"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Thursday, June 26, 2003 Language barriers: Peter Jones writes in The Spectator that universities are becoming factories of jargon and illiteracy:
Take any of the following nouns: aspect, role, development, challenge, context, stakeholder, opportunity, provision, resource, direction, investment, portfolio, policy, programme, skill, track-record, liaison, quality, function, end-user, process, commitment, profile, range, environment, skills, outcome, collaboration. Throw in any of the following adjectives: key, crucial, proven, wide, broad, emerging, expanding, international, ongoing, developing, innovative, pro-active, strong, strategic, organisational, or any of the above nouns used as adjectives (‘policy relevance’, ‘information resource’). String together with verbs such as facilitate, deliver, develop, broaden, enhance, support, encourage, co-ordinate, champion, implement. That’s it. You too can soon be talking about ‘pro-active development opportunities facilitating and delivering an ongoing end-user collaboration process.’
Orwell characterises this sort of writing with a splendid image: ‘words falling upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details’. Which raises the question: why are the guardians and transmitters of our culture presenting themselves to the outside world in this dreadful language? How on earth can anyone with the slightest respect for words write such vacuous drivel? What sort of education can people who promote such an image be trusted to offer? And what can be done?
Be sure to read the letter presented for contrast, composed by an 18th-century English rat-catcher short on ferrets.