Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Jargonese

An English Teacher that I used to work with and still meet gets mad at modern English like "out-source" and "invite" (used as a noun). Poul Anderson's Perish By The Sword (New York, 1959) conveys the amusement that can be generated by new linguistic usages and people's reactions to them:

"'Did you want to see Mr Deacon?...'He's in conference, engineerwise, but I can intercom him.'
"'Never mind.' Even then, Stefanik reflected that modern business English was enough to drive a man to socialism." (p. 19)

(The guy I know laughed uproariously the first time I pulled "(insert noun)-wise" on him.)

Later, the same secretary says:

"'...he messaged me over the intercom. He said to call a New York supplier we deal with and ask them to urgentize a shipment we have on tap.' Yamamura was so nauseated that he barely heard the rest..." (p. 93)

Nowadays, we "private message (pm)" each other on facebook. I would say "prioritize," not "urgentize," but I remember when my father had not heard "prioritize."

Meanwhile, of course, Anderson writes excellent descriptive English. I have commented on his descriptions of the seasons in historical fiction but this perception is also present in his contemporary fiction:

"Nob Hill was more than a good address; it was seeing the great two-footed stride of the Bay Bridge, or the lovely curve men had thrown across the Golden Gate, or ships standing in past blue islands, whenever you wished." (p. 1)

"Saturday morning was blue again, with small white clouds and sunlight spilling across the hills. But a wind came streaking from the Bay and the ocean beyond." (p. 113)

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