Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Big words: why the mystery?

Once again, I can only apologise for leaving it so long between posts, but out of nowhere this year I've actually decided to do some work.

Anyway, without meaning to return back to the issue of 'truth' constantly, I think a lot of people really need to get with the programme. Yes, sometimes it isn't what you want to hear, and sometimes the truth hurts, but unfortunately the truth is the one thing that's indisputable in this world. Ironically, of course, the real truth is the only thing that has been completely manufactured by mankind; 'scientific truths' are subject to investigation and cannot be controlled, while the varying levels of truth offered through documentation, archives and evidence, the very things that we ourselves have created in order to control our own lives, is crystal clear.

Even if sometimes there's a lot of jargon associated with it in order to disrupt our ability to find the facts and instead allow for degrees of uncertainty, or what I like to call 'interpretation'. Interpretation relies on a personal, ontological perspective on how something should work, be it a policy designed to enforce a law or rule or be it a philosophical basis for belief in, or against, a religion or popular thought.

While these are, of course, the truth, it is often unclear how the rules should be enforced, what level of enforcement is required and, at times, what is breaking the rules. Take the many translations of religious texts, for example. Because it is impossible to truly understand the intentions without having a) been there when they were being written, and b) knowing fully the language they were originally written in and the various likely mistranslations that could occur, it is no wonder that there is so much confusion, even within those groups that essentially worship the same idols.

If my idols (or ideology) is to enforce the rules of a certain organisation then my interpretation has to be as limited as possible; I want the facts and the figures rather than knowing the wrangling room within which I can operate. I would like a strict set of guidelines to follow and procedures to put in place. This is why I think I would probably operate well in administration - I've been too quick to use big, unnecessary words that sometimes lose the weight of the meaning in their useage in an attempt to avoid appearing either dumb or patronising.

However, it has quickly come to my attention that while people are clever, the population is stupid (to paraphrase Tommy Lee Jones in 'Men In Black'). It is easier to keep everything clear and open by using the small, concise words that allow for no, or limited, interpretation. This is not a scathing attack on the misplaced romanticism of this language I love so much, but rather a call to those who abuse its vaguities in order to remain enigmatic or ambiguous, so as not to have to enforce a policy. I am not calling for Newspeak, but I reckon there's a place for something similar to avoid catastrophes of varying magnitudes in the short-term.

Words such as 'significant' or 'substantial' need to be put in context. We have mathematicians capable of producing insanely complex formulae to work out taxes or inflation, so why can't we put some of their genius to define, numerically and quantitatively, these phrases? For example, 'significant' could be, 'less than 50% but more than 25% of a budget, plus 25% of its previous year's budget', while 'substantial' could be, 'anything higher than 40% of its previous year's budget plus 40% of its current expenditure' or something. While these are only suggestions, which themselves are limited, it immediately begins to reduce the risk of interpretation, or misinterpretation, depending on how you choose to view this particular topic.

I hope this has cleared up my position on big words and their over-use and unnecessary appearances in many documents that define how we live our lives.

(Yes, many of you will probably think that THIS entry is either packed with a few misleading or unnecessary words, or indeed that it was a waste of resources to write it, but no great things were ever done by sitting around thinking. Policies need action, and action defines the man.)


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