Can and Able

What has happened to our brash, ‘I-can-do-it’ style of American English? Has anyone else noticed? Passive verbs have overtaken our vocabulary.

Now instead of writing or saying, “You can work a flexible schedule…” we are affronted by the anemic: “You have the ability to circumvent usual time constraints …”

My immediate and ill-tempered response to this is, “Oh, really? And who gave you the right to determine my abilities?”

I fear it’s Geek Speak. Take a few moments and examine web sites and online writing. So much of it is rife with not only spelling and syntax errors (and yes, my writing suffers from them too), but the lack of any verbs with gumption must contribute to the feeling of lassitude in this country. We are all aware of the sins of the spell check application. Any person trained in English, journalism or literature should cringe at the thought of relying upon this electronic correction fluid. But I suspect even feature writers and reporters for the wire services are depending upon their computers, because the lack of any human proofreading is embarrassingly obvious.

Have we ‘numbed down’ our language as well as ‘dumbed down’? Do we spend too many hours in the cubes only to go home and stare at another cube for some few minutes’ respite? Our everyday written language has turned from Hemmingway to Barney Fife, and our vocabulary rotted to such a deplorable level, there are carrion-pickers circling overhead.

I implore you to turn away from Geek Speak and Business English. Avoid phrases such as, “At the present time…” and use “Now.” Or, another typical evasion, “We have found our usual mode of operation to be apparently inadequate…” changed to “It’s not working.” What about, “I find myself in agreement with your basic premise…” gently but firmly transcribed to “Yes.”

We need bold words and strong verbs; tools to approach our future. Let’s begin. Now.