Off The Record: Gobbledygook lingo a real turkey

November 24, 2003|HERB BROCK

As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables this Thursday, we will be both eating and talking turkey. Just as long as we don't gobble like them. But I'm afraid more and more of us are turning into gobblers.

Today's English - that is, the American version of the English language - is becoming a real turkey. It's colorful. It's annoying. It multiplies. And it's wordy and pompous. But it's also stupid and nonsensical.

We're turning into a bunch of gobblers speaking and writing gobbledygook. And I wouldn't doubt that some of us old fogies might need interpreters to sit next to us at the Thanksgiving table to translate what some of the younger, technoheads among us are saying.

Let me give you a sample slice of this turkey talk that dates back two decades, when the junkie jargon was just getting started - and it's a jargon that has become more inventive, annoying and stupid since:


Several years ago, I was given an assignment to interview a local school principal about a Kentucky Department of Education workshop held at a state park. The assignment seemed simple enough, but it became clear early in the interview that I needed a translator.

It's not that the principal was from a foreign land, unless you call Gravel Switch a foreign land. The guy was an old country boy who'd worked his way up the education ladder to become a very good principal. He was as plainspoken as they come - at least he was until the aforementioned interview. He suddenly had learned an alien tongue.

Here's an example of why I needed a translator - and why the principal needed someone expert in his new language to tell him proper pronunciations:

Me: "So tell me what you got out of the workshop?"

Principal: "Well, we did a lot of work with facilitators."

Me: "Facilitators? Are they anything like mashed 'taters."

Principal: "No, they're folks who facilitate conversational encounterings?"

Me: "Conversational encounterings?"

Principal: "You know, when a group of people are talking to each other."

Me: "So what did this conversational encountering facilitator do while you all were talking to each other?"

Principal: "He'd facilitate. Like, he'd guide us through a topic."

Me: "Oh, I understand. These facilitators were state Department of Education psycho-babbling bureaucrats who basically told you to say what they wanted to hear."

Principal: "No, they just helped us say what they wanted to hear."

Me: "Did you all do any conversational encounterings away from the conversational encountering facilitators?"

Principal: "Oh, yes. We had a lot of good interactions on our own. We did a lot of intercoursing."

Me: "Intercoursing?"

Principal: "Yes, we intercoursed long after the workshop was over."

Me: "Surely you don't mean to say you all were ... ?"

Principal: "No, no. I'm sorry. I meant we did a lot of interfacing. That's right, we interfaced."

Me: "Interfaced?"

Principal: "You know, that's when you and another person face each other and have a conversational encounter. You interface."

Me: "So the bottom line is that you spent two days at a state park doing a lot of talking."

Principal: "That about sums it up."

Upset is the way I would sum up my feelings of the constant bastardization of the English language by various sectors of our culture. Educators, bureaucrats, lawyers, doctors, entertainers, athletes, politicians and, yes, journalists, have felt a need over the last couple of decades to take their Webster's and shred it and replace it with dictionaries with new jargons. English was good enough for this country for 200 years but it's been revised and rearranged over the last 20 years.

If this trend toward destroying English continues, we're going to have to enroll adults in our schools' English as a Second Language program.

There are so many words and phrases that can be used as examples of the many new jargons, but let me use just one - the popularity of turning nouns into gerunds.

It's no longer good enough to say we're working together on a project. Now we have to say we're partnering.

It's no longer good enough to say we're doing a task. Now we have to say we're tasking.

It's no longer good enough to say we're making an effort to achieve a goal. Now we have to say we're efforting.

I'm also getting tired of the new sayings that have replaced perfectly good old sayings to jazz up our ever-evolving new Jargonspeak version of English.

It's no longer good enough to say "when the dust settles." Now we have to say "at the end of the day."

It's no longer good enough to say we're trying to understand a problem. Now we have to "put our arms around" it.

It's no longer good enough to say we're losing it. Now we have to say we've been "afflicted by another senior moment."

I am really efforting to put my arms around this new language but I do believe the tasking will be futile at the end of the day. And at the middle of the day this Thursday, I will be efforting to carve the turkey so it can partner with the dressing and cranberry sauce and I can put my mouth around all three.

Gobble, gobble. Gobbledygook, gobbledygook.

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