Rewriting English at Work

I’ve worked a wide variety of jobs in my time, throughout college, grad school, and beyond, having had blue- and white-collar jobs. Throughout my time, I’ve been irked by what seems to be a conscious effort to bend the English language in unnecessary ways for the sake of exclusivity.

Having a science education, I know every field of study has its own specialized jargon, but it’s done with entirely new words that have been coined to describe new concepts. Why is there an organizational push to rewrite English for something where there’s a perfectly good vocabulary already in use?

Most of the examples that I have to draw from are in the world of business, and I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Attack of the Zombie Copy on A List Apart points out the inanity of most advertising copy for technical products. A company neither offers products, nor performs services, but has “Solutions”. Companies do not use, utilize, take advantage of, or plain ol’ exploit practical know-how—they “leverage”. The to-do list and the agenda have gone the way of “task lists” and “action items”.

The shift in mindset and vocabulary to work in a modern white-collar job is something alien to me, as there was no preparation for it in my science-heavy education, nor do I have the inclination or perversity to further seek out its origins. Could this have started as some business-school fad that virally spread out to other business schools, yet contained within their walls?

Even at Domino’s, I could tell there was a recent change of guard in the leadership when “Safe Driver” was dropped in favor of “Delivery Expert”. Along with branding changes, I view this is a trick that new C*Os use to show that they’re making concrete progress in their goals, and laying the foundations of their empire.

Edit 2009.01.16: grammar fix