Continuing on the theme from my previous post about ‘why business people speak like idiots’ (the title of a book I recently borrowed from the library) … it is unfortunate that many words prevalent in the world of wild salmon have the same flavor as business bullshit words, corporate double-speak – and as mentioned in the previous post – my wife’s suggested term: jargonomics, and my favorite: bumpf.
Also, as mentioned in the previous post, once one begins to see a lot of words ending in “tion” – for example, implementation, consultation, information, etc. – one has largely entered the realm of “ess” – as in emptiness, meaningless, pointless.
I don’t mean to point fingers at specific individuals or organizations, or question motivations or dedication (oops, more ‘tion’ words). More to try to point to the challenge of using language to say what we actually mean – and when in doubt utilize the directions of Strunk and White in their classic book on writing – “omit needless words”.
I should fairly point out that I am sometimes as guilty as the next individual of overuse injuries when it comes to management-speak, weasel words, and bullshit bumpf – especially in relation to wild salmon. A common challenges with bumpf is that overuse injuries are exactly the problem.
For example, what does ‘conservation‘ really mean? Do we use ‘extinction‘ within the true meaning of the word? Or how about ‘consultation’?
Yes, all ‘-tion’ words again. Even ‘action‘ has become an often empty, bullshit bumpf word…
Let me start with an easy target – Fisheries and Ocean Canada: Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon – the document explaining this ‘policy’ came out in late May 2005.
The opening letter from the then Fisheries Minister is so full of verbosity and empty weasel words that basically nothing is said, yet an entire page is filled.
This policy represents the culmination of five years of consultations with Canadians concerned about the protection of Pacific salmon. It will usher in a significant new approach to the conservation of one of Canada’s most valuable and cherished resources – wild Pacific salmon. Its adoption represents Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s commitment to maintain healthy and diverse populations of salmon that will support sustainable fisheries now, and meet the needs of future generations.
What is the minister actually trying to say here? Two empty ‘tion’ words in the first sentence – actually three. Culmination; consultations – why not just say five years of talking about it? Protection? what does this really mean? Conservation and protection can be two pretty different things yet are used as close siblings in this paragraph.
If one is ‘ushering‘ a “significant new approach” why not use some new language to do that as opposed to political bumpf?
“Commitment“… oh ghad, one of the worst empty, meaningless words – especially in relation to politics, business, sports, and marriage. When I am on hold for half an hour with Telus, I am told repeatedly how much they ‘appreciate’ my business and how ‘committed’ they are to serve me. Sports commentators carry on about commitment – well, yeah, I’d be ‘committed’ to if I was being paid multi-million dollars a year to play a game. More marriages end now than “til death do you part” – now that’s commitment.
It is one of the politician’s most empty words. Why tell me you’re committed – why not just do it? This word permeates so much of our society these days – as I’ve heard asked – did Churchill talk about ‘commitment‘, or Lincoln? Commitment is a weasel word of the worst kind that has become a weed.
It appears again in this letter in one of the emptiest, meaningless sentences of the entire document:
It gives tangible effect to this principle by committing to safeguard the genetic diversity of wild salmon, and maintain habitat and ecosystem integrity.
What the hell does this mean?
Giving ‘tangible effect’? what the ‘bleep’ is that? Can I feel it, or taste it, or touch it? I can certainly tell you that I can smell it and it smells like….
“Committing to safeguard“? There it is again – commitment, committing, – and ‘safeguard‘. Is that not similar to ‘protect’ – and “safeguard the genetic diversity“. How do we do that? And, more so, how do we do that when Fisheries and Oceans doesn’t even know salmon exist in a huge percentage of streams in BC – let alone, what the genetic diversity is. Am I to believe in my limited scientific knowledge that they will be taking genetic samples from every stream and therefore – ‘safeguarding‘.
‘maintain habitat and ecosystem integrity‘? I don’t think I want to go down that road… I can’t say that the history of this government institution has been all that great on maintaining anything other than empty bureaucratic bumpf. Not to mention that this collection of words makes me think of oil changes on my vehicle – and integrity – what does that really mean, especially in relation to ecosystems?
OK, fair enough, easy target. However, this type of language is a flood within the world of wild salmon (and many other areas). Empty words deeply clouded in obscurity, overuse, and obfuscation.
I’ll get to more of these in more postings…