Choice of Words is a Choice of Worlds

"The difference between the right word, and the almost right word, is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug." -- Mark Twain

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Donor Power Blog and Adcouver have declared war on meaningless words and I've enlisted to fight.  Nothing bugs me more than seeing nonprofits use dry, vague and eviscerate language to talk about themselves.  Heaven forbid they should take a stand or piss off or exclude someone.

But think about it: what cause has succeeded that hasn't mobilized powerful, concrete and, yes, offensive language to effect change?

Were the British driven back across the Atlantic by polite conversation?  Did statistics capture the horrors of slavery.  Did Winston Churchill inspire a nation with "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets....we shall never surrender" when he should have said "we will engage the enemy until they stop."?  Did Martin Luther King have a "dream" or was it just an "idea"?

Don't like historical examples?  Let's talk pop culture. recently interviewed the CEO of  Abercrombie & Fitch (okay, so he's a bonafide fruit loop but he runs one of the most successful retailers on the planet.).

'We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody, either.'

What words don't excite me?

  • "Safety-net."  Circus-talk to describe a place that saves people who would otherwise die.  Used everywhere except at the circus where they work without one.
  • "Disadvantaged."  Rich kids use it to describe kids who can't afford private school.  But to most people it means something else: Poor.
  • "Economically-challenged."  Ditto.
  • "Underserved."  No clue on the real meaning.  But my brother uses it to explain why he didn't leave a bar drunk. 
  • "Health outcome."  A "postive health outcome" means you "lived".  A "negative health outcome" means you didn't.
  • "Mission critical."  Eh, do you mean like "important", dude?

What's your favorite meaningless word?  Oh, please pardon me.  My female offspring needs me to retrieve her comfort animal before she enters REM stage rest.  (Translation: Gotta go.  My little girl wants me to get her teddy so she can go to sleep.). 

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