What do we all want most? (No, not that; this is strictly a G-rated post, “G” for Grumpy.) We want the whole world to agree with us and acknowledge how brilliant we are! So with no humility or irony whatsoever, I present that the fine folks at The New York Times are in flat-out straight-shootin’ snyc with Uncle G on the use and misuse of the King’s English, as shown by this item from Sunday’s doorstop:* “Baffled by Office Buzzwords.”
Yes, buzzwords! These critters aren’t exactly a new problem. There are countless lists, articles, games, classes, books, and probably nuclear death rays devoted to their eradication. But like reality TV shows, new apps, and Republican presidential candidates, no matter how obnoxious, useless, or hilarious they are, they just keep multiplying!
Case in point: The writer of the Times article says her boss told her he’d have to schedule her “bilateral.” Her what? Is he asking her out for a lunch of clams or are those “biavalves”?** Does he mean her bilateral intranodular torsal left lower ligamenture, which can only be repaired by Tommy James surgery, where you stand on the hospital roof in your gown belting out “Mony Mony”?
Sorry, I digress.*** A “bilateral” is simply a one-on-one meeting. Another current b-word for this type of event is “touchpoint,” which, if I were the female employee with a male boss, would send me scurrying to the EEO office. But “meeting,” of course, is far too simple and lacking in syllables.
This use of “bilateral” is also a case of “nounifying” a perfectly good word into a mutated form of its innocent prior self. They’ve already verbified “leverage” and “impact” past the point of recognition. Your favorite words could be next!
Q: Can you use “bilateral” correctly in a sentence?
A: “They had us in third and 37 but ole Billy Bob, he faked ’em out of their Calvin Kleins and got the ball to Bobby Bill bilateral, and Bobby, he done run plumb through ’em like a Weed Whacker through Aunt Sister’s fescue.”
Q: What’s wrong with this sentence, which comes from an ad for a shoe accessory called the ‘Grasswalker’? “Flexible transparent strips that adhere to the bottom of your favorite stiletto’s or thicker high heels to keep them from sinking into the grass!”
A: “Flexible transparent” is actually the name of a folk music ensemble. Either that or it’s the new dictionary listing for Bruce / Caitlyn Jenner.
Q: Last but not least, can you comment on this sentence, the last two words in particular? “That night, the emergency was a motherless minke whale calf, just weeks old, beached off a backwater of Assawoman Bay.”
A: Not a chance.
*A daily newspaper of such length and heft that it could prop open a door, break the unwary reader’s foot if dropped on same, or spill said reader out of his hammock.
***Not a buzzword. Very useful, and more succinct than “I just kind of rambled all over the page.”