumb and useless as eating soup with a knife, anyway. I don’t much like the synonyms of innovation, either, except change. Change is so much better; it lacks the pompous halo.
Wherever innovation goes, disruption follows. The logic seems to be that the accumulation of certain amounts of innovation (it’s like bananas, you know, or tomatoes) results in disruption (when the shelf that the bananas are stacked on breaks). While disruption started off as a bad thing now it’s so cool it burns to the touch. Processes, supply chains, whole industries get disrupted and they apparently love it and want more. In actual fact, what everyone gushing about disruption is talking about is, yet again, change. And while change is often scary and often good it’s not always good, folks. It’s not always good. Especially when it’s disruptive. Just look at the synonyms if you don’t believe me.
Oh, gosh, how do I go about this. Let me use an example, all right? There’s been a lot of talk about efficiency gains in the oil industry since 2014. The message runs like this: we are heroes for making these huge efficiency gains and surviving the crisis stronger than ever. Yeah, well, the message they did not shout out ran like this: we fired a few thousand people, we started thinking before drilling, oh, and we made the service providers give us cutthroat rates for their services, and we decided to call it efficiency. I doubt oil and gas is the only industry that abuses the concept of efficiency, lovely as it may otherwise be. Here are some fascinating synonyms.
I have a confession to make. I’m old-school with language. I’m not particularly liberal about it. Therefore, for the life if me, I cannot fathom how impact became a verb. Okay, I lied. I can fathom it, sure, but I don’t like what I fathom. We can’t be bothered to remember some crap verbs so let’s use the words we already know? It’s too hard to remember things like influence, affect, improve/ ruin and a dozen others, so we’ll just use impact for a verb. Honestly, to me, the verbalisation of nouns is an evil disruption that has to stop but I know it won’t so I’ll just get depressed. Look at what impact actually means.
I thought I loathed more words but, surprisingly, that’s where my inspiration ended, so I did a quick Google search to get some more. Which I didn’t but I found fun stuff like this Most Annoying Word contest and this list of phrases that apparently annoy a lot of people. Also this is pretty funny. Older people get annoyed at the slang teens use. So what else is new? Don’t tell me: another disruptively innovative project, I know.