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Unclear and misleading language

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Can anyone explain the obsession nowadays with changing long-established, well-understood words for new words which are unclear and misleading?  Some of the changes are obviously due to Political Correctness but other changes seem to have been made purely to confuse us.

Take, for example, "Personnel Department", a clear description of an office which deals with recruitment and organisation of a workforce in a business.  This has been replaced, without explanation, with "Human Resources", a term which sounds as if it concerns employees laid out on a meat rack.  "Human Resources" itself has become too much of a mouthful: callers to my small business now ask to speak to "HR", Exactly what has been gained by changing 'Personnel' to 'HR'?

Some of these changes are actually detrimental to the running of the business.  I phoned my bank recently with a minor query and went through the usual series of menus, trying to get through to a bank representative.  Eventually I was offered a choice of "Balance" or "Agent".  Presumably "Representative" has now been replaced by "Agent" but this term sounds too much like somebody trying to sell me something.  I rang off.

Unclear and misleading language, how did Personnel become HR? There are countless similar examples.  Are you happy about our "Police Force" now being described as a "Police Service"?  Do our railways run more smoothly because we are now "Customers" instead of "Passengers"?  Add your own examples.

This gripe sounds trivial but clarity of language is one of our defences against state tyranny and we should do more to oppose this constant distortion of familiar English words and phrases.

George Orwell showed so clearly in "1984" that destruction of a country's traditions and way of speaking is one of the first steps towards control of the population.  Today we have Hype and Spin: tomorrow we may see the setting up of The Ministry Of Love.

By: Oracle2007


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ErikJon

ErikJon

Oh yes. You've chosen an excellent topic for griping. Thank you, O benevolent Gripemeister.

I don't know about the U.K., but in the U.S., the president of any small company, these days, refuses to call himself anything but C.E.O. In fact, for some of them it is not enough to be C.E.O. of a small company, so they call themselves "President and C.E.O."

In fact, I know one of them that glorifies not only himself, but all of his employees as well. His personal secretary, for example, has the title, "Vice President of Administration and Human Resources."

Of course, all the while, Communist thought always creeps in--taught early in schools but always called by different names--with the intention of diminishing the achievements of the individual and exalting the accomplishments of the "community." Consequently, in the U.S., the titles of company officers are often removed altogether from their business cards (calling cards), and, consequently, instead of "Director of Planning," he is now recognized only as a member of the community; his card may simply say "John Doe, Planning Team;" instead of being a leader he is merely a member.

Our politicians here have also exhibited a serious case of megalomania. Our "County Commissioners," for example, are now sometimes known as "C.E.O. of ___ County," as if they were running a business. (Perhaps it is rather a clue as to what is really going on behind the scenes.)

Companies used to sit back and decide their long-term goals together. Now they call it their "mission," instead. Some are even more mentally inept than that, perceiving an imaginary distinction between "mission" and "goal," and spend time writing out each. I am told that there are business seminars offered in which this artificial distinction is more clearly delineated. Charles Hobbs, businessman and author of the book, Time Power, put it bluntly when he said regarding this supposed distinction, "Who cares?" The better question would be, "Who is responsible for this time-wasting nonsense, and why is he still employed?"

I went looking for the "manual" for a certain machine that I had bought recently, and discovered that it was now a "user's guide." In fact, to make matters worse, instead of being one booklet, it is now divided into two: one of them is called "Getting Started" and the other is the "User's Guide." So now, if you are looking for the answer to a certain question, and it cannot be found in the one, it may possibly be in the other. Your search now takes twice as long.

In fact, instead of explaining how to use the machine, step by step, they teach you certain aspects of the use, and then include the other details in the margin, on every page, in a boxed-in area called "Tips" or "Hints". There is no difference between these tips and hints and the text of the manual, other than the fact that they are more minor details that could easily have been included in the body.

It is no coincidence that one publication resembles another, or that one company uses the same corpus of Newspeak as another, because, in the end, it merely illustrates the frailty of human nature and the vanity of mankind's inventions.

"Surely men of low degree are a vapor, Men of high degree are a lie; If they are weighed on the scales, They are altogether lighter than vapor." (Ps. 62.9)
ErikJon
24th Feb 16 14:36

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Paul1867

Paul1867

My son drew my attention to your post and asked was it me so you may guess I bang on about this sort of thing a lot.
Thanks for posting I thought I was alone!
Patients are just that not “service users”, I am a rate payer not a “customer” the list is endless and I wonder who they think they are fooling that in some way by changing the name we, the end user, think we get a better service. I am a pessimist and always see the glass half empty so when a government department changes its name all I see is the millions spent on rebranding everything and how that money could be better spent! What did happen to the DSS I wonder?

Hijacking of words that already have a recognised meaning is also common; my favourite example is the “resolution” of TV screens. I have always thought resolution was dots per unit measurement and that is certainly true if you buy a printer. But buy a television and suddenly it’s the number of pixels on the whole screen! You buy a full HD screen of any size you get the same number of pixels thus as the screen size goes up the “true” dots per square inch go down and that’s what I call the resolution.

As you say it’s spin and where there is spin there is motive and the motivation you can be absolutely sure is not customer service.
Paul1867
17th Jan 11 17:16

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batty cat

batty cat

"Service users", what was wrong with patient? What is a Maternity envelope? I always thought an envelope was a white or brown piece of paper that you put a letter in!
batty cat
7th Nov 10 05:20

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Ron S

Ron S

Political correctness simply obscures reality. In the case of Personnel vs Human Resources, the implication is that personnel were once living people and should be respected as individuals. Resources are non-living things, like coal, oil, or different mineral ores, to be mined, burned or smelted; used, and then disposed of when no longer functional.

Consider this. When do CEOs or corporate directors ever get hired through Human Resource Departments? Managers and supervisors, perhaps. Someone mentioned Staffing Office. How about Labor Pool Table? That’s for mail clerks, and copy machine operators, and file clerks.

In today’s world of disguises, no self-respecting person wants to be anything less than an administrative assistant. HR needs a new title, something like: Human Educational and Corporate Community Development Division. That should make any hourly wage slave feel good about themselves and the future.
Ron S
22nd Jan 10 23:49

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Andy

Andy

In the last 10 years we have moved towards being judged on talking a good game not your actions. We had a prime minister whose whole approach was predicated on gloss, spin and rhetoric even by politicians (low) standards and it seems that in industry, senior management are similarly impressed by BS. This shift in language is not as trivial as it first seems. There seems to be a type of moron who hides behind this fudging and soft-pedalling using it to do a mediocre job at best. I just hope there enough of us with the integrity and intelligence to see through and challenge soundbite culture, wherever it occurs.
Also, the police are not a 'service' - law,order and justice are cornerstones of civilisation. There are times when that is 'force' - pure and simple. People who interact with the police are not there for a 'customer experience'.
As Mark Twain once said (I believe) - "Common sense ain't".
Andy
3rd Jul 09 11:25

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GrumpyOldWoman

GrumpyOldWoman

I agree with Overlifty. The job description 'secretary' seems to be passe and degrading these days. Now they're executive assistants, personal assistants and office managers and administators. How come they still do the filing, book meetings and make the coffee then?
GrumpyOldWoman
30th May 09 17:59

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Alan McMillan

Alan McMillan

I remember being told at a meeting about fifteen years ago that I was a "schedulable resource", not long after our personnel department was renamed Human Resources. It seems they've decided we're not actually people any more, just resources that can be used until we drop. It's all intended to dehumanise so they can feel better about shafting us.
Alan McMillan
9th Apr 09 11:54

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overfiftys

overfiftys

The gripe is perfectly valid and I agree with it. Having been out of the workplace now, as a housewife for many years, I have been overwhelmed at the changes in office and job descriptions, let alone general daily life. Junior clerks are now "administrative assistants" , for example, and there are numerous others with pompous titles involving the words "co-ordinator", "advisor", "administrator" , "operations" and God knows how many more. I wonder if it's all to do with psyching people up to make them think that they've got an "important" position in society?
I used to laugh every time Ann Robinson on "The Weakest Link" challenged her contestants to give a more concise description of their airy-fairy-sounding jobs. Certainly used to bring some of them down to earth with a wallop.
overfiftys
8th Jan 08 08:29

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Pericles

Pericles

Read old books and newpapers and you see " A hotel..." but nowadays it's "An hotel..." Madness.
Pericles
7th Sep 07 00:42

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A Mignon

A Mignon

Personnel dept = yuk. Human Resources = yuk. What's wrong with just

Staffing office?

Actually the renaming is simply a refelection of the fact that human beings are now simply ciphers, and of no real consequence to the business.
A Mignon
3rd Sep 07 10:53

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anon

anon

I agree the way officious people explain things to us poor mortals confuses that much that in the end we tend to give up anyway.Also peoples job titles change practically from week to week.Mine started off as classroom assistant then went to teaching assistant then teachers assistant and now its learning mentor.I do much the same job as I have for the past ten years but with a different title.Don't ask me why?
I think some of the worst people at tech talk are computer technicians.They tend to talk to you in highly technical language assuming that you actually know what they are waffling on about.I usually let them waffle for about half an hour then tell them that I don't understand a word they've said and could they repeat in simple terms.
anon
31st Aug 07 22:48

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Chris

Chris

So are you saying, if the change has been made for reasons of Political Correctness that the change is valid, but not if it has been done to confuse?

Isn't political correctness an attempt to curb Freedom of Speech?

Something that results in a change of department name within an organisation - public or private is going to be the result of some Consultancy excercise carried out by the organisation. The silly changes reflect an organisation's poor managerial ability. The fact that such terms could be copied by others is just demoralizing. If the organisation was well managed, why would it need to buy into everything a consultancy exercise recommends?
Chris
31st Aug 07 11:38

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ron

ron

trivial! the language we speak now has changed enormously from 200 years ago, our language has been constantly changing for better or worse since the first person formed his/her first syllable. Police force/Police service - noone would care if they did their job. Ditto personnel.
ron
30th Aug 07 17:18

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yoyo

yoyo

You're right, the gripe sound sound and is trivial.
yoyo
30th Aug 07 15:51

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Having a poke

Having a poke

>Are you happy about our "Police Force" now being described as a "Police Service"?

Well actually, no - not really. Personally I would have thought that calling them "Police Farce" would have been the right thing to do!
Having a poke
30th Aug 07 14:41

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