30 December 2009

I Got Your Paradigm Shift Right Here

More than a year ago I wrote about those annoying buzzwords and cool phrases in this very blog. Time to revisit the subject.

I was chatting with a pal recently:

"...and it's like a total paradigm shift..." he said.
"Wait, did you just say--"
"I know..."
"Did you just say 'paradigm shift,' because if you did we can't be friends now."
"I know. I'm sorry, you just pick up these corporate buzzwords at work and they get ingrained."

To his credit, he swears he never used the phrase "thinking outside the box," so I'll just put this incident behind us.

As a sports fan, there are a ton of words and phrases that get under my skin after a while. For example, even though I'm a Browns fan and love the kid, I'm sick of hearing Josh Cribbs described as "a beast." Every time a player in the NFL makes a good play, somebody calls him a beast. It doesn't matter what the play was or how big the guy is or what position he plays, he's a beast. Let's look at the word for a moment. A beast is simply an animal. As humans we are all, indeed, beasts. It's a generic term. A bull elephant is a beast, but so is a field mouse. Now, Shaun Rogers, at 6'4" and 350 may indeed be a "beast" the way ESPN likes to use the word. The comparison makes some sense, particularly given the fact that his position as nose tackle requires him to pound people into the ground. Cribbs is 6'1" and 215, which, believe it or not, puts him at the smaller end of the scale in terms of NFL players. His job on the field requires him to be elusive, graceful, fast. He's not the same kind of "beast" Rogers is. So why insist on the word, ad nauseam? In terms of beasts, it would be much more evocative to call Rogers a rhino and call Cribbs a cheetah.

Another thing that goes straight up my ass these days is "on so many levels." Usually something is described as being "wrong" on so many levels, much like the repeated use of this phrase. What levels are these, exactly? And how many levels could there possibly be? Using the word "levels" suggests a hierarchy of wrongness. It's wrong on level one, but maybe not wrong on level five. Or perhaps it suggests categories of wrongness. Why not just wrong in many ways or for many reasons? Or how about just flat-out wrong, and be done with it?

It is lazy thinking, writing and speaking that causes people to latch onto these words and phrases. The English language is full of words, some simple and some more complex. They are all good and useful for describing anything. The goal of communication is understanding. You use the phrase "paradigm shift" to sound smarter and more elite. Simply adopting a new way of thinking, which is the same thing, doesn't quite have the same snap, does it?  You call a guy a beast because you're too lazy to reach into your bag of adjectives and really find a way to describe his play. Not to mention that it's really cool. And why are you wrong on so many levels? I suppose so you can sound like a teenage twit.

OK, I'm done being a hardass. I know we can't help it. Once popular culture becomes saturated with one of these annoying and largely nondescriptive descriptors, we find them popping up in our writing and speech without even thinking about it. I just ask us to rebel against it.


Jerry B said...

Good article, D.

The phrase that makes me cringe is 'thrown under the bus'. And it's not cuz of my line of work. It's just so played out.

Mark said...

How about "Hes a load?"

Dawn said...

"He's a load?" I can see that being good the first time and wearing thing quickly.

Dawn said...

Damnit. Thin.

BrokenMan said...

@dawn-yeah I know-I meant the "hes a load" comments are as trying as the "hes a beast" comments.

it begs the question .. hes a load of what?? lol

Spookzeus said...

Yep, I argued against the word "beast" as well. It's one of those "white people 8 years too late" words like "crunk" and "bling"