Thursday, May 6, 2010

Talking out Loud (Like a Broken Drum)

My old pal Roger, the one who reminded me of Fred Flinstone in more ways than I care to remember, used to hold a roomful of peons hostage in a conference room, writing with dried-out marker on the flip chart and stopping every now and then to say, “I’m just talking out loud here.”

Ah, my days of being a corporate tool. Good for my 401K contributions, bad for my faith in the longevity of the English language.

Since my first day as an employee at the sort of joint that provides an employee ID number and a name badge, I’ve sat through thousands of hours of meetings. There were meetings when I tried hard not to scream aloud, meetings when I felt my heart pounding in my chest because I had no idea how I would ever get all that work done, and meetings where I honestly wondered if anyone would notice if I just … closed … my … eyes … a … bit. And always, I kept my mouth shut when I heard language being misused, mispronounced and generally mangled to unrecognizable bits, as it often was, and not just when Roger had flown in from Detroit.

As a recovering English major, I make it a point never to correct other people’s grammar. Having spent my life with one parent whose greatest pleasure in life was to point out other people’s mistakes, as loudly as possible, I lost my appetite for correcting other people long ago. My one exception is for a single bit of Minnesota-ese which I only heard after moving here. I feel strongly enough about this one to tell my daughters that if they ever use the word “pitcher” to describe a photograph, graphic representation or piece of artwork, I will sneak into their rooms while they’re sleeping and shave their heads.

I’ve been spending more time in conference rooms lately, and I see that the state of the English language is in perhaps even worse shape than when I first took a detour into self-employment. People are working twice as hard, and they seem to be thinking before they speak about half as much.

Here, then, for your amusement or despair, are a few of my new favorite bits of “talking out loud,” heard within the past calendar year at very reputable firms, and uttered by entirely well-meaning staff members. Feel free to contribute some of your own pips in the Comments section:

From someone who felt he was repeating himself, “I know I sound like a broken drum.”

From someone who was worried she had given me too heavy a workload: “I don’t want to overwater you here.”

From someone who wanted me to know that things were happening at a rapid pace: “We’re aggressing very forward.”

And now, I stop, before I cry. I'm reminded of Kennedy's description of my boyfriend Winston Churchill as the man who “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

The battlefield is one thing, but the conference room might just beat the poor language yet.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. Dear dear Roger. I never thought I would have fond memories of spit cups. And lo and behold I do not. But there ARE fond memories...and you are one! Can't wait to read more.