Somewhere along the line, while we weren’t looking, they changed our language.
We see the obvious culprits, the people who have ripped apart sentences and words and maybe even basic communication itself by doing nothing but text all day long (because they would rather use their phone for any other purpose than to actually talk to someone), completely forgetting about capitalization or basic puntcuation, reducing everything to an LOL, a BRB, a “U” instead of you (because it’s too much trouble to type those two extra characters), tortured abbreviations, and maybe a 🙂 (emoticons have taken the place of emotion). We’ve seen the word “the” taken away from us. Suddenly everyone is saying “prom” instead of “the prom” and “hospital” instead of “going to the hospital,” like we’ve all suddenly become British (I’ll have some bangers and mash, and put them in the boot, please!). And we have the truly bizarre habit of using the word “so” to start a sentence, which can be fine, but not when you’re simply answering someone’s question. A quick example:
Interviewer: “Where were you born?”
Hip Entrepreneur: “So I was born in New Jersey…”
Interviewer: “Tell us about your new app.”
Hip Entrepreneur: “So what this app does is…”
Interviewer: “Do you like pecan pie?”
Hip Entrepreneur: “So the first time I had pecan pie…”
Was there anyone who was the subject of an interview before the 2000s or maybe the 90s who answered questions like this? It’s happening all the time now. You might not even hear it at first but once you do, it becomes very noticeable. It’s a verbal tic that tech and business people have adopted. Maybe it helps their minds and mouths ease into their answer, sort of how a lot of people say “um.” Honestly, I’d rather people say um and uh.
Try this little trick: the next time you hear someone say “so…” in answer to someone’s question (or you do it yourself), replace the word “so” with “chickens.” If the word “chickens” doesn’t fit in the sentence you know “so” doesn’t either.
The latest? “Efforting.” I’ve heard this off and on the past few years, usually in a business-speak or tech-speak context (sometimes I think the business and tech worlds have done as much harm to our words as all of the texting-addicted tweens on the planet), but I reached the breaking point earlier this week when I heard one of our local news anchors use the term. She was talking about a shooting at a local hospital and said “we are efforting to find our more information on what happened.”
This is what you get when you have people who think that if they take a perfectly good word, but use a synonym that’s perhaps a little bit longer (especially if you add “-ing” to it), you sound more professional, more intelligent. This isn’t what happens, actually, but you can’t convince a lot of people of that.
What happens in language is that a word, even if it’s not a word, even if the very sound of the word hurts your ears and your senses and every nerve ending in your body, actually becomes a word when enough people use it (see also: “journaling” and the changing of the meaning of the word “ironic”). I’ll never accept efforting. I will effort with all of my power to stop it from being used. There are probably 16 different words of different tenses that you could use instead of this word. Please, I beg of you, use those words instead.
STOP THE EFFORTING. I think that would look great on a t-shirt.