Los Osos, Calif.
Why is it in conversation with one’s horse or one’s dog we use simple, one syllable words like “come,” “sit” or “speak?” But when we talk to fellow human beings we feel compelled to use multi-syllable idioms, formal appellation, extended discourse, locution and palaver that none of us understand? (Like I just did).
For example, on a delayed plane trip recently we were offered “a complimentary beverage service.” We’d have been just as thrilled if the stewardess had simply said, “Free drinks!” When the plane ride got so bumpy my “complimentary beverage” spilled itself in my lap the pilot said that we were experiencing “some minor turbulence.” Maybe he was… I was being tossed around like a salad and wasn’t enjoying the unruly and violent tempestuousness one bit.
It’s not just those folks with their heads in the air who use big words… it is all of us. On the plane that day I read a realtor magazine that had been left behind by the previous occupant of my seat. It urged realtors to watch their language. Instead of using the word “commission” realtors were urged to refer to their share as a “professional fee.” It seems that the word “price” is a real no-no and the words “total investment” can make a $5,000 per month mortgage payment sound much better.
Bloated bureaucrats also use bloated words. A recent Congressional report on the defense budget seemed to be written in code. Dead people were referred to as “collateral damage,” bullets were “kinetic energy penetrators,” an invasion was a “pre-dawn vertical insertion” and a bomb was referred to as a “Peacemaker.” That to me is a counterfactual proposal (bald-faced lie).
Recently my wife received a post card in the mail from her doctor advising her that it was time for her “comprehensive physiological and multiphasic health screening.” I guess that makes it easier for the doctor to charge $500 an hour. When she climbed the vertical access facility (stairs) to the doctor’s office she found that the furniture had been removed to facilitate “office landscaping.” And they weren’t just talking about the placement of plants.
I would have thought that the plain speaking livestock industry would have avoided such snobbishness but just the other day I heard a slaughterhouse referred to as a “destructuring facility.” I suppose it was for upwardly mobile bovines.
I shouldn’t cast stones, after all, the writing profession seems to control the market on gobbledygook. I was asked recently by a magazine to “generate some text for text processing analysis.” I wonder if it pays the same as just plain writing?
There are reasons why people use fat words when skinny ones would do. It makes them feel superior and is much more profitable. You wouldn’t think of paying $15 for a plate of noodles but call it “fettucine” and it sounds like a “total investment.” The same is true with coffee, which I have never liked. I tried to tell this to a friend recently, explaining that I didn’t really like the taste of coffee.
“Ah, but this is not coffee,” he said with a snobbish tone. “This is cappuccino.”
So I took a sip, savored the unique nutty taste and then spit it out. It tasted just like coffee to me.
In talking or writing I always try to remember just one rudimentary principle. It is “KISS.” It stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid.” ❖
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