“The client’s ask is simple,” he said, “but I’m not convicted that’s a good criteria; anyhow, there are important learnings for us.” How much of that do you hate? Whatever; living languages don’t care what you think.

The awful truth · English, among languages, is a shiftless tramp, equally at home in the alleys behind mansions and hovels. It’s always ready to pilfer a scrumptious linguistic pie left to cool on a metaphorical windowsill, or fetid food-waste from the metaphorical gutter.

These growths on English’s not-so-fair face are harvested from the hallways and meeting rooms of North American high-tech, which is after all renowned for its creativity.

Which is to say, let’s consider neologisms on their merits. Not that that’ll do any good, often the lamest stick while the jewels crumble.

“ask” n. · I actually kinda like this one. Yes, you could say it before, along the lines of “the specific item that was requested” or “the core demand” or some such. No, it’s not a synonym of “request”. It’s only got three letters. It’s a nouned verb, which is rarer than a verbed noun. Good on it.

“criteria” n. sing. · This one hurts my brain, but Latin’s admonitions about pluralization are coming, after all, from the language graveyard; when did you last say “datum”? I hear it more and more. I defiantly say “criterion” given the slightest chance but find my passive-aggressive usage policing rarely even noticed. Also, there are these kids on my lawn.

“learning” n. · I never heard this before I went to work for Google and now I hear it everywhere, so let’s all see if we can drive Alphabet’s share price down until they promise to make it stop. Oh wait, I’m still a shareholder.

There will be those who point out that by replacing a descendent of Latin lectionem with an ordinary verb participle we actually add regularity to English, which in general could really use it. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

“convicted” adj. · Ewwww. Blecch. I mean, seriously. The leap from “conviction“ to the past participle of an inferred verb is sort of wryly daring, I suppose. But were there a court somewhere with jurisdiction over really stinky neologisms, this one would be found guilty.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Mag (Feb 21 2016, at 11:37)

Some people reading this are actually thinking that you "definitely" say "criterion" given the opportunity.


From: Paul Clapham (Feb 21 2016, at 11:56)

Criterion, criteria... I remember many years ago I was writing a web app to be used by our customers and I put in a panel titled "Selection Criteria". But my boss vetoed that and changed it to something else entirely.

And rightly so. Our customers weren't the kind of people to use Latinate vocabulary and it would just be distracting if we used words like "criteria".


From: Gord Wait (Feb 21 2016, at 12:51)

It has always seemed to me that these invented words are cheesy attempts to let the tribe of marketing people self identify.

The kind of words that belong on the next edition of bullshit bingo..

I used to rail against "Digitalization" for the same reason.. Ack!

Oh and get off my lawn..


From: Lance Walton (Feb 21 2016, at 13:18)

I heard 'decision' used as a verb the other day. 'We need to decision this'.


From: Jake (Feb 21 2016, at 14:10)

I haven't come across anyone using "convicted" this way, yet, but the other three are pretty common at Amazon.


From: Bruce stephenson (Feb 21 2016, at 14:31)

Isn't it easier simply to read "I'm not convicted" as "I'm not convinced"?


From: Doug K (Feb 21 2016, at 14:42)

that paragraph hurts..

'ask' isn't absolutely terrible, but what is wrong with 'request' ?

'criteria' gets a pass since most people will know roughly what it means at least. No-one knows what 'criterion' means anymore except us old fogies.

'learnings' isn't sensible, 'lessons' is a perfectly good word. 'learnings' just sounds sub-literate.

'convicted' is already a common English word which means something completely different. 'convicted' used instead of 'convinced' is mere ignorance and most definitely sub-literate.

I am certainly not a strong prescriptivist, but find this kind of inane babble hard to take. It gives corporate culture a bad name. Oh, wait a minute.. ;-)


From: George M (Feb 21 2016, at 14:54)

I don't have anything substantive to add, I just wanted to say thank you for some tangy, pithy and zesty writing.


From: John (Feb 21 2016, at 15:38)

How is "ask" different from "request"?


From: Norman Walsh (Feb 21 2016, at 20:43)

They're all awful, but "convicted" is just confusing as it's a perfectly ordinary English word with a different meaning.

I rail less these days, about language and the kids on the lawn. Language evolves. Usage wins.

But I still refuse to say "performant", thank you very much.


From: Bryant Cutler (Feb 21 2016, at 21:00)

Possibly the use of "ask" instead of "request" grew out of environments (like Amazon and Google) where "request" is approximately the fourth most commonly used word, behind "service", "client", and "user"...


From: Niall Litchfield (Feb 22 2016, at 06:53)

Ask wasn't a surprise to me, it has been used in this sense in UK and Australian English for a very long time. See http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2014/03/a-big-ask.html for some background.

I suspect that the person using convicted to mean convinced may have an evangelical christian background since the word is used that way frequently to describe someone convinced of their sinfulness.


From: Paul Boddie (Feb 22 2016, at 07:17)

Nobody picked up on "anyhow"? Anyway, it was all mostly horrible, and I bet the guy signs his e-mails with "Best" - nothing else, just "Best" - as well.

Awful! (I could go on, but don't want to sound like the lawn police.)


From: Guy Middleton (Feb 22 2016, at 08:27)

And then there is this Ask, very good reading -- http://www.amazon.ca/Ask-Novel-Sam-Lipsyte/dp/0312680635/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1456158383&sr=1-2


From: Pete Forman (Feb 23 2016, at 03:27)

Ask as a noun has been around for 1000 years according to the OED. The earliest quotations cited there are Middle English. The first “modern” example given is from 1781.

On matters of language I recommend Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (September 30, 2014).


From: Cat (Apr 25 2016, at 10:00)

My current annoyance is "activation" instead of "activity" or "action". I always wonder if the writer is being paid by the letter.

I used to work with a woman who would say "interiorly" or "exteriorly" instead of inside or outside. Luckily I changed jobs before I was driven to commit a felony.


From: Felipe (May 21 2016, at 23:10)

Also "hence why" to mean "hence". E.g. I was having trouble with my car, hence why I took it to the shop for a tune up"


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