“Two nations divided by a common language.”

17 May 2011
Winston's Churchill's pithy summary of Anglo-US linguistic relations is as valid today as ever. The following isn't a criticism of Americans (I like them so much I married one). But I think management-speak - all too common at all conferences - goes to a whole new level in the US. The examples are endless. A perfectly good word can have been around for hundreds of years, minding its own business, having a universally understood definition. Then wham. Somebody starts using it  - or even worse mangling it and using it - and before we know it everybody is (mis)using it. Poor old "leverage" for instance. For decades, centuries, it was a noun which meant – well, we all know what it meant (still means). But now everybody is "leveraging this" and "leveraging that". Why does this happen, I wonder? It doesn't help clarity, or precision. Perhaps the user feels good about their new pet neologism. Recently "granules" joined the party, or was press-ganged into it. No longer little lumps of coffee, but anything requiring analysis has to have "granularity". Aside from being an ugly sounding word, where did it come from? The latest appears to be "incent" which, I suspect isn't a real word at all. It is being used in place of "provide an incentive" or "incentivise", the latter of which isn't much better. I heard incent about 20 times in presentations yesterday at the ISM annual conference here in Orlando. How long before it joins the harrowed ranks of over-used terms in the UK too?
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