Not enough time . . .

Have you noticed some signs of our frantic times? Who hasn’t? Consider, for example, the ways we speak — I mean the way many people are speaking these days in the broadcast media. Where have the verbs gone? Living and thriving the participles (and occasional gerunds) . . . I mean to say, the participles dominate in spoken news reports: “President Bush arriving in Crawford, Texas, today.” “A massive earthquake in Peru killing hundreds today — officials desperately seeking to restore service . . . .” My guess is that this is “headline speech” converted to spoken newscasts, but then it does spill over into the broader reports. I don’t see it in written journalism and I hope I never do.

Such speech could be intentional but probably is not. The style heightens the sense of immediacy and urgency in speech and writing, but the frequent clumsiness in media speech suggests it is neither intentional or planned. The Greek style of the Gospel of Mark employs the technique effectively, though. Mark situates the life and ministry of Jesus in an active, brisk, sometimes breathless setting wherein his divine mission and human needs constantly intersect.
Some words, and some neologisms, get too much exposure; we use them too much. Here are some I could live without, at least in the senses and ways they are typically used:

incredible– It seems to be the omnicompetent adjective of the day and is rarely used in its literal sense. It seems not to mean anything, really. Or too much: despite the intended praise, who wants to be known as “an incredible human being”? Don’t we need more credibility?
in-depth — I weep for the numerous, more suitable adjectives scorned in favor of that awkward term.

impacted — there was a time when the term referred only to wisdom teeth and bowels. It’s still an unpleasant word, even for a universal, verbalized noun-cum-transitive verb. What and who isn’t being “impacted” these days by something or someone? Why, only the other day the local newspaper related how one car impacted another in a crash! Moreover, these days one must surely be most effective or influential when one is impactful.

I could go on, but I need to confess that as we Americans change our speech in ways alternatively annoying and delightful, people around the globe continue to outstrip us as they use and transform English. Someone said the other day that the global language is not English but broken English. I’ll not lament that a language that belongs to everyone must belong to none; rather, I am relieved that I do not have to conduct business and life using broken Chinese or Russian. But I am perhaps no richer for that and my being functionally monolingual. And so my respect for international friends and acquaintances who have made great efforts, successfully, to learn English grows deeper by the year.

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