Recently Robert Fulford wrote an entertaining article in Canada’s National Post in which he gently poked fun at modern society’s use of colloquial slang (see Words for a young century). Here’s his opening paragraph with added emphasis for anyone who may not be quite up to date with the latest lingo:
When I’m in the zone I sometimes think the English language began a process of change on or about Jan. 1, 2000. I have the sense that all of us are now busy inventing new, specifically 21st-century ways to talk and write. Is that weird or what? It’s impossible to prove, of course, and my more cautious friends will warn me against so rash a theory. Don’t go there, is how they’ll put it. But I’m stepping right up to it, because in this business, the word business, you stay focused or somebody comes along and eats your lunch. And that’s something with which, frankly, I have issues.
I have never understood the need to invent such confusing metaphors, and I frequently wonder how they ever get started. Don’t go there will always seem like a traffic instruction to me. It’s what a one-way sign would say if it could speak, and I have greater linguistic expectations for human beings than I do for traffic signs.
However, our world seems increasingly riddled with inarticulate successful humans. Here’s Bill Gates no less, responding in the Financial Times to the question Will Office 2003 become popular quickly?
Many times, the reason we have lags for the new version of Office is that it only works on fairly new hardware, partly because of the way we did these features, and partly because of how powerful hardware’s got. This thing works super good even on a three-year-old machine. So it doesn’t have to be coupled with any type of hardware refresh.
Coupled with a hardware refresh? What he means of course is that you won’t need to buy a new computer to run Microsoft Office 2003, which should help to make it become popular quickly. It’s highly ironic that the world’s richest man, who made his fortune developing and selling products designed to facilitate communication, should be so inarticulate himself.