Have you run across unfortunate word choices lately? Have you seen word use that makes you cringe because it’s just out-and-out wrong? Or that makes you feel vaguely uneasy?
Marcia Yudkin, one of my favorite marketing gurus, certainly has. And would like to protect us all from them. I agree. It’s important to use words carefully. That doesn’t mean being prissy, but it does mean being precise.
In an August Marketing Minute, Ms. Yudkin notes the use of the word “cartel” to promote a writing and marketing course. Hmmm. Cartel has pretty negative connotations, as we all know.
So why do people use the wrong word? According to Ms. Yudkin, there are several reasons. One is that they are “uninformed.” Another is that they want to distinguish themselves by using an out-of-the-ordinary word. She points to folks who use “notorious” instead of “famous.” Calling someone notorious is not doing them a favor, and I’m surprised that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has not objected to being referred to as “Notorious RBG.” (Too busy, I guess.) Third, and perhaps most interesting is those folks who “ … feel that through the force of their intelligence and will, they can single-handedly overcome deep-seated associations in the language.”
I can tell a story on myself regarding this last point. For years, I’ve been waging a lonely campaign to bring “irregardless” back into common use. When I mention this to friends and colleagues, I get the eye roll and the derisive snorts. Clearly personal charm has not been enough to persuade others to jump on my bandwagon. And, truth to tell, I am not really serious about resuscitating irregardless. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I love the richness of language and got a touch overenthusiastic about the power of pungency and playfulness.