I received a notification from a trade association that reminded me precisely how linguistically bereft, if not spiritually desiccated, we’ve become. With offending identifiers deleted to keep my sorry keister out of the hoosegow, it said this:
Submissions can be made by downloading the submission form and submitting it via email to [email address here], or sending it in via physical mail to [postal address for Association World Headquarters here].
Why would someone with a legitimate choice prefer physical mail to metaphysical mail? Think about it. If we’re all on the same otherworldly wavelength, wouldn’t it preferable — better, faster, cheaper — to communicate at a purely spiritual level?
And what happened to the language, our appreciation for it, our usage of it, and our heretofore dearly held determination not to pervert and trivialize it? Back here on planet Earth, things tend to be significantly more palpable, if not physical, than they are in the ethereality of metaphysics. And the damage being inflicted on verbal expression is downright tangible.
In addition to physical mail, we have physical buildings (“Do you have a physical office?”), physical meetings (“Will Casper the Friendly Ghost be there physically?”), physical conversation (“Will you tell him that physically or verbally?”), and physically misplaced prepositions (“Where are you physically located at?”).
How did this happen? When did we stop listening to each other? Why did we stop paying attention to the language? When and why did we get so lazy — and so willing to adopt nonsensically idiomatic expressions to the extent that, beyond popular, they become intrinsic parts of the everyday lexicon?
If there’s any consolation in this malaise of inane Corporate Speak and fluent gibberish, it may be that we’re not alone in recognizing its deleterious effects on everything from interpersonal communication to corporate morale. At the very least, we’re in the seemingly good company of Adam Vaccaro, the ostensible founder of this parodic website; although, he appears to favor the nom de plume, Steele Alfonso Champion.
Like the Bullshit Generator and the Plain English Campaign before it, Adam’s site aims to call attention to our increasing apathy toward accepting — if not embracing — vapidity and blather. And Adam published this article, which constitutes a general dressing down of our affinity for deliberate, euphemistic imprecision and cites a few of the terms most offensive to Adam’s sense of dialectical decorum. To wit:
I remember one of my corporate clients pulling me aside to explain their unspoken policy of replacing horrible words like weakness and challenges with “opportunity.” So instead of saying things like, “Your on-boarding process is weak in these areas,” I should say, “Your on-boarding process has a few opportunity areas.” And here I thought we were communicating with adults.
We’ve been on this slippery slope of surrendering meaning before. But we seem to be no hurry to get off. Given what we’re doing to language, some of us would prefer metaphysical states to getting physical.
By DemonDeLuxe (Dominique Toussaint) (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.