Every generation of elders shakes their fists and complains about 'kids these days.' Every new media advance is met with panic. (Remember when that newfangled gizmo the telephone threatened to "break up home life and the old practice of visiting friends"? Oh wait, maybe in smartphone form it is finally doing that...) And every newly coined piece of business jargon is met with a collective groan.
We all love to dump on the latest word of the week, whether it's "blue sky thinking" or a newfound obsession with "unicorns," but is labeling these words and phrases linguistic monsters really fair? According to a funny and perspective-shifting little video from mentalfloss that recently appeared on my radar via Kottke, maybe not.
Apparently, lots of the words we use every day without blinking an eye started out as loathed and ridiculed business jargon, such as:
- To contact - Contact was always fine as noun, but used as a verb it "was considered a gross corruption of language when it started in the mid-19th century." People were still complaining about it in the 1930s, apparently.
- To interview -- Here's another one "that made people tear their hair out when it turned from a noun into a verb." (Kind of like, 'to leverage' or 'to task' today.)
- To donate - What's the sin of 'donate'? Like making 'liaise' from 'liaison,' someone apparently carved 'donate' out of the noun 'donation' years ago only to be met with decades' of jeers from the language police.
- Mortician -- This apparently was the 'mixologist' of the late 19th century, a pretentious job title made up because no one liked being called an undertaker. (But hey, mixologists, everyone loves the bartender so why change a good thing?)
- Balance - Back in the day when people started using the noun 'balance' outside of accounting contexts -- i.e. 'spending the the balance of your day' -- it was thought of a horrible abuse of jargon, "sort of the way people now object to 'bandwidth' outside of the realm of electronic communication.'"
Check out the video below for several more fascinating examples. The takeaway from all of them though is pretty much the same, and also slightly humbling: if history is any guide ,it looks likely that we'll all one day accept the likes of 'to action,' 'advertorial,' and 'deliverables' without so much as an eye roll.