Long Beard: Sleepwalker
A 9/11 Note

Bad Writing

If you can even call it writing.... Maybe just jargon. Or guff.

I received an email on my work account with this subject:

Implement Engaging Prevention Training at [college]

I wondered what it meant. Training for the purpose of preventing something, apparently. Opened the email and saw a company logo with this text:

Proven, Engaging Student Prevention Training


So I read the first paragraph:

Did you know SafeColleges Training provides a variety of effective student prevention courses through a robust training system?

I experienced deepening confusion. Few colleges wish to prevent students.

Only by reading as far as the second paragraph did I learn that they are referring to training aimed at "encouraging healthy behaviors" on topics like drugs, alcohol, and sex. 


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Ha, yes. As I read the first part, I was thinking that I guessed I was doing it all wrong for 8 years when I was encouraging people to enroll.


You just needed to be trained.

That's horrible. It reminds me of something I heard on the radio the other day. I've hated the recent use of the word 'effort' as a verb: We will effort to get this completed, we are efforting to contact so-and-so, etc. Well, on a local talk show the host said "We are efforting [name of guest] to appear on the show later today." If you replace efforting with another word like "attempting" or "working" you see immediately how stupid it sounds.

I've worked for a large national company for almost 20 years, and I've trained myself to reject all corporate-speak. I do not "reach out" to anyone, nor do I ever say that a thing will be done "moving forward." And under no circumstances will I "effort" to do anything!

Thank you Rob, for not reaching out. That is my personal bete noire. I also am pretty tired of things being at the intersection of this and that.


These conversations always remind me of Nero Wolfe, who did not want Archie to use "contact" as a verb.


That's sad, because "contact" sounds perfectly normal to us. Or to me anyway.

But I don't care, "efforting" is just atrocious. When I hear something like that, I always think "Why? WHY?!?" Absolutely nothing is gained. If "make an effort" is too much trouble, why can't you just say "try"?

"Reach out" is harmless I guess but it's still annoying. Most annoying of all is when I find these things creeping into my own conversation. I think I almost said "reach out" the other day.

I knew someone who developed something like a tic with "in terms of," using it constantly in inappropriate ways. "In terms of Susan, is she in today?" That kind of thing.

A new one is "put a pin in it."

I remember when my English prof in college said, "Don't say 'utilize.' 'Use' is what you mean."

I haven't reached out to anyone since we had AT&T in the 1970s.

I haven't heard "put a pin in it." What does it mean? Mark the spot, as with a map pin?

My wife and I had a discussion about "utilize" recently and I looked it up in Fowler's Modern English Usage. He's basically of the view that it should not be used as a pompous substitute for "use," and therefore really not utilized at all. But he did allow that "If differentiation were possible" then it can have a useful shade of meaning "to make good use of, especially for purpose not originally intended." "The antenna was broken but we were able to utilize a coat hanger." But he does say *if*.

When "reach out" made its recent appearance I thought at first that it was some kind of semi-humorous allusion to the old AT&T ad. But the people who say it are mostly way too young.

I may have the exact phrase wrong, but "put a pin in it" means set it aside for later considerations. I just started hearing it a couple of weeks ago.

You put pins in things on your computer to keep them on top, or first. For instance, if you have Excel in your toolbar and right click (?) on it, a list of your recent spreadsheets will pop up, and you can pin certain ones so they will stay at the top of the list. At least, it used to be that way. I haven't used my computer for stuff like that in a long time.

Also, if you have Chrome, there are 8, I think, icons on the bottom of the page that change according to how often you visit sites. You can pin the ones you want to stay. And you can pin some of your bookmarks, I think.

Anyway, it may come from that, or it may come from Pinterest, or both.


I'll have to ask what it means. I'm just interpreting from context. Maybe it means, "We won't deal with that now, but we will keep it on the top so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle."

I think it's a fairly common feature in browsers now. Or maybe standard? . I use Brave and it has it. Seems like Opera, which I used for a while, does too. There's actually a little pushpin-looking button that does it. The Windows Start and task bar menus have it. So yeah maybe that is the source of the phrase, since a lot of this stuff seems to come out of the technology space (to use another mildly annoying term).

The syndrome illustrated by "efforting" seems to be a tendency of sports writers and commentators. "It was difficult for Alabama to defense Joe Burrows." That at least has the merit of condensing something that's a little lengthy if you're going to say it over and over. "It was difficult for Alabama to defend themselves against Joe Burrows."

Its hard for Alabama to resist Joe Burrows.
Joe Burrows swamped the Tide.
Tide defense=lame

How's that? :)

I knew I was setting myself up for just such noise. :-)

I haven't heard "put a pin in it", but it sounds like the opposite of "let's double-click that."

I also have not heard the abuse of "effort." That, and "learnings" sound to me like mistakes made by foreign workers that somehow get adopted and spread by native English speakers.

Yes, exactly. "Trainings" is almost as bad and has been used a lot over the past week or so re Trump's order doing away with training(s) based on critical race theory. Or CRT. Which to me stands for cathode ray tube.

"cathode ray tube." You are such a dinosaur

I only made the transition a few years ago.

Also, NCR stands for National Cash Register.

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