Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Committing Word Crime

This article originally appeared in MediaPost on November 10, 2010
Perhaps it's a little early for the annual Best Of/Worst Of lists, or a look back over the year just squandered. But why wait until December or even January to protest the overuse and abuse of words whose meanings have been diluted and diffused with every re-churned blog post, hash tag, social media release or hyperbole-laden marketing/PR piece?

Don't get me wrong, I love a good metaphor as much as the next writer, but can we push the envelope just a bit farther? Yes, it seems we can and so I would like to propose a collaborative effort with MediaPost readers to create an extensive list of the most meaningless words of 2010.

Following is my "starter-kit" of most meaningless word usage this year - your comments and additions are welcomed.

1. Leading
Add "thought leader" into this mix. Firstly, who decides this? Is there a contest? And who is on the panel? At least "4 out of five dentists" leaves room for discourse. Until there are legal ramifications for falsely claiming "leader," it is quite meaningless and nobody is fooled (for long).

I propose to replace this with thought-trailers; those who pick up the crumbs of the thought-leaders and do something useful with them. I also call it the "Hansel and Gretel method of creativity."

2. Social media
Although it's a useful "platform" (see #7) can we please stop talking about it now? Even my 87-year-old granny in Bulgaria has a profile, so cut it out. Now, show me the companies that are managing their social media presence in a meaningful, measurable and profound way, then we'll talk. In the words of my hero Anthony Bourdain, "Social Media This!"

Which brings us to ...

3. Strategic
Whose meaning is generally not stretched. Its usage does adhere to the literal definition, but like solution, it has meandered into the buzzword arena and through sheer overuse fails to instill confidence. To a word-weary customer, it could well flip on the trickery switch. Use sparingly.

4. Cutting-edge
Everything is cutting-edge, stop insulting our intelligence.

5. Offline
Simply put, this means "in reality." This becomes confusing to those of us who spend so much time here online (where the really interesting things happen.) The other day I had the pleasure of being driven as opposed to driving, and so could enjoy the scenery. Gazing out the window, I marveled at how three -- dimensional the clouds looked - until the driver kindly pointed out that they appeared that way because they actually were three dimensional -- in reality. I should be driven more often, it's enlightening.

6. Apps
More lazy nomenclature. MIS-apps? Per-apps? ...Apples? What's 3 more syllables in the great scheme of things? Find the time folks, find the time.

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