A co-worker of mine recently registered her displeasure with the term “the 30,000-foot view.”
The 30,000-foot view is meant to invoke a sense of the big picture, to show how a situation might look from 30,000 feet in the air. The attempt here seems admirable: we do sometimes lose sight of the big picture when we get bogged down in the details.
The word binge is a paradox connoting both shame and pride.
The very same binge-drinking that is such a concern for parents and college administrators is, for certain students, something to brag about. Note the pyramids of empty beer cans that grace fraternity houses and the murky recollections of weekend benders bracketed with phrases like, “Oh my God, I was sooo drunk that night!”
That some don’t survive these adventures in besottedness doesn’t stop bingeing from happening, and may even increase the binge’s mystique.
When Princeton student Tal Fortgang recently complained on Time magazine's blog that, as a white male, he had been repeatedly “reprimanded” to “check his privilege,” the Internet exploded in somewhat predictable ways.
I'll let you and Facebook explore what all is being said about Fortgang's piece, but the word privilege deserves some scrutiny.
One language trait I've noticed recently is a peculiar use of the word “around.”
Someone might be describing a new organizational initiative and say, “Let's get together and have a discussion around the new viral marketing campaign.” What the person would have said prior to the around ascendancy is, of course, “Let's get together and have a discussion about the new marketing campaign.”
So what's all this about around—or rather around it? Or whatever?
“Excellence” ranks right up there with terms like “professionalism” and “family values” as power terms, the vagueness of which is used to subject people to all manner of indignity and peonage.
“Excellent” we might lovingly associate with Wayne's World or Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, in which it's a term of universal application to all things righteous, gnarly or dope. But that same universalism is exactly what makes “excellence” so dangerous.
Creativity is another one of those words that we throw around as if we know what we're talking about.
But we're fundamentally conflicted about creativity-- perhaps because, in practice, it's somewhat mysterious.
We'd all agree that creativity is about bringing new things into the world: new products, new ideas, new perspectives. We sometimes use "creativity” synonymously with words like “innovation” and “originality.”
Maybe most remarkable about the term “the market,” is the incredible variety of ideas it invokes.
The market, at its most mundane, conjures an image of a grocery store with its rainbow wash, the visual signatures of myriad brands all competing for our eyes, and for the dollars that follow. We also retain this cultural memory: the market as a place for basket-weavers and growers to hock their wares, for handmade rugs to rub up against stacks of kohlrabi.
At one time, the word granular was almost always reserved for something physical or technical, for example, as a measure of the resolution of a photographic emulsion, or of how fine the sugar.
But recently, I’ve noticed granular used in office settings to indicate a level of detail that the speaker would rather avoid. It’s generally said with a certain tinge of disdain as well, something like, “Well, we could talk about that some other time, but we don’t want to get into the granular level here.”