Larry King
Books

Texts

Larry King about trendy language

IT'S IN How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere by Larry King: "Mark Twain, who knew as much about talking as he did about the humans who do it, wrote, 'The difference between the almost-right word and the right word is really a large matter — it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.'

"Remember that the right word — the one instantly recognised and understood by your listener — is most often a simple word. For some reason there's a natural human tendency to throw in a new buzzword, or a recently popularised word, to make our speech sound more up-to-date.

"With the speech and retch of modern communications, new words and usages spread rapidly across the country. Unfortunately some of these new words don't do anything to improve our ability to communicate.

... 'Impact' and 'access' used to be only nouns, but now they are verbs, too, as in 'to impact the situation.' A plain old word, 'affect,' would work just as well or better.

"We also reverse the process, turning verbs into nouns, as in 'commute.' We used to say, 'I commute to work by car.' Now we say, 'My commute is by car.'

"We've been using computer jargon, like asking people for their 'input,' for years. Then people started 'interfacing,' which was a jargonised way of saying 'discussing' or 'talking with.'

And any time we have an earthquake or a devastating storm, we are told of the damage to the 'infrastructure,' although the officials using that word would get their point across a whole lot better if they took the trouble of saying something everybody understands, like 'water, sewer, and highway facilities.'

"Such computer talk is a reflection of life in the 1990s, but it isn't the only culprit in inhibiting our ability to talk clearly and effectively. The human ego gets in our way, too.

"People seem to think that bigger words make their subject, and themselves, more important. People today 'perceive' things instead of 'viewing' or 'seeing' them. Some are not satisfied with saying merely that people or things are equal: they say they are 'coequal.' If something is equal, what is coequal?

"Others 'utilise' things instead of 'using' them. One of the most succinct commentaries I've come across for encouraging plain talk came from an executive who told his staff, 'Don't utilise utilise. Use use.'

"I try to avoid pompous language. Some people use it as an oral status symbol to impress others. Others use it because they've simply forgotten how to talk in simple, clear, everyday terms. You will be far better off, because you'll be better received and better understood, if you avoid 'trendy talk.'

"To say that you're getting input that will enable you to impact the situation may sound really 'with it' to you, but you'll be more successful if you say it in English that your listeners — all of them, not just the computer types — will understand.

"In addition to inflated words, our age of instant mass communication spawns a constant flood of fashionable words and catchphrases (e.g. 'No way'; 'I kid you not'; 'telling it like it is'; 'Read my lips'). This trendy talk is spawned by fads, events, and personalities. Words and phrases born out of trendy talk become instant cliches.

"Sometimes using one of these catchphrases will help you make a connection with someone you're talking to, but doing it often makes you sound unoriginal, as though you can't think up your own expressions. And nothing is worse than using yesterday's catchphrases."

BUT, I DON'T GIVE A HOOT!

Found in the "Bangkok Post", 4 May 1996

Blason
Home
livres
Texts
Retour
Language