Shadow-outline @FiatLingua #conlang


A nonce word is one made up on the spot, for the occasion — a one-off, one-time-use word, as it were. Recently I wanted to say “silhouette”, but the word would not come to mind — so instead, shadow-outline plopped out.

I was immediately struck with how elegant and self-explanatory this nonce word is. Since then I’ve tried slipping it into conversation, but that’s been quite hard — how often do we talk about “silhouettes”, in any case? But when I have used it, it seems to have gone down well. That is, nobody has noticed I’ve smuggled in a made-up word — and I seem to have been clearly understood(!)

So there we are. Shadow-outline. A nonce word worth keeping around, perhaps? (if I do say so myself) And it also does away with remembering how to spell that Frenchy word S-I-L-H-O-U-E-T-T-E.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

this post originally appeared on my other blog Wrixlings:

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Rationalisation Measures

plainenglishNOTpngThe company that runs my workplace is changing. The new company recently sent a document through to all staff. This is such delightful gibberish that I just had to share it.

CENSORED* will be a clustered model which may result in the requirement for less staff to undertake certain jobs where rationalisation can be achieved by combining roles and responsibilities or due to the terms of the contract resulting in the requirement for less staff in certain areas.

Wow. I mean… wow. Words fail me. There’s so much wrong with this sentence — and yes, check it out again, that is one sentence! Some lowlights:

  • 46 + word long sentence
  • “…clustered model…”
  • “…where rationalisation can be achieved…”

And the document just goes on and on.

But to be fair to my (new) company, this type of language is standard. But standard or not, it just isn’t on. There was a genius quote in the Evening Standard** by Lucy Tobin recently. She’s slagging off email etiquette, particularly that of employers(!) I want to share one of the zingers she comes out with:

This is what happens when managers who learned “how to deal with people” in a two-day module at business school are released into the community.

!!! Brilliant! And I’m keeping a clipping of this article for future students (and bosses!): yes, I’m an English teacher.

So, back to where I began. Instead of the, frankly, offensive drivel that my new employers splurged into my inbox, how about this?

We will group CENSORED*. We may lay some people off in some areas, if we can, because it is cheaper to get two people to do three people’s jobs.

My version isn’t the pithiest or the best you could come out with. But that’s the point: I just splunked that off, but it is still shorter and makes far more sense. It also doesn’t patronise people with nonsense euphemisms like “rationalisation” and “combining roles and responsibilities”.

So there we have it. In other news, here’s the Plain English Campaign’s website.

This article first appeared in slightly different form on 14th August 2014 on my language blog Wrixlings

*Company and work location deleted.
**Tuesday 29 July 2014, p15 Comment.

© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry