[Smt-talk] One thought on Language Use (was: Two thoughts on Normal Form)

art samplaski agsvtp at hotmail.com
Fri Sep 7 07:38:06 PDT 2012

Dear List:
Dmitri began his post,
> As we transition into a new semester...
Permit, please, a heart-felt plea that people _NOT_ use
such management-speak mangling of language. Very arguably
a big contributing factor to the economic collapse is that
the jargon developed by financial "experts" and the way
they and management misuse language means that it becomes
impossible to figure out what is being discussed.
One recent installment of the web-comic xkcd.com illustrates
a simple example of the obfuscation possible with such
linguistic monstrosities:
An even worse example was told to me by an editor friend,
wherein a senior something argued on the email discussion
list for editors in Ontario that it was perfectly acceptable
to use "relationship" as a verb, i.e., "to relationship with
someone." (Or the following personal anecdote from 20+ years
ago, where a client for whom I did some contract computing
work insisted on saying, "When we make that determinization"
and the like, apparently incapable of understanding that the
suffix "-tion" indicates "noun-form-of"--I never heard him
say what would have been the base word "determinize," by
the way... [And no, I did not correct him, since I was broke
at the time and needed the money very badly.])

"Transition" is a NOUN, ladies and gentlemen. My heart sank
to see Dmitri, who has argued so forcefully and clearly in
many past posts to this forum, write the above instead of
such simple, straightforward, and correct phrases as:
  "As we move into a new semester..."
  "As we start a ..."
  "As we prepare for a..."
  "As we begin a..."
(Or, if one _really_ cannot contain the impulse for florid
language, at least try for some poetic gusto, e.g.,
   As th'rising Square of Pegasus portends
   returning students to our ivied realms..." :)
 [One of course need not limit oneself to blank iambic
 pentameter: _terza rima_ for Dante fans, or the leonine
 hexameters of the Anonymous of St. Emmeram for those
 wanting to reconnect to the history of our subject, are
 but two possibilities...])

As scholars, we should always strive to be as clear and
direct as possible--especially since our field already
requires some fairly technical jargon--in order to combat
the stuff (I would much prefer a stronger word) that Alan
Sokal pilloried so masterfully 15-odd years ago. As Calvin
(of _Calvin and Hobbes_) said, "Verbing weirds language.":)
Grammatically and Sincerely,
Art Samplaski
Ithaca, NY
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