Junk English

Roy Edroso shares some examples of “junk English”, picked up at a release party for Ken Smith‘s Junk English 2, the sequel to Junk English. The examples include:

Comfort Words. Nebulous nouns — factor, function, status, system, and their kind — when used to modify already abstract nouns that need no modification, are like hot fudge poured over fudge-flavored ice cream. [e.g.] business entity = business… cost factor = cost… crisis scenario = crisis… weather conditions = weather…

Here’s another example from the first book:

Artificial Vocabulary. Everyone wants to sound smart, and many people seem to think the way to do that is to say ordinary things in extraordinary ways. An evening-news analyst thus speaks of a paradigm instead of a model, and a columnist writes of recontextualization rather than rethinking.

Although pretentiousness is usually offensive, sometimes something about a new word is appealing. When we hear someone say mandate instead of goal, or read in our morning paper of a procedure instead of a task, we may like the way it sounds and remember it, and the next time an opportunity arises to use it, we do. This is the viral nature of language in action.

There is nothing inherently wrong with polysyllabic or unusual words, as long as they are used correctly and appropriately. A word such as interstitial was not invented to impress but to convey a specific meaning, and those who breezily drop it into a sentence when all they mean to say is filler only call attention to their pretentiousness.

Popular artificial vocabulary includes marginalize for weaken, expeditiously for quickly, a plethora of for many, gestalt for whole, persona for image, myopic for shortsighted, holistic for complete, dichotomy for difference, visage for face. Words such as virtually, aggregate, advocate, and documentation have become so commonplace that one no longer even notices how they have usurped almost, gather, urge, and paperwork.

In a sense, the system we have designed to deal with offenders is among the most iatrogenic in history.

Some argue that the way Clinton left office has made the Bush presidency seem even more rectitudinous by contrast.

The software has opacity built into its codes.

The weather, dreary and gray, seemed a fitting denouement to this election year.

You will be invited to Oxford University for advanced tutelage.

Acting is not only about replicating life.

The President reavowed, with profound unction, that he shared “an ultimate dream” with the caucus members.

Link courtesy of Mr. Maud.


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