Time was when the “weasel word” (a catch all title for the derisory act of inventing new – or at least using in a questionable manner, existing – words) was the domain of the marketing bods.
How I and my engineering colleagues would sit back and laugh at the latest self-important invention of an inelegant term for something where adequate words already exist.
We knew it was all merely fakery deployed by the Shamen of advertising and the pompous amongst the marketing and stylistic fields. The humour as much as anything coming from the obvious nature of such things, which it has to be said rather undermines the undoubted intended effect of purveying a sophisticated air of “new ideas.”
The English language will of course be ever evolving but this is just wilful vandalism. I remain convinced that the main driver for such things is so that some tedious dullard has the opportunity to claim “oh yes, I invented the concept of lateral stratificating optimisation (or whatever the concocted term may be). It got mentioned on page 345 of a VERY eminent text book”, to some immensely under whelmed victim at a dinner party.
The wind of change appears to be blowing through the engineering world though and unfortunately carries with it the aroma of the by-product of a certain male ruminant. I have received a number of flyers from companies containing the word “leveraging”, and not even in the context of physically applying a mechanical advantage.
These companies have an immediate disadvantage in my eyes and unless they can offer a startling benefit their literature gets filed straight in the bin. Worse than that, one of Amalgamated Products Limited’s own engineers has started brazenly flaunting the term “learnings.” I look forward to an explanation as to what the difference between “applying lessons learnt” and “applying learnings” actually is, apart from 4 letters and any sense of self-respect.
Does any of this matter? I think it does for a number of reasons. We must understand the language employed by the different disciplines we work with but we must also seek to use unambiguous and valid terms.
By adopting weasel words wholesale we not only imply our acceptance of them, we perpetuate the culture that has created them as well. All things are not black and white so some aspects of engineering are more “fluffily creative” than others, but equally this is not the central role of our profession.
Ours is more the pragmatic application of solutions through wit and an in depth knowledge of the physical world. We should hang onto and develop our own culture (usually sarcastic and cynical, although that’s possibly just me) with our own language to ensure a balance of influence in the way that projects are managed. Let the others have their thought showers whilst gazing up at their blue skies, in the mean time we shall get on with ensuring the job gets done.