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Friday, August 16, 2013

MORE GOBBLEDYGOOK

BRYCE ON OUR LANGUAGE

- I hear America talking.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I have always found the English language rather interesting, particular the words we use as well as the ones we do not in our vernacular; (see "Gobbledygook").

For example, I recently noticed there are several words banned as part of our political correctness, such as the "F" word, the "N" word, the "C" word, the "R" word, and the "Q" word. Such words are considered verboten, particularly by the press, but I don't think they'll be happy until we use the rest of the alphabet. Maybe they should just call them "X" words to denote their rating. Words such as "Homosexual" and "Negro" are still valid words and can be found in the various dictionaries, but people generally refrain from using them. We don't seem to have a problem saying "heterosexual" but balk at the use of "homosexual," fearing it might offend people. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, the word "Negro" denotes "black" in the Spanish and Portuguese languages and is still occasionally used.

Technical words tend to pop-up in our language, primarily for advertising purposes. A classic example of this is the old Sohio "Iceguard" commercial where the announcer claimed "No fuel line freeze-ups or Sohio pays the tow." Sohio was the Standard Oil affiliate in Ohio years ago. Theoretically, "Iceguard" was an additive which protected the fuel from freezing during harsh winter conditions. It sounded good, but I always wondered about its validity as gasoline freezes around -97F. Interestingly, I never heard of anyone suffering from fuel line freeze-ups in the many years I lived up north. Maybe they all used "Iceguard."

Certs breath mint, which included a drop of "Retsyn," a trademarked name for a mixture of copper gluconate, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and flavoring. Whether "Retsyn" worked or not is immaterial, consumers flocked to the product simply because "Retsyn" sounded scientific.
There are many other examples of such hyperbole:

* BP touts its "Invigorate" gas additive, a nitrogen enriched gasoline that claims to clean your engine thereby making your car more fuel efficient.

* Chevron likewise offers "Techron," a patented fuel additive consisting of gasoline mixed with polyetheramine for fuel cleanliness.

* Ford is now offering "EcoBoost," representing a family of turbocharged, direct injected engines designed for better fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse emissions.

* Smith & Nephew offers "Verilast" Technology which is a combination of materials used in the manufacture of artificial knees to make them last longer.

All of these words eventually work their way into our vernacular. The words are designed to leave positive impressions in the minds of consumers. In terms of their validity though, they somehow remind me of the old commercial slogan for PF Flyers which features the "Magic Wedge" in the heel of the shoe allowing you to, "Run your fastest and jump your highest." Of course, I suspect we ran just as fast and jumped just as high in our other shoes.

In another area, it seems former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner has single-handily popularized the word "sexting" which is a merger of the words "sex" and "texting" as used in communicating via smart phones. Basically, it replaced phone sex as used in the 20th century. The "texting" portion of the word is a bit of a misnomer as text, graphics, video, and audio can all be transmitted to turn people on. I guess calling it "SmartSex" would be an oxymoron.

On television we are now being told to send Internet messages using Twitter addresses starting with the "Hash Tag" (#). I'm not sure where this expression comes from but I suspect it has to do with programmers who do not exactly possess a working knowledge of the English language. The correct expression is "Hash Mark" as it has been used for at least 100 years. I suspect the term "Tag" was derived from the Hyper Text Programming Language which involves a series of "tags" to produce a web page.

As a baseball fan, I've noticed some words slipping into the description of the game over the last few years:

"Wheelhouse" - historically, this has referred to the pilothouse of a steam boat. What this has to do with the sweet spot of a baseball player's strike zone is still a mystery to me, yet it is commonly used by announcers today.

A "Walk-Off" home run is now commonly used to describe a hit which wins the game for a team. I guess something like a "game winning" home run is considered passé.

That reminds me, I've noticed a lot of television and radio commercials where someone says something like, "You do this, then you do that and WALLA, there you have it." It's bad enough we murder the English language, now we're doing it to the French. It's not "Walla," it is "VoilĂ ." Don't forget the "V."

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  MY SUMMER VACATION - And its effect on me mentally and physically.

LAST TIME:  PERSONAL PECCADILLOES - Why we behave the way we do under close quarters.

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