Monday, May 14, 2018

Monday Forum - the use and abuse of language

From time to time here we have talked about the use and abuse of words. Today's forum follows this up with an example that I am finding especially annoying at the moment, the abuse of the imperative.

It's being creeping into official documents for some time now with an almost mandated requirement. that things be expressed in positive terms. Say that your target is to create 2,000 affordable houses in ten years. You now have to say that in 10 years we will have created 2,000 affordable houses. Then you have a number of steps that you propose to carry out to achieve that target. You put those in imperative terms. To this end, we must....., industry must, the community must. .

Now you have yourself locked in terms of primary target and intermediate steps expressed in terms of absolutes. But what happens if that primary target cannot be achieved, or the intermediate steps actually won't deliver the results? What happens if you cannot guarantee that no child will live in poverty by a due date or a particular element of Aboriginal disadvantage cannot in fact be overcome in the desired time horizon?  

A strange variant of this type of approach has crept into broader English. Say you disagree with something .that Mr Turnbull is doing. You say, Mr Turnbull must resign.But this is silly.You have no control over Mr Turnbull. You really mean that in your view Mr Turnbull should resign.

With all this as background,  what are your present pet hates about the use and abuse of language,  words or phrases? As always, go in whatever direction you want even if it has nothing to do with the topic!

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