Gullible’s travails – the conflicts in an old mind

There was a very interesting discussion on one of my close friend’s Facebook wall. He just asked the question – since when did the word ‘after’ get replaced by the word ‘post’ and why? What followed was a very long thread of punning on the word, and then various other words, most of them tongue-in-cheek.

Seriously though, it is true that we nowadays use the word post a lot more frequently. Why, was my friend’s question?  Frankly, I don’t have a clue. It used to be the medical world’s preserve earlier – one did talk about post natal and ante-natal, post surgery. The medical terminologies are complicated anyway – when the doctor or some journal is talking about volume depletion, what they mean is weight-loss, which is an easier, less-syllabled word, so why not use that? It all gets me so frustrated that I often get suicidal ideation, which is doctor-speak for wanting to kill myself. I can understand how some words used to be hidden, to take away stigma. So when I had TB, the doctor thought I would be heart-broken, ( I am imagining his thoughts of course), he kept referring to Koch’s, which was funny because I knew what Koch’s was and all the hide-and-seek brought back how in school, when we had to go to a leprosy colony as part of our SUPW, we were taught to call it Hansen’s disease to de-stigmatize it and here the doctor was pussyfooting around me!).

Anyway, coming back to post.  I have noticed it creeping into my conversation with others too, and I am usually very particular about these things. When I worked for CSP GWFM, I would never write pre-poned assignments, even though the PeopleSoft solution itself had the word. I religiously wrote ‘brought forward’; to prove what point to whom, I have no clue, but my holier-than-thou image, in my  mind at least, stayed intact. (I am such a snob – how do I even survive in this world?).

Talking of post though, I am not sure why it has taken over. Simply because it has one syllable as opposed to after’s two? I doubt it. Post was to mortem what after was to math. And then again, post – a normal one or a lamp- means something completely different to my dog, because that is where he lifts a leg up for his daily ablutions. I have always tried to steer clear of management lingo and even now I blank out when I hear it anywhere. There was a time when I genuinely did not understand the terms. Nowadays I at least know what they are, even if I don’t agree with most of them. It took me years to understand horizontals and verticals, and why one is something and the other something else. Even now, I am not entirely sure why they are what they are – I pretend a knowledge  which I actually do not possess, (I am sham that way) but that is the first step in communication in this world – pretend to know, keep your mouth shut if you can’t find anything sure and definite to say, and if you can get by through saying one intelligent word or so, do that, and then keep quiet and observe while people wonder about your sharp intelligence.

This was a lesson I learnt from my father. He would learn the names of the singers we listened to (Beatles, Eric Clapton, U2, John Denver – yes, I am that old), and the first lines of some of their lyrics. And when my friends came over, he would begin a conversation something like this – I prefer Country Roads to I am Leaving on a Jet Plane, leaving my friends gaping at how wonderfully cool my dad was. No one dared scratch surfaces then, or he would be caught out. If I tried that tactic on my son, I would be caught flat out in a jiffy.

Anyway, I digress. What on earth was thinking out of the box?  Who thinks inside the box anyway, and why a box, when you could do it so well in a room , for crying out loud? And why is a problem an issue? An issue has multiple meanings and problem is always only a problem, so why this bias towards the former? Imagine this conversation, apropos nothing: “I have no issue with him”. If your mind worked in the convoluted ways mine does, I could actually be wondering why you are advertising the fact to all and sundry that you have no children with that man/woman….when we didn’t even know you were in a relationship? See what I mean? Our’s is a problem-free world, we only have issues and non-issues. Very weird.

As my friend noted in that thread, “miscommunication” actually means “we messed up big time but are not likely to admit it”. These are management-ism, even jhola-ism (for the non-hindi-ites, a jhola is a cloth bag the intellectuals of our country carry because anything more expensive is not kosher and takes away from your intellectualism) and we grab them quick to sound more knowledgeable than the next person. What pray is the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement? That bothered me for a while, because I was in the governing committee of a school and we paid big money for two folks to come and help us write that, and I watched in dismay as the whole thing went on, and they basically wrote what you and I could write if we sat talking with the teachers and the management for 2 hours.  Also, when you were chatting with the client in that meeting yesterday, did you know that you were not actually meeting him/her but ‘interfacing’?

I mean, I am fine with short forms being used, and to a degree, I can even understand bundling parts of two different words: so brunch, which is the meal you have when you are too lazy to get up early and can’t be bothered to make lunch, is fine. In my mind, you are allowed that. Or say flu instead of the grand-sounding influenza – that works. Influenza is too grand a term for something which is just a blocked nose and some rise in body temperature if you are lucky, and a good doctor will tell you only to take paracetamol/tynelol and steam/vapour. Mainly, something which gets you absolutely no sympathy from anyone when you get it, while you feel worse than one does after far serious illnesses. Something which does not grant your ill self any pity or attention has no business being called by the grand name influenza, period. Flu it is.

I am not even going to go into ‘awesome‘ – I have understood and admitted that people who use it are linguistically challenged. Even during the now infamous war on terror, shock and awe meant something else. When did it change to mean everything a young person sees and means? My hair looks awesome, that movie was awesome, the teacher is awesome, that holiday was awesome….anyone knows words like beautiful, nice, great, wonderful? And when I use the word awe, in it’s right (OK, no value judgments here), in the context one used to, a decade or so back,  I get blank stares.

When you meet and catch up with somebody, remember you are touching base. What base? Go figure. What if I know nothing about baseball (which I don’t)? I have seen genuine surprise in my father’s face when someone uses these words – him of the Webster/Oxford/Cambridge English knowing world. Where did a term like ‘keeping me in the loop‘ come from? I don’t want to be in any loop, thanks very much, I am sure I will feel restricted and claustrophobic. I would much prefer to be kept informed.

Since when did approximate get interchanged with ballpark?  Again, guesstimate I can guess, and can accept. I am sure it has something to do with baseball, but exactly what? And why should ideas get parked? The immediate visual which comes to my mind is that of dozens of neurons trying to find a parking slot in a supermarket car park, and let me tell you, it’s not a pretty vision, so much of my already shrinking brain out there on public view, sheesh! And when someone says one has a lot of balls in the air, obviously referring to juggling many ideas, none of them complete, the picture my mind draws out ain’t pretty either. Similarly with brainstorm – it scares me, because I have a very vivid imagination and all that gray matter flying about in space as I try to come up to speed with my supervisor and colleagues as to what I need to do, makes me uncomfortable.

Anyways? (I can’t believe it, but the extra s does not get red squigglies below it, so this has seamlessly gone into our lingo). I need to curl up in a corner, think positive, and wait till I die, or am equipped to speak this language. I part with this discussion below, between one of the world’s best known new-age spiritualist and a neuroscientist –

The spiritualist -“Science is in the process of overthrowing the climactic overthrow of the superstition of materialism. Everything we call matter comes from something that is not material, the essential nature of the physical world is that it is not physical,  the essential stuff of the universe is non-stuff……and science also tells us…that nature is a discontinuity, an on-off phenomenon…there are gaps between every two ons, where you find a field of possibilities, a field of pure potentiality, …..what is god if not the immeasurable potential of all that was, all that is and all that will be? Science also tells us that this is a field of non-locality,…..intention orchestrates space-time events….we have a consciousness that is part of the sea of consciousness…you have within you the resources to intuitively grasp the mystery…”

Atheist: “Basically what he is doing is streaming together at a rapid pattern a bunch of scientific sounding words, sprinkled in with some spiritual or new age words which doesn’t mean anything. I would call it  woo-woo.”

I value my life, so I won’t divulge names.

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6 thoughts on “Gullible’s travails – the conflicts in an old mind

  1. What a lovely peek at some of these routine (not daily) booth jammers, Lali! Reminded me of a very graphic “i am the kick in the whiskey” explanation once heard in the context of Bhagavad Gita!! (yes you heard me right) …love your “awesome” style :v

  2. Koch’s ( I mean how does a girl sound and tackle the raised eyebrows and snickers when she says ” I have Koch’s”!) and Hansen’s to de stigmatize diseases. Volume reduction and your own suicidal ideation. Great reading as usual, Lali – just like your Queens’ Language Usurped.

    Like many other things, even this change in language, including punctuation, is driven by the corporate world. The ads have tossed punctuation marks, being especially unkind to the apostrophe, chopped off letters, plastered emoticons on billboards and what not ( not to be confused with a piece of furniture). The fellows created such a buzz around the word “empowerment” that the PM aspirant couldn’t speak about anything else when the Nation Wanted to know about his vision for Mera Bharat Mahan.

  3. My pet peeve is the word –hate– which seems to be the go to ammunition for anything one deeply dislikes, remotely dislikes, slightly dislikes or simply prefers something else. For example it can be anything from “I hate eating peas” “I hate that hair color” “I hate classical music” to “I hate a certain politico.” I thought that you used the word hate very carefully and selectively for things that you truly
    abhorred. I fear it is too late for course correction now! Its another usage that is here to stay– unfortunately.
    Keep writing!!

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