Service of Words That Should be Changed or that Need No Embellishment
July 5th, 2016
Categories: Building and Remodeling, Honesty, Lawyers, Medical Care, Words
Pick Another Word
The people who selected key words in the following examples didn’t think of their impact on others.
- In this first instance, the name of a clinic was selected from the point of view of health professionals. It didn’t have patients in mind. A friend, I’ll call her Nora, received a call from out of the blue from the “Survivorship Center.” At first she thought it was a scam and that the person on the line was asking for funds. She’d been going for checkups to the prestigious Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. During the call she learned that the nurse practitioner she’d seen for years was leaving the Institute and that she was now assigned to the Survivorship Clinic. Nora told me: “I don’t like being categorized as a ‘survivor,’ and I don’t want to be a card-carrying member of such a group. I’m not ashamed of having had breast cancer, but that I had it shouldn’t be part of my identity.” She was infuriated when she received a letter in the mail with the clinic’s name on it. She hasn’t blasted the news of her previous illness and resented that the postal worker saw the name of the clinic. She felt it was an invasion of her privacy. In a second call to this clinic Nora told the person she spoke with that she thought that the name was dreadful—even tacky. Her response was that Nora was free to go elsewhere.
- Then there was a word I’ve referenced before: Relocatable. That’s what the Air Force called a certain type of housing back in the day. The word focused on how the structure might be easily moved with no regard to how it sounded to people asked to live in it. It had no appeal to those assigned to the punishing North Dakota climate known for minus 60 degree temperatures and ferocious winter winds. The word implied flimsy and evoked images of belongings flying in the air should a Wizard of Oz-strong cyclone hit. Many of the relocatables remained empty in spite of a base housing shortage.
Redundant: You Are or You Aren’t
- I sat up straight when I heard a supporter describe a political candidate as “very, very honest.” There are some words that need no embellishment. Honest is one of them.
With furniture, if a piece imitates an original, the word “style” clarifies what it is, as in “Victorian-style chest,” or “Queen Anne- style chair.” But a doctor, artist, PR person or bus driver is or isn’t.
- In this context, early one morning last week Len Berman told his listeners about a UK-based company that is now set up to work in NYC to fight parking tickets. It bills itself as “the world’s first robot lawyer.” As the WOR-Radio co-host of “Len Berman and Todd Schnitt in the Morning” read copy about this service he hesitated after saying “A real lawyer” and repeated, “real lawyer?” then continued. I, too, would have paused. Is there an unreal lawyer?
Do certain words that name a service, organization or product rub you the wrong way or create a negative image? Do you think that let-it-all-hang-out TV programs, where people share the most intimate information about themselves, impacted the choice of the Survivorship Clinic’s name?
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” said Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, which I thought when I heard “very” matched with “honest.” Other examples? What about the reference to a “real lawyer?”