Posted by: chiarraigrrl | September 6, 2011

Mind your language

I signed up for the Oxford Dictionary word-of-the-day email as part of my general things-that-make-me-happy-and-distract-me-from-smoking plan (which also involved setting up Google Reader for blogs to read on my coffee break – hence the increased frequency of posts, because I like frequent posters, I’ve discovered), and I don’t know if it was that or the planned move to the States next year or what, but I recently noticed a few phrases that bothered me enough to need to get it out to the Interwebz (and I thank you in advance for listening). (note: a good few of them have to do with where I work, which I’ll be making vague enough that I hope you won’t figure it out and blab to my bosses, but I think it’s pretty easy to tell I don’t like the attitude and am looking forward to my escape plan next year).

Last week a health and safety-type consultant was in to do some training for employees, and our HR manager brought him around to see some of the offices to demonstrate our “clear desk policy”. Unfortunately, I was in our office when she brought him in to show off our organisational skillz, as she said to him (direct quote) “they’re good, they do as they’re told“.

Yes, nearly five days later I’m still irritated. We “do as we’re told”? Like errant children who have to be hassled into obeying orders? Oh please. There are so many ways she could have phrased that more professionally…

Then of course there’s the whole thing of referring to the attorneys as “the professionals” and the rest of us as “staff”. Unprofessional staff? Non-fee-earners who therefore don’t count in the great scheme of things? Hm.

Mind you, the clients don’t get any better treatment in our standard automated letters. I was laughing over one that printed off this morning, in which we “acknowledge receipt” of the client’s instructions to do something and “will let you have” the documentation proving the thing was done… eventually. Needless to say I tend to change those ones myself anyway – the “will let you have” thing really bothers me to the point where I just can’t send it out. As if we’re doing them a favour letting them have documentation that technically belongs to them anyway when they’re the ones paying us (and we’re not cheap) for the service.

As I was thinking about these things, it occurred to me that I’d started recently reverting to using “excuse me” instead of the more-common-here “sorry” when trying to get through crowded thoroughfares. Since I generally use it just before plowing past someone (sharp elbows and occasionally shoulders have been known to be put to use), the definition seek to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offence) seems much more applicable than “sorry” (feeling regret or penitence), which would imply that I regretted knocking them over and/or would hope not to do it again (not generally the case. If I have to be somewhere and you’re in my way, well… You’d best move, is all I’m saying). It could also potentially be interpreted to being an apology for my being there (in their way, underfoot, etc etc), which… well, I’m not happy about using, either.

Although the root “sore” doesn’t seem amiss… 🙂

(I would point out that I’ve always loved language – part of why I like comedy is because much of it can be playing with words – but these really reminded me how much language can betray your attitudes/how you think, whether you want it to or not)

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Responses

  1. i also use Google Reader…..if you want to see the rubbish i share.

    • rubbish smubbish. Email me your gmail address so I can follow you, so (and you did tell me that, sorry- forgot!). 🙂

  2. “do as we’re told” reminds me (in a not-at-all-good way) of Stanley Milgram’s experiments… Ick.

    • oh god, I know. Ick, indeed. (actually, though, Dar Williams has a great song about Milgram’s experiments, “The Buzzer”- forget which album it’s on, but it’s a boppy song with pretty creepy lyrics, in the sense that the protagonist is a participant in Milgram’s experiments) They’d love that level of brainwashing around here though (I wish I was kidding!) – I seem to do things a little too independently for their liking. Oy… 🙂


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