The Age Of Ize
November 3rd, 2011
I fear that we’ve forgotten how to talk to each other, substituting the phony, forced language of board rooms and meeting rooms for honest and open discourse, accepting the abbreviated, misspelled, misused and often misguided babble of the ether as writing, allowing long worn out metaphors to be as common in sentences as periods.
It’s getting so bad it might be funny, but I fear we’re losing our sense of humor, too.
And that is no laughing matter.
As published in The Daily News, November 4, 2011, and in The Memphis News, November 5-11, 2011
THE IZING OF AMERICA
He stood on a board above a pool in 1936 and on a hill above Paul Newman in 1967, and both times, he nailed it.
Strother Martin’s dive won the National Springboard Diving Junior Championship and entered the record book, and his immortal line from Cool Hand Luke identified our problem then and now and entered the national lexicon.
“What we’ve got here is…failure to communicate.”
Corporate-speak still uses fifty-cent words and tired old clichés to mask nickel thoughts and lack of originality. Just go to a meeting or read what passes for a business letter. But now the Supreme Court has declared the corporation to be a person, and the way that corporations speak is bleeding into and all over the way that real people do. We’re inventing and/or employing words in everyday application to sound important and/or sensitive, creating language to mask our inability to use the one we have.
We don’t call or contact or get in touch or ask anybody anymore, we reach out. We don’t talk, we share. We don’t send, we message, and we email, post, tweet, text, link, conference and stream, more concerned about the means than the message.
And we’re izing up a storm. For instance, rank has been replaced by prioritize, a perfectly good word of four letters replaced by an invented, self-important, pretentious one formed from ten. If we can monetize something rather than just value it, bank on it. If can verbalize instead of say, you’ll hear it that way. If we can calendarize instead of schedule, plan on it. We even bastardize existing ize, concretizing instead of finalizing, systemizing instead of organizing.
Bottom line, net net, at the end of the day, following the final cliché – we’re taking one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn – in one of the few countries if not the only country requiring the teaching of its language at every level from pre-school to college – and making it more difficult still. While we’re at it, we’re removing much of its warmth and natural charm and transplanting malaprop-laden bromides and cold and unnatural bovine obfuscation.
As Strother himself said in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, every time his character spit tobacco juice and successfully cleared his beard, “Bingo.”
While it seems that punctuation is thought of as those holes in saltshakers and grammar as the cracker base for s’mores, that’s not what I’m talking about. I know I use sentence fragments. A lot. Really.
I’m talking about clear communication, and here’s a fine example, posted by my daughter on Facebook right after, obviously, a corporate meeting.
“Today’s lesson is idioms. You flush out a toilet or an ear canal. You FLESH out an idea. You hone a skill or a knife. You HOME IN ON a particular item (as in homing pigeon). Things that come down the pipe are probably gross. Things that are coming down the PIKE are upcoming events.”
I’m a Memphian, and let’s be clear.