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TorgoX (1933)


"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Monday May 20, 2002
03:45 PM

Junk English

[ #5100 ]
Dear Log,

Here's an interesting book that I saw talked up by its author on BookTV the other day: Junk English . In theory, it sounds like all of it can be reduced to "say it in a few simple words, and don't use shill-talk". But the book actually works through phrases and formulations that you should not use: don't say "the thought process" when you can say just "thinking", don't say "on a daily basis" when you can say just "every day", etc.

Notably, the author independently arrives at something I've complaining about for years: "issue" when used as a twee synonym for "problem", as in telling your network admin that you're having "bandwidth issues" instead of "bandwidth problems". My standard line on this is: "Whether mankind has free will is an issue. If it's something that doesn't work, it's a problem."

An interesting possibility here is programming word-processors to catch a lot of these things, since so many of them are set phrases that you almost never actually want; and other things from the book are sort of "red flag" words that are often (but not always) abused: "process", "issue", "unique", "revolutionary", "visionary", etc. Other things are a bit harder to get a computer to see -- like to know that "broad overview" is redundant.

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  • Ha! I saw the same thing. I was contemplating having him at OSCON as an interesting diversion, but he didn't seem entirely comfortable speaking. Perhaps it was the cameras.

    He had great examples of horrendous twisting of the language: "concretize" was the one that stuck with me. His point wasn't just that these sorts of neologisms are ugly, but that they're deliberately designed by advertisers, PR lackeys, and politicos to conceal the truth and inflate.

    An interesting twist on the same would be a "How

  • I'm no big fan of "utilize", as it's nearly always clearer as "use". My big peeve lately is "methodology". Supposing we were to study ways of developing software, would we call it "methodologyology"?

  • ... the other Perl programmer at work keeps telling me that I have "issues." :)

    J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers
  • George Orwell wrote a good essay on this, Politics and the English Language [], two bits of which I liked in particular:

    It is easier -- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say "In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that" than to say "I think".

    And this set of rules for writing well:

    1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    2. Never us a long word where a short one will do.
    3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    4. N