Viewpoint: Dr. Larry Burriss, Words’



     It used to be only the State Department and the Department of Defense tried to keep us confused and confounded with the words they used. You know how it went: countries had “talks” so they “wouldn’t have to “negotiate” with each other.
     And airplanes don’t take off any more, rather, they are “launched.” In fact, we don’t even have airplanes any more; we have aircraft instead.

     Of course, none of this would be a problem if the nation’s news organizations didn’t promote this stuff by using it in print, on the air and over the Internet.
     By refusing to ask government representatives for clarification, or by refusing to be swayed by big words and nonsense constructions, reporters are just as guilty as those who perpetrate such language.
     To make matters worse, this tendency towards meaningless jargon has spread almost everywhere.
     So, let me ask you this: how many of you routinely travel by river boat? I bet not many. So, what is it with the phrase “wheel house”? Why do so many people talk about something being in their “wheelhouse.” I’ve heard lots of people use the meaningless phrase, and not one of them has a boat, much less a boat with a wheel house.
     If the phrase means it’s something related to what you do, why not just say so?
     Or try this one: “Take it to the next level.” The next time someone uses this phrase, ask them just what “it” is they are taking, and what the “next level” actually is.  The phrase, like so many others, is absolutely meaningless
     Of course, reporters who hear these statements could ask for some clarification.
     I guess it would be nice if the use of such language really made a difference. It may make government officials think they are evading the issues, and reporters may think they are really imparting information, when in fact they aren’t.
     But here with the people, with the paychecks and with the pocketbooks, where it really counts, such words make no difference at all.
     I’m Larry Burriss.