Word of the year: why we need to choose wisely


It is Friday and here is my non-technical blog that I promised.

I read this article last night in the airport, “Stop using these 16 terms to describe yourself” – it was interesting and while yes it has outlined some over used words it really wouldn’t detract me from someone who is looking for a job.  So as a joke, I posted this article to my personal Facebook page with the following description:

Very innovative article, obviously written by a world-class person with the authority in this space to be seen as a results-oriented person who has obviously worked for a global-provider given how motivated, creative and dynamic his examples. It would not surprise me if people called him a guru or even a curator filled with passion for his topic making him an incredibly unique, serial entrepreneur with the drive of a strategist coupled with a collaborative heart.
 You’ll have to read the article to get the joke – or at least quickly skim it for my description to make you chuckle.
It is true, we do over use some words, probably because our minds are racing so quickly we do not take the time to really think of a better word to use.  Since I am so fond of all the various methods of communication – I tend to pay extra close attention to how things are said, written or visually delivered.  One of the things that I noticed over the years, among the technology circles I run in or around, is the amazing commonality in the choice of words these peers would use, which by the way are words my non-technical circles would rarely use.  Let me provide examples.

The Year: 2009 – The Word: Orthogonal

For those of you who have yet to use this word at the dinner table, here is a snippet from Wikipedia.

In mathematics, two functionsf and g are called orthogonal if their inner product\langle f,g\rangle is zero for f ≠ g.

In basic geometry, when two lines are orthogonal they are essentially perpendicular to one another.  Orthogonal has a variety of uses depending on the context of the conversation.  If you are in a debate with someone and you are using orthogonal, then you are saying the point is irrelevant.  Statistically speaking, it would mean unrelated and in technology or computing, orthogonal would mean isolated or partitioned.

Now, while I like to expand my vocabulary, I have never had the desire to use orthogonal in discussion.  Although as I write about it, I just may have to use it should my kids ever question my veracity.  Point being, when I first heard this word many of the people who worked for me at the time asked, “what the heck was he talking about in that last meeting?”, to which I replied “he was saying the two projects would not affect the other.  They are orthogonal to one another – meaning isolated.”  Why couldn’t he just say, “isolated”?  From that point forward in 2009, I must have heard orthogonal used 100s of times more by different people in my tech circles.  Why?  I don’t know but the word caught fire in 2009, it was all the rage.  Funny thing, in 2012 I rarely heard that word mentioned.

And in 2010: Bifurcated

Yes, bifurcated.  I’m sure you can tell by looking at the word it means to split in to two.  “The market is bifurcating”, “there is a bifurcation occurring in the market today” – yes this is what I heard in 2010 – everything was bifurcating and I was starting to get concerned that we wouldn’t have any more room on this earth with all these main bodies splitting into two parts.  Craziness, I know.  I will say that this word really does help to explain certain things that happen in this technology industry, but we could also say fork, branches, etc.  Oh and yes, I did use this word in the company of non-technical folks one time and it went over like a…well, you can fill in your own example – but they thought I had indigestion.

2011: verbosity and 2012: a favorite of many, utilize

These were slow years for obscure word choices perhaps because we were running into campaign time and election year everyone just was distracted from the dictionary.  That said, I did hear verbosity quite a bit in 2011 along with a favorite of many, utilize.  Now, I have been known to use utilize on occasion but it is the rarest of occasions – indeed I would even go as far as to say the rarest of rare occasions.  However, utilize is used a great deal.  Which is interesting because when do you use utilize and utilize use?  It seems we believe verbosity is the key to utilizing the english language to its fullest extent.  Which in my opinion is an orthogonal thought to the original intent of this blog.  As you can see, through my rant I have skillfully bifurcated this blog and will now have to find a way to wrap it up.

2013: The Year for floccinaucinihilipilification

I think its time to use this in your next meeting.  Here’s an example of how you can use it in a sentence.

This blog, while entertaining, embodies floccinaucinihilipilification

Choose your words wisely, not to appear more intelligent but to swiftly deliver your message and content.

Have a great weekend!!!

-Chapa signing off

One Comment Add yours

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