Our Flabby Language VIII

Picking up from where we left off in Monday’s post, more minor outrages from yours truly:

Résumé.”  When did that first diacritical mark (presumably, for emphasis) sneak into the word?  Everybody still pronounces it “Reh-zoo-MAY,” rather than “RAY-zoo-MAY,” yes?  The original is French in derivation, from the past participle of résumer, to summarize, in turn from Old French resumerto resume.  It appears that only here and among our neighbors to the north as a substitute for Curriculum Vitae.  Alors!

Same Exact” (and vice versa).  Dog puppy.  See also “actual fact,” “true facts,” and “substantially (or virtually) identical.”  Don’t forget “exact same” and its country cousin, “whole entire.”  Here’s a serviceable list of words that cannot be improved upon with an adjective, comparative or otherwise:


alone blind dead deadly empty everlasting fatal
final full mortal perfect pregnant round single
square straight supreme unique universal vertical wrong


Think about it.  “This glass is more full than that one” makes no sense; nor does “This glass is fuller than that one,” even though it sounds better.  It’s the definition that counts. Here’s a memory anchor: “little bit pregnant.”  Folks say, “more pregnant” when they mean “farther along” or “closer to delivery.”  In closing: “factual error.”  Say it.  Ponder it.  Repeat, as necessary.  Unless you mean “honest mistake,” either drop the adjective or substitute your choice: “lie” or, simply, “mistake.”  Lastly, and I quote: “very major.”

Scrum.”  I like rugby; actually, I prefer it over American football for several reasons.  For one, it originated in and is played and enjoyed by cultures other than ours.  For another, there’s no illusion that questionable body armor will make it safer for large people to run into each other at high velocity.  For a third, mass and aggressiveness are not prized above native athletic skills, like speed, strength, and cunning.  In the sport, this term refers to an ordered process by which the right to possession of the ball is settled.  Outside the sport—chiefly, across the pond—it denotes and confused and disorderly situation, like a mob.  In American politics and business, it means…neither, exactly.  Why bother, when any thesaurus brims with more understandable alternatives?

Sufferin’ suffixes!  Another form of obnoxious shorthand, especially among journalists (see “Islamist”), is to take a serviceable noun and add a suffix to create a label or category that is just as capable of misinterpretation as understanding.  “Abortionist” is particularly insidious. “Consumerist” for “consumer advocate,” for example, when the latter is already sloppy enough. (For that matter, when did materialism, hedonism, covetessness, or just plain old greed become “consumerism?”)  We in Sacramento are fortunate to have a political columnist who has ratcheted this practice up to “istas,” as in “Consumeristas.” He’s also responsible for “fictional propaganda”—as opposed to the true kind—and “public at large”—the public not yet in custody. Wow; may I bear your young?


Talking Point.  If you haven’t guessed already, I’m partial to words favored by dead Romans, so this one really makes my toga ride up.  A podium, like a dais, pulpit, or rostrum, is something you stand on or in to be seen and heard above the rabble – or, in the classic Greek Olympic idiom, to be celebrated (Note to Olympic Games dudes, dudettes, and hangers-on: No freakin’ way—podium ain’t a verb!).  A lectern is the thing on the table or raised-up other thing that holds the microphone and behind which you stand to peer at your outline or notes before and as you orate.  Vidi?

Tech-Drek.  It’s bad enough that technical terms and computerese are used in context, legitimately or not; must they be exported to the colloquial?  Corporate-speak is lousy with this stuff, because it seems impressive while being exquisitely vague.  “Parameters”—a perfectly fine and limited mathematical term—was the pioneer.  How, exactly, do you “calibrate” an intangible?  Lately, up has popped a sublimely annoying usage: “legacy,” used to refer to something that is older or out of fashion—as in, PanAm was a legacy airline, whereas Southwest is not.  (As nearly as I can tell, this is an ascription that’s borrowed from Taiwanese mainboard manufacturers, who refer to the BIOS toggle for the old-fashioned, off-board modem or game port as the “legacy.”)  How about this one? “Heirloom vegetables.”  Yikes.  “What’s that black, moldy, disgusting thing on the mantelpiece?”  “Oh, that. That’s the family carrot; grown and handed down by my great-grandfather.”  As if all recent corporate scandals haven’t demonstrated the perniciousness of MBA-ese. “I’ll calibrate your enterprise and think outside the box, if you raise my bar and expand my parameters.  Oh—and while you’re at it, please level my playing field and, if you’re not too tired, shift my paradigm.  Thanks.  Ta.”

The “ize” has it. “Prioritize” already sleeps in the middle of the tent, so I’ve let it go, reluctantly; but “incentivize?”  “Monetize?”  “Randomize?”  “Weaponize?” I’ve wasted whole mornings in the shower, waiting for my shampooed and conditioned hair to “volumize.”  (Senator Ted Kennedy at one time was fond of saying “circularize,” as in memoranda; nobody ever knew if he was kidding or had the nerve to ask.)  Tread carefully.

Unseasonable.”  The way I came up on pre- and suffixes, this means “incapable of being seasoned.”  The word you want, Sparky Q. Meteorologist, is “unseasonal,” when referring to atypical weather.  Clouds, after all, can be salted.

“Up” yours!  “Meet up.” “Join up.” “Partner up.”  “Let’s meet up; don’t forget your antigravity suit.”  (“Cowboy up,” “gear up,” and “lawyer up?” Let’s see that literary license. Hm. Warm, musically witty slang.  Okay—you’re free to go.)  Hey, the rest o’ you: Knock it up—off!

Verbal Abuse.  In the words of the contemporary social philosopher, Bucky T. Katt, “You can wordify anything; just verb it.”  Better not be standing too close to me when you “incent,” “intuit,” or “summit,” Robbo.  Thanks to our Olympic snowboarding commentators, podium is now a verb.  Dudes! (I’d better be out of the room when you “gift,” “task,” or “partner.”  Don’t even think about “disappearing” somebody.)  When did “egress” and “ingress” become substitutes for “leave” and “enter?”  (They’re nouns, folks, and still a poor synonym for “door” or “window.”)  Is “exit” a legitimate verb? (“Please exit through the exit.”)  I just heard somebody use “mediated” to mean reported on or broadcast.  Let’s not make this language any harder than it already is: “His craft is to craft crafty craft craftily.”

Willya stop, already?  Moving up on “you know,” “basically,” “at the end of the day,” and perhaps even “uh” is the calorie-free and totally disruptive “if you will.”  I might, but I’ll make up my own mind, thanks—and I certainly won’t if you use that phrase!

X-gaming.  There is no emptier modifier than “awesome” due to broad overuse, but “extreme” is moving up—denoting everything from one degree above ordinary to incomprehensibly dangerous.  In marketing terms it’s used to christen everything from pointless diversions designed only to sell automobiles, beer, or junk food on television, to low-end pickup trucks with a few risky looking ornaments added.  Can we possibly be this bored or unchallenged? Extremely.

You Guys.” The salutatory plague of the service industry, brought to you by seemingly every female under the age of, what, 35?  (Again, the condition may be more prevalent here on the Left Coast.)  It would be amusing, were it not so omnipresent, since for me at my most charitable it resurrects John “The Tooz” Matuszak as the cyclops “Sloth” in Goonies: “HeyyyyyooooGIIIIIIZE!”

Have a bone to pick with any of my piques, or any of your own you’d like to share with the class?  Feel free to leave a comment below.  (It’s great, cheap therapy.  Try it!)

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  1. Our Flabby Language VI (Redux) » E.G. Fabricant | E.G. Fabricant

    […] NOTE:  And, finally, another look at the sixth installment of Our Flabby Language.  (I posted the newer ones, VII and VIII, in September.  You can read them here and here.)–EGF […]

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