Sunday, August 29, 2004

doing well

“He’s doing good.”

There are some rules of grammar that I can forgive when they’re spoken, but hearing this come out of the mouth of my son’s second grade teacher was more painful than a date with an Epilady. On the plus side, by the age of 7, my son had developed his own impatience with the public school system, took control of the situation, rolled his eyes and muttered, “Well.”

I would not have been as gentle.

I admit, that who you are has a great deal to do with how pissed off you will make me with your grammatical or vocabulary ignorance. Joey from Friends is almost charming having brought “supposeably” into pop-cultural English, but when the CEO of a major corporation uses the similar “undoubtably” at a press conference it makes me take a second look at my financial portfolio. And, there is little doubt in my mind that the rest of the world misunderestimates our fine country when our leaders fabricate words like “securitize” or “hypothecate” in public. (It should be noted that “nucular” in a Georgian accent is, for some reason, less offensive than in a Texan accent.)

I had a friend in college who we teased for his use of “acrosst” and “anyways.” He was cute, was from upstate New York and had only one eyebrow (“I used to have two, but I shaved the top one off”) so we forgave him. However, had he ever muttered “irregardless,” I, for one, would have beaten him over the head with a Webster’s unabridged.

If you’re interested in keeping me from flinging hash browns at you at the breakfast table, there are a couple of simple rules of English that you can follow. First, never, ever assume that there is any consistency in the language. Just because there’s a “width” and a “depth”, let me assure you that there is no “ttthhh” on the end of “height,” and if I hear one, I’ll pull the fricative right through your teeth. “Heighth.” Bah.

Second, don’t listen to teenagers. Sure, kids are our future, language is dynamic, bla bla bla, but it sure would be nice, like, if, like, in the future, like, sentences didn’t, like, sound like some, like, happy, perky person with, like, happy, perky Tourette’s syndrome. Like. And when describing a conversation, just eliminate EVERYTHING that sounds like “and so he goes, ‘like, I don’t want to,’ and then she went, ‘like, that’s too bad.’” Trust me, you sound like a moron. Like.

Third, don’t try to sound like William F. Buckley, either. “I” is a subject; the object is all about “me.” Just like that. I promise you, it’s OKAY to use the word “me.” Using the word “I” saves you only one letter, no syllables, and it’s just plain wrong when you use it at the end of “just between you and…” And, only use “I feel badly” if you’ve been having some trouble identifying your child from your toaster oven by touch. If you’ve got the guilts, trust me, you feel bad. Apologize. Sometimes it helps.

Finally, you don’t have to have taken Latin in 7th grade to be able to pick out the roots of words. You can probably figure out what a lot of words mean by breaking them down into simpler parts. I’m talking to the good people at Oracle when I say this. Go look at your web page, folks. The part where you describe the classes you offer? You know, where you break down the preREQUIsites into “REQUIred” and “suggested”?

That brings me to the other face of “bad English” that pisses me off. What is the deal with business people? Are they in collusion to form their own corporate Esperanto? Some global language that comes with the global marketplace? That bizarre business lingo that is so ubiquitous it has resulted in the creation of the globally recognized game, Buzzword Bingo? HR folks! Do me a favor, and just orient your new people on their first day in the office, ok? If you want to have a little fun, put a blindfold on them, spin them around and disorient them. But, for pete’s sake, don’t “orientate” them. That sounds like something you do to meat before you put it on the grill.

I do a lot of corporate business writing myself. I’ve had to do the marketing fight for several years now. Oh, sure, I could just play along and use “disincent” as a verb in a sentence as if it were an actual word, or as if the language would benefit from it becoming an actual word, but I don’t. In fact, I’ve taken it as my purpose to become Champion for the Real Word. Spokesman for Truth, Justice and the American Noun.

I build or create. I do not architect.
I motivate. I do not incent.
I show how a business grows, not how I grow a business.
I bring everyone to the same level. I do NOT – never, ever, ever – level set them.

I refuse to make every verb I type a bullet-point action verb as if I first learned how to write in a resume building class.

I sometimes talk about the cutting edge, the leading edge, and the bleeding edge because those terms are able to segue nicely into non-corporate sounding metaphors that I pepper throughout my writing. However, value chain, value proposition and core competency are all expressions that I invest a lot of time finding more illustrative replacements.

I do find myself having to partner with other service providers but it is against my will. I occasionally have no choice but to create Centers of Excellence and touch on Thought Leadership, but only because the concepts are so nearly vacuous that I could hardly be bothered coming up with better terms.

Finally, I concede the use of leverage as a verb, BUT ONLY because I know I can describe the physics behind the concept and point out that where you place the fulcrum is far more important to business efficiency than the amount of brute force applied at the pushing end.

So, you see, I do my part. It’s up to you to do yours, or you may find yourself repurposed, utilizing your skill set in a customer-focused manner that highlights your core competencies and allows you to work smarter, not harder as you take ownership of someone else’s bottom line.

Then you’ll really be “doing good.”

(sorry guys, this one is recycled, but it was begging to get out into the light of day again...)


Anonymous said...

'Tsokay. Still quality stuff. I don't remember happy, perky Tourette's. Is it new or am I getting senile? --Leisa

blurker gone bad said...

I had a friend in college who we teased for his use of “acrosst” and “anyways.” That would be "whom."


xiki said...

oooh. Mrow.

Ok, personal foul. I missed a "whom"... But, remember, "who you are has a great deal to do with how pissed off you will make me with your grammatical or vocabulary ignorance." As it happens, I like me, and I rarely piss myself off with my own ignorance. It turns out that I'm actually quite endearing...

xiki said...

oh, and, yeah, the "happy, perky Tourette's" was added when I rewrote the essay for the "how not to piss me off" series I was working on with Mike V. Some of the stuff I will recycle hasn't actually seen the light of day yet, unless you count rejection piles at an assortment of publishing houses and literary agents...