Playing with Words

Recently, I had the good luck to find some of my ex-lecturer’s art pieces exhibited at the KLCC Galeri Petronas. He paints over pictures cut from magazines. I saw four of his pieces there – dark paint over blurred magazine cutouts of people.
But whoever the curator was, he or she needed Strunk and White’s 1918 classic on how to write simple, clear and understandable English. Because the introduction to the work was convoluted and pompous. Whoever wrote such an introduction clearly wanted to seem more high-brow and knowledgeable than she or he really was. If I hadn’t seen my lecturer’s work before, I wouldn’t have known an iota of what the introduction was about.
That’s the same with Doctors and Lawyers I presume. Why we go to them and get them to help us is because medical and legal terms are so confusing…or are they? I believe there’s a simple explanation why all the nonsense is needed. Otherwise, who’d give two hoots about docs and lawyers if it took one sentence to convey what the 15-pages said in a roundabout way? Sometimes, what is said in some long, officious and obsolete words can be mighty powerful and scare everyone into taking their medicines or pay up or be sued.
Which brings me to the same rubbish spewed in the Corporate World. Everyone’s ‘leveraging’ something or other. Everyone’s streamlining some bloody efficiency or committed to your success. Or having a fantabulous vision and mission statement which 99.9% of the company’s staff can’t even read or pronounce. What it does: makes everyone look and feel grander than the janitor. What it REALLY does: confuse the socks off all employees. (Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I was in Corporate Communications. I know just the type of wheeling and dealing which goes on inside big corporations.)
Why do people need to puff and pad themselves up by saying things which can be said simply and economically?
Why can’t they just come right out and say the things that really mean something instead of hiding behind some jargon?
What the heck is ‘novation’ anyway? My aunt asked me this last week and I told her I didn’t know. (She works in the Purchasing Dept of a multinational company which has been bought, merged, etc. so many times that no one really knows what’s left anymore.)
Why do people always want to confuse each other with big words and even bigger personalities?
What we’re doing is playing with words to transform ourselves into what we think we ought to pretend to become, rather than be satisfied being who we are, now.
Don’t forget, it is easy to be complicated. It’s so much tougher to be simple.
PS: Novation is a legal term meaning replacement. Now why can’t someone please say that in a contract instead of ‘novation’?
PPS: Get Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” for free at

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