What ever happened to our language?

The deteriorating state of language in our society today is something I enjoy pointing out and commenting on from time to time. The most obvious and agregious violations of plain and proper English are committed in Washington, DC – a place where seemingly normal people from across the United States congregate to torture a language most of us use on a daily basis to communicate with others. Of course, the communication that takes place in Washington, DC and between the bureaucrats there and the people they supposedly represent is quite different from the sort of communication we normal folks use. The destruction of our langauge has had a trickle down effect, starting in the major power centers (among them DC, NYC and Hollywood) and slowly but steadily reaching the rest of us via television, printed media and the corporate world where some of us are forced to seek employment. Short words which used to convey simple, concrete ideas have been lengthened into phrases which can more easily be confused and twisted. This represents a step backwards in human communication, of course. For example, talents, skills and abilities are now suddenly your “skill set” – notice that two words have now been substituted where previously one sufficed very nicely. One presumably stores one’s skill set in one’s tool box. This latter phrase was frequently used during the recent financial crisis, with one Federal bureaucrat after another speaking before Congress and the media about the Federal Reserve’s “tool box.” They were simply referring to their powers or abilities – things they could do. But “tool box” made them sound more pro-active, more down-to-Earth and it also slightly confused the issue by introducing a new buzz word that the media could (and did) repeat a billion times. Of course, numerous other examples abound and I’m sure you run into them quite often. Any time you deal with government (and as a general rule, the higher one goes in government the more one has to deal with such language) or the corporate world this sort of language is inevitable.

The late comedian George Carlin was a master at pointing out the destruction of our language. In the below video, he openly mocks the creeps in Washington, DC who claim to be our “public servants” (a term he makes fun of as well). He is especially unforgiving in his condemnation (which is hilarious, as always) of their torturous use of the language to disguise their true actions (or lack thereof). Note that unlike much of Carlin’s stand up material, this has no profanity in it and is fine for all audiences:

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