The Dangers of Jargon: A Family Alert

Beware the increasingly left-leaning directives from self-described style experts

As an editor in health care delivery, I found the barrage of buzzwords in that field dizzying and alienating. This is why I’m here to tell you that jargon should be resisted at all costs. In plainspeak — just say “no.”

While corporate leaders fired off words like alignment, bandwidth and capacity in rapid succession, I was hard-pressed to discern between dashboards, deep dives, drilldowns and deployments. This was somewhat troubling, in that the nonprofit where I worked used lean methodology, an effort to make workflows and processes more efficient, in an aim to boost the bottom line.

Clearly, office lingo is anything but lean. It’s puffed up, in fact, like a chronic disease that morphs into serious co-morbidities; this seems to be especially prevalent in corporate communications departments — a breeding ground for jargon.

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Amid all the leveraging, triangulating, and ninth-inning level setting, it’s a mystery that any work gets done at all. And I wonder: Does leaning in, reaching out, and ramping up (and let’s not forget cross-pollinating) enhance a firm’s value proposition?

What’s more, unpacking pre-reads, pay grades and proof points — make that pain points — could be doing more harm than good, despite efforts to draft key messaging and strategize next steps.

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To be sure, after picking the low-hanging fruit, staff are expected to attend high-level town halls or all-hands meetings, where they’re told to expect more downsizing in an aim to right-size the joint because change management is in the air. Unless of course, a member of the all-important executive leadership team calls an audible at the last minute, invoking a sacred cow.

All joking aside, jargon not only distorts meaning but also compromises and erodes truth — much the same way the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law 2017 has been manipulating reality with its ever-increasing left-leaning point of view and painstaking efforts at political correctness.

Self-promoted as a “must-have reference for writers, editors, students and professionals,” the style guide, which is used worldwide, aims to control, more and more, what and how we think about certain things, even how we talk about them, despite its “unbiased” claims.

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Take, for example, the subject of immigration on Page 140 of the guide, which has been expanded to include migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. It reads: “Do not use the terms alien, an illegal, illegals, or undocumented (except when quoting people or documents that use those terms).”

I repeat: “Do not.”

So if I understand correctly, the AP is dictating (for those who follow it to the letter) that we should lump all immigrants in the same category — those who have entered the country legally and are law-abiding, like my parents and legions of others, as well as those who flout and break the law. Huh?

This is a big change from the organization’s entry on immigration in 2012, which reads: “Illegal immigrant — used to describe someone who has entered a country illegally or who resides in a country in violation of civil or criminal law …”

In “The Snapping of the American Mind,” bestselling author David Kupelian defined political correctness as “an insidious frontal attack on common sense and freedom through language manipulation.”

“Illegal aliens” became “illegal immigrants,” then “undocumented immigrants,” then “undocumented workers. Magically transforming something bad into something good,” he says in the chapter “Magic Words.”

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Numbering more than 600 pages, the newly minted 2017 style guide no longer includes a separate entry for pro-life — and hasn’t for a while. Instead: “Abortion — Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice. Avoid abortionist, which connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions.”

Censorship? You tell me.

Not surprisingly, AP has expanded its section on gender with terms like cisgender, gender nonconforming, intersex, transgender, and sex reassignment — the preferred term over gender reassignment.

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In contrast — and shockingly — the paltry entry on Christmas fails to mention the birth of Christ. It merely reads: “December 25. The federal legal holiday is observed on Friday if Dec. 25 falls on a Saturday, on Monday if it falls on a Sunday. Never abbreviate Christmas to Xmas or any other form.”

It seems somewhere along the murky and circuitous road to political correctness, AP has forgotten its roots — the fact that the United States of America is built on Judeo-Christian values — values that distinguish us from all other countries. Instead, it’s bent on perpetuating its own brand of revisionist history, subtly and not so subtly, and also by omission.

Incidentally, there is no entry for “Judeo-Christian,” either.

Language manipulation? You bet. Beware, all.

Elizabeth M. Economou writes about higher education, health and real estate. She is a former adjunct professor and CNBC staff business writer.

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