Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Words That Bug Me

Last night I attended a presentation about the school district's gifted and talented program (don't you love it how I slip in wherever I can that one of my kids is gifted???). It was a 2 hour presentation that could have easily been a 1 hour presentation.

I was bored. I did consider leaving. I am, afterall, a grown up and I could have pretended I had somewhere else important to be. Like watching Biggest Loser. But I stayed (and I'm glad I did because some High Drama erupted--apparently people are very passionate about their gifted children, but that's a story for another time).

And then I started noticing how many times the presenters said the word "kiddo." Not kid, not child, not student, but kiddo. I find it a totally annoying word, especially since it was used so excessively during this presentation I was ready to stick a pencil in my eye.

So in true 7th grader fashion and just like I used to do when a really bad presenter would say "um" over and over again in a presentation and I would keep track, I started keeping track of how many times the presenters said kiddo. Keep in mind we were 20 minutes into the presentation before I started tracking, but the grand total was 17.

While I was sitting there apparently not paying attention to what was actually being said (I did take notes though), I started making a list of some of my pet peeve words. Most of these became annoying when I was in the corporate world and they were thrown about a conference room by people who thought they were important, but weren't.

A sampling:

Actually, one of the presenters used this word last night. Seriously? Obviously, as the parent of a gifted student, I should know what this means. And I sort of do, but really, do we need to use Education Speak? Couldn't we just say "what they will be evaluated on?"

As in, "Let's craft a response to this crisis situation." You mean write? Develop? Craft? Come on. Craft is what my kids do on rainy days. Which, come to think of it, could be considered a crisis situation if it involves paint or glue.

Long pole in the tent
OK, I realize this is a phrase, not a word. The remainder are phrases, too. The vice president of marketing at a certain long distance company I used to work for loved this phrase. The fact that this guy was a totally incomptent idiot didn't help endear the phrase to me. According to some random Web site, “The long pole in the tent” is an expression used in military parlance to mean “the intractable part of a problem.” The editor of Aviation Week defines the term to be “the thing in a long list of tasks for a project that will… hold everything up” – in essence, the core of the problem. Again, why do we need this fancy phrase? Can't we just say, "The problem?"

Let's take this offline
Back in the days when the Internet was fairly new (you know, right after Al Gore invented it), this phrase was frequently heard being bandied about the conference table during meetings. Say an issue came up during the meeting and it needed to be addressed, but it didn't concern everyone at the meeting. It became a catchphrase to say, "Let's take this issue offline." What? For heaven's sake, can't you just say, "Let's talk about this later."? But this was the time when online and offline were new, cool words for the world and apparently we had to overuse them and sound like idiots.

One more and then I'll stop, because I could go on like this forever.

Get our arms around it
"We need to get our arms around the problem." Huh? Like you want to give the problem a big hug? Gag. I'm not a hugger. At least I wasn't until I met Eamonn's cousin, Theresa, and she hugs everyone all the time and it kind of rubbed off on me so I would describe myself as a semi-hugger now. But that's beside the point. The point is, why don't you just say, "We need to figure this problem out."?

No wonder they (and I'm referring to the mysterious "they" who is the expert in all matters of the world--when I quote something to Eamonn and use "they," he says, "Who is they?" And I wave my arm vaguely around and say, "You know, THEY.") say that English is the hardest language to learn. We're speaking in code.


Kristie said...

I had lunch today with a girl who used the word "ambidextrious" three times ..... I'm pretty sure there is no "i" in that word. And while it's not a pet peeve, I did find myself unable to concentrate on anything else. :)

The Professional Bag Lady said...

Your post made me giggle... as the TAG (Talented & Gifted) Coordinator at my school I found it especially enlightening... thanks for the heads up... I have parent-teacher conferences coming up next week so will try to keep the specialist-verbiage to a minimum. -Sherrill

Beth said...

Hey kiddo--I'm trying to get my arms around this and craft a witty response, following the rubric of your latest post. Of course, I can't take this offline because I am, actually, online right now. This presents me with the long pole in the tent, so I'm not sure I will able to succeed.

TheresaG said...

My father in law constantly uses "The fact of the matter" which drives me bonkers. Why preface what you're about to say in a way that implies everything else wasn't factual?

Anonymous said...

Beth, that is so FUNNY!

Isn't it interesting how words can distract us. We nail kids for over using "like" yet adults overuse words too but they are bigger and more impressive so many people don't notice it.

Have a great Thursday!

Connie F-G

Jordyn said...

Funny post!!

I, too, use the "they" and my hubby has the same response as yours :)

Anonymous said...

Oh Oh - I have one phrase that makes my head explode every time I hear it. "Think outside the box" which in my business usually means "I am not going to give you enough money/time/ people to solve this problem but I want you to solve it anyway."

Anonymous said...

You would go crazy as a teacher because the profession is FULL of stupid jargon. A few examples-

active literacy--as opposed to passive
interactive read-aloud
inner conversations when reading
"unpacking the standards"---always thought this was something you did after vacation
gradual release of responsibility


I could go on but suffice to say we have an overabundance of these special words in CT. Also we had an administrator that peppered her speech with the word "youngsters". Once we counted her saying it 23 times in one workshop.

Karen Czapla

Mountain Mama said...

Once I get my arms around this post, I will craft a comment.
Have a great day, kiddo!