Sunday, March 1, 2015

Headlong To Wrong

We prefer a sound bite to accurate communication.

While I can't patent this discovery, I can explain it, with a note that fine writers understand this and take advantage of it.

We'd rather state something in a minimal count of syllables than to clearly and accurately convey the message. Its equally evil twin is our urge to get done, rather than call that spade exactly what it is.

You'll find the occasional exception, such as weathercasters using "significant" instead of "substantial". "Significant" signifies something; it's a symbol for something. "Substantial" means "an outrageous scary load".

An example of syllabic shorthand:"Birth control."

It doesn't control birth, but it has three syllables, and flies out of the mouth so you can go on to other words.

"Pregnancy control" is more accurate, not to mention five syllables. But that's still not accurate.

"Pregnancy prevention" is as accurate as English-speakers can state it. Six syllables.

Too much for ... all of us?

Have you ever heard anyone--even doctors--use that term?

I'm betting the lunch money that's a "no."

So are we open to change? Change is good. That's what is implied.

So a broken leg is change, right? So are you in favor of a broken leg?

I think you'd prefer "improvement", each and every time. Three syllables. Take a moment and ask for that, instead. You always seem to get some sort of change, for good or ill, but a shift is all you get, like a kiddie roller coaster. Go get that improvement. No one's asking for it, so there must be plenty left to grab for yourself.

I do understand that we're guilty of the inaccurate shorthand because we know it works and we may feel we have loads to say and little time to get it out.

My main point is that fine writers may recognize that a dive into a thesaurus for a better/cuter/sleeker/eggheaded substitute word may appeal, but they may also realize that a replacement that's accurate will prevent the reader from sliding by the term, forcing them to slow and allow a thought to get attention and sink in, rhythm be cursed. Calling a spade nothing but a spade sometimes does the job better than a swoopy poetic schuss. Look up the word, "schuss" (which you will) and it means, "ski downhill." A schuss is fun, but maybe the speaker doesn't want to put the listener on a fun ride.

The author may want uplift, not downhill travel.

This may improve your communication.

It'll at least tell the audience that you're thinking, and that may be the actual effect you're trying to bring across.

I'm no grammar nanny, so I won't encourage you to find your own examples and give it a try, but you may stumble onto others.

I just wanted to note that accuracy has a purpose, and you may appreciate that all the more in your daily interactions.