“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov
Think of Keep the Joint Running as Tinkerbell.
No, I’m not begging for applause. But I’ve been writing KJR or its predecessor, Infoworld’s “IS Survival Guide,” since 1996 … let’s see, carry the one … that’s 26 years.
This being the first column of 2022, I’m looking to know that enough people read these musings to make the effort of writing them worthwhile, or, if not, if it’s time to make 2022 my victory lap.
Tinkerbell needed applause. Applause is nice, but for my purposes a brief note in the Comments that you take the time to read KJR will do the job just fine.
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A topic that doesn’t matter to you as an IT leader but I just have to:
KJR hereby imposes a 15 yard penalty to Tampa Bay Buccaneers’s quarterback Tom Brady for, following his Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 9-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints, intentionally grounding a Microsoft Surface – the Official Tablet of the NFL! – in frustration.
Couldn’t he have just written a scathing Amazon review?
Speaking of bad writing (we weren’t, but good writing demands transitions), we’ve arrived at this week’s topic. In case you missed it, CNBC recently published “Want to sound more intelligent? Avoid these 15 words and phrases that are ‘embarrassingly outdated,’ say grammar experts,” (Kathy and Ross Petras, December 26, 2021).
Which leads to quibble #1: If they’re grammar experts, why are their opinions about lexicographic matters worth reading?
Quibble #2: The authors’ advice is what’s embarrassingly bad. It won’t make you sound more intelligent at all.
Which in turn might lead you to wonder why my opinions about their opinions are worth reading. But that way lies madness. On to the show. Here are their gripes and why they’re mostly well worth taking the time to ignore.
Bandwidth: The Petras siblings accept its use as a network capacity metric, but find its extension to expressions of human capacity limits annoying. KJR’s position: Its meaning is clear and metaphorically appropriate. While the measurement of human capacity isn’t as precise as measurements of network capacity, I lack the bandwidth to care very much about such a minor infraction.
End-user: The article recommends “customer” as a superior alternative. As the Petrases are grammarians it’s tempting to forgive their ignorance (see, for example, “Death to Internal Customers,” KJR, 10/20/2003).
But not tempting enough.
Granular: The issue isn’t, the article explains, that its use is incorrect, merely that it’s used a lot. We should, instead, replace it with “detailed.”
Which would, were we all to take this advice, result in “detailed” being over-used.
Note to the Petrases – English is the richer for having synonyms.
Hack: In actual use, “hack” has several meanings. It sometimes means to illegally penetrate a system’s defenses. It can also be more-or-less synonymous with “kludge.” Then there’s a third meaning – to figure out how to use something to solve a problem that its designers never intended or imagined.
The Petrases apparently aren’t aware of hack’s multiplicity of meanings, nor do they suggest an alternative. Speaking as the son of the Godfather of Gore … Hack On!
I did a thing: I’ve never heard anyone say this, nor have I read it anywhere. I agree that “thing” is too often a lazy alternative to choosing a more precise noun, just as “stuff” is for continuous items). But I’m not convinced “I did a thing” is even a thing.
It is what it is: For once the Petrases and I agree, although not necessarily for the same reason. Mine: If it isn’t then it isn’t. Or, just as bad, if something else is what it is, we need to rethink the Pauli Exclusion Principle.
Jab: Imported from British slang for “injection.” Apparently, Britishisms are okay … the Petrases refer to the Atlantic Ocean as “the pond,” after all. The Petrases don’t make clear why, or even whether our having added this synonym is a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing.
The new normal: And I quote, “… normal is always changing, so ‘the new normal’ doesn’t say much.” Say what? Look, kids, some changes stabilize. Others are ephemeral. Those that stabilize didn’t used to be normal, but now they are – they are new normals. The rest weren’t and still aren’t.
Pivot: And I quote: “Pivoting means shifting direction in a major way.” This isn’t what “pivot” means. The dictionary definition is, “The action of turning around a point: the action of pivoting.”
So “pivot” is one way among many to change direction. It says nothing about the magnitude of the change. This is one reason grammarians shouldn’t pose as lexicographers.
Take it offline: Another phrase that’s defined incorrectly. According to the Petrases it means talking about it later. According to every time I’ve ever heard it used, it actually means talking about the subject privately.
Thought leader: Yet another incorrect definition. The Petrases think “thought leader” is synonymous with “leader. KJR’s readers know the correct definition of leader is that people are following, not that someone promotes thoughts others find useful. Speaking as an industry thought leader: Pthlhthhthhp!
We remain cautious: And I quote: “Of course you’re being cautious; we’d hope so!” This suggests there’s no room in the world for being bold.
WFH: Supposedly, this started as a useful acronym. WTF?
Zooming: At least they acknowledge that “Google” has been verbed. Also, they don’t suggest a superior alternative.
Bob’s last word: Yes, there’s some irony in the originator of ManagementSpeak endorsing these 15 words and phrases. But scanning them, I don’t see any that are guilty of euphemism and obfuscation. Speaking of which, I’m always on the lookout for more ManagementSpeaks, so when you hear or read one, please send it in.
Bob’s sales pitch: I have a new CIO.com column I think you’ll enjoy: 11 lies CIOs will tell themselves in 2022.