Grandma\’s Tales

March 9, 2007

Grammar – 30 What’s wrong with simple language?

Filed under: Language — Rajesh @ 10:05 pm

From time to time, individuals and organisations bubble up asking for “simple” English. Though it is difficult to define “simple” English, these enthusiasts give us examples to show what is not. According to “language simplifiers”, the ‘legal way of writing’ (heh, heh, I love that!) or ‘legalese’ is the worst in convoluted, meant-to-obfuscate writing. They want it banned. Cut out the ‘whereases’ and ‘parties of the second part’, they say.
While legal documents are still written in stiff language, the problem has been compounded by the introduction of buzzwords and phrases in IT. The minute you join the IT sector, you see this transformation in your speech. It is like Cinderella spinning into a beauty queen, the ugly professor transforming into the debonair gentleman in evening clothes. And like these characters, the IT lingo has acquired an air of mystery. People outside the sector just can’t follow it, and those inside use it without really understanding the words and phrases. Here is an example.
“Let us dimensionalize your value proposition and then leverage our synergies to operationalize a disruptive portfolio for sustainable global competitive advantage.”
I’d love to meet the people who coin these words. Are there departments doing just this? “Bob, here’s the next lot. Please read what’s appearing on your desktop, convert and revert. Tks.”
I asked a Professor of English what that sentence meant. “Six months,” he joked. Hey, they are English words! He said, “Let’s see… “dimensionalise? ‘Dimension’ means … just when did the word become a verb?” Quite.
Here is a riddle. Guess what this company makes?
A global leader in pressure-sensitive technology and innovative self-adhesive solutions for consumer products and label materials.”
Another one: “A personalised eco-unit maintenence tool.”
Why do we write English, to understand which we need a key? One HR executive told me it was done purposely to confuse employees. But why?
Finally, this.The sentence is a classic example of addiction to computer lingo. It’s fun, actually.
...as you are from IT industry, always you can’t be like read-only file format then you will be thrown like access denied message…So manage your code as updatable query and allow the external script to format …

Care to translate the sentences in italics?

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10 Comments »

  1. Nice blog I will recommend you to all my friends. Thank you.

    Comment by Jerrold Albert — March 10, 2007 @ 1:36 am | Reply

  2. This blog is really superb!!! Thank you for you work! Good Luck

    Comment by Blanche Watkins — March 10, 2007 @ 3:22 am | Reply

  3. Thanks, Jerrold. Thanks, Blanche. Want to start a conversation on buzzwords? And what is this about 1:36 am and 3:22 am? When do you guys sleep?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — March 10, 2007 @ 10:17 am | Reply

  4. Geeta Padmanabhan, Those two are machine generated comments also known as spam :-). Blogs run on wordpress.com are prone to such attacks. Use comment moderation.

    Comment by Prakash — March 10, 2007 @ 11:21 am | Reply

  5. First you get irritated, then you laugh, finally you play bullshit bingo http://www.bullshitbingo.net/cards/bullshit/

    We code coolies have figured out best practices to avoid getting swamped by the alphabet soup ;-D

    Comment by BNB — March 10, 2007 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

  6. he he … I am an IT nut too … but I don’t write this bad (as in convoluted). The sentence you mentioned, which started with the words “Lets dimensionalize “, sound more like spoken by nandan nilakani or one of peers in competetion.

    It would be fun watching these guys battle it out on a verbiage contest ;)).

    ** “A global leader in pressure-sensitive technology and innovative self-adhesive solutions for consumer products and label materials.”

    Fevicol??

    ** “A personalised eco-unit maintenence tool.”

    Air-conditioner / purifier?

    ** as you are from IT industry, always you can’t be like read-only file format then you will be thrown like access denied message…So manage your code as updatable query and allow the external script to format

    I am stumped … any clues 😕

    Comment by samy — March 10, 2007 @ 11:01 pm | Reply

  7. Hi Prakash, thanks. Sigh! Oh, yes, I do moderate. But is there any way I can stop them, I mean install the kind of spamguard I have for the inbox?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — March 10, 2007 @ 11:06 pm | Reply

  8. Hi BNB, thanks for stopping by. “Code coolies” have best practices for “avoiding” the alphabet soup, but what are the best practices for “understanding” them? A new IT lingo dictionary?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — March 10, 2007 @ 11:10 pm | Reply

  9. Samy, mmm..I’m not sure if you’re the victim or the perp! I got the “dimensionalise” sentence from a promo on a web site. Great, isn’t it? I guess Fevicol would do, but this one was for stickers. “Eco-unit” is a garden, so the tool is a spade. We no longer call a spade a spade, do we? 🙂 And for the last one, yeah, that’s exactly my point. This was in my e-mail. What the guy meant was “Be alert, don’t allow people to ignore you. Upgrade your information and let people change their behaviour if they want to deal with you.” It’s interesting because here the guy is speaking about life in computer vocabulary. Scratch him, you may find chips in his vein. And you know what chips I mean.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — March 10, 2007 @ 11:19 pm | Reply

  10. Geeta P, I forgot to add that pathetic attempts at tongue in cheek humour are all the rage among desi bloggers these days. I thought the smiley in the previous post would be sufficient, apparently it’s not – so here’s the overused smiley again 😀

    Comment by BNB — March 11, 2007 @ 1:25 am | Reply


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