Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another word that should exist, but doesn't


After all, if one can derive 'churl' from 'churlish' (although, in etymological terms, I suspect 'churl' came first), it seems quite reasonable to create 'surl' from 'surly'. We are, sadly, all too familiar with the ill-tempered, overbearing unfriendliness that is 'surliness'; but it would, I feel, sometimes be handy to be able to use a related noun to denote an individual piece of behaviour, or utterance or gesture, which encapsulates or communicates this attitude.

, it is. As in 'Service with a surl'. Enormously useful.

On the other hand, there are some words which have been needlessly spawned and are rapidly gaining unmerited currency, acceptance. 'Standee' got my goat the last time I was in England - it is supposed to mean 'a person standing', and is used on the safety notices on public buses listing the maximum occupancy. It seems to me that, if it means anything at all, it ought to mean 'a person or thing that has been made to stand in a place (by some unnamed external agency)', and therefore should not be applied to people who just happen to be standing somewhere.

I suppose there might perhaps be a useful compound form of this to be derived from the phrasal verb 'stand up': the victim of a cancelled assignation could be a 'standee-up'. Then again, perhaps not. The word just doesn't sound good, dammit - there's no music in it.

I can see where the impulse to create the word came from, at least. Those notices on buses are rife with potential hazards. For example, you can't really list the maximum number of seated passengers thus: Capacity - 32 persons (not with standing)

But enough of this silliness!

Well, one more nomination for my 'Abolish this hideous word' campaign: I absolutely loathe and detest the current darling of American business-speak, 'leverage'. Is there something somehow inadequate with the numerous pre-existing verbs that do the same job? Like 'use', for example? Have you ever seen 'leverage' used as verb in a situation where it could not have been replaced by 'use' (with advantage to the sentence)??

I've just met a chap whose online training business claims to be "leveraging connective technology to enhance education". Aaaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhh!!!

No comments: