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  • Richard Farr

Societal utilization of too many syllables?

The letters page of this morning’s New York Times has several writers using the word “societal.” Or should I say “utilizing”?

I’m not going to attempt to defend, or dignify as important, my pet linguistic prejudices, but … why oh why? The old words – the words that worked just fine before someone decided they were too important and sophisticated to write in mere English – were use and social. I suppose the lesson is, why use three syllables when seven will do?

By the way: that thing called “the environment,” which (in what may become the greatest single irony in all history) so-called “conservative” ideas are helping to irrevocably ruin? It’s actually something much bigger and more important than our environment. In an older, simpler, truer and less self-regarding voice, it’s nature. But what could possibly matter about something that only has two syllables?

Rant over. But for the Ur-rant about this kind of thing, read Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language.’  He was right: abstraction and the faux-scientific are an invisible, poisonous gas, and we’re all choking.


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