I like me a bit of word nonsense, I do. A bit of word play and some how’s your dictionary, wink, wink.
But there’s a line, isn’t there? A delicate, Kate Moss-skinny line of decency that only a fool would cross, knowing as they would there was a fair chance a press of editors would fall upon them with sharpened pencils and the result would be less than fabulous for the perpetrator.
However, many fail to heed this warning and the daily flaunting of a butchered English language continues to taunt me in the form of official documentation.
I occasionally edit for HR, only to have the team apologise because HR documents are written in official HR language and I’m not allowed to change it. While I appreciate points might actually be deducted and the licence to HR removed if they don’t use the ‘proper’ language, by golly letting made-up words run rampant makes me feel like I’ve eaten a kilo of cheese: ill, with the potential for hallucinations.
Yes, made-up words. Such as ‘vouchable’. Similar to reclaimable or guaranteed but apparently vouchable sounds more, well, vouchable. It also sounds totally made up.
Behaviours. Are mass nouns like behaviour supposed to become plural? Surely not. It makes me squirm in my seat like I’ve eaten too many prunes again. What about learnings? Why make things plural in this manner? Have you no shame?
Editing for corporate types has opened my eyes to a great many words I’d previously managed to exist without. I had to look some of them up to check they were real. And then cried when I realised they were.
Like actioned. Word 2010 doesn’t like that, no siree. Wants to change it to auctioned. Because action as a verb sounds nonsensical and clearly even Word agrees with me.
Much to my distress, my buddy Oxford says action as a ‘verb with object’ is fine. I’m seeing cracks in our relationship, Oxford. Bright side – if I ever sleep with a workmate I’m going to use the labeling machine to make them an ‘actioned by Penelope’ sign.
Tasked is a word I do actually recognise. But I don’t like it. Take that, corporates.
I was rather under the impression that the point of communication was to communicate. Not confuse. And I think this is an area most people fail in – we’re too busy trying to sound important and learned but usually manage to come across as total wankers. (Ed: There's an excellent corporate gibberish generator to be found here. Also, check these out – wear business jibber jabber proudly emblazoned across your chest!)
I suspect there’s a think tank somewhere, probably in a secret lab under a volcano, where editors who have turned to the dark side sit with dictionaries coming up with new and vile ways to ruin language, which are then sold to the highest bidder. Which are not just the corporates. It’s everyone. Those bastards.
I bet it’s a nice set up. Maybe I can retire there.