Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Outcomes - a hated word

On 1 May - May Day, although I did think about it at the time - I carried a post expressing my hatred of the misuse of the word outcomes.

Independently, Lexcen has expressed his dislike on the extension of all this to the phrase "meaningful outcomes". I can only agree with him.

To me, sloppy language means sloppy thinking.

Many years ago in the weeks before I went across from Treasury to the then Department of Industry and Commerce as a second division officer, I received copies of all Branch correspondence. I noticed that all minutes to the Minister were in dot dash format. This was done at the Minister's request. They seemed fine, so I made no comment.

When I got there, I found that this truncated form concealed analytical problems. Thereafter I refused to use the dot dash form. Every minute had to be written in proper English form.

Would I get away with this today? Probably not. Things have become much more rigid. But at the time I did, to the benefit of the minister.


Lexcen said...

Jim, I first came across this in a book by Joan Didion, I think it was Slouching Towards Bethlehem. It's not so much "sloppy thinking" as the inability to think when language is abandoned for catchy phrases. The ability to have abstract thoughts is based upon a working knowledge of language and a reasonable vocabulary. Without these tools we are not capable of reason. Without language we cannot think.

Jim Belshaw said...

Lexcen, this may sound very odd, but I was just thinking of you as I started cooking tea. I am now waiting for stage one to finish before starting stage two.

I revisited your post tonight after I got home.

I agree that good abstract thought is based on knowledge of language. I suppose that this is part of my complaint.