Coast Has So Much That Is Worth Saving

Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia), November 16, 2013 | Go to article overview

Coast Has So Much That Is Worth Saving


FURTHER to last week's musings on the digital world's need for speed, I am struggling to keep up with the way in which shortcuts are transforming our language.

This is nothing new, of course.

We have been making ersatz words out of acronyms, initialisms and abbreviations for generations, and often for good reason.

A good example is UNESCO. To type this name requires just six keystrokes, compared with 65, including spaces and a comma, to spell out United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation , but acronyms and other shortcuts, often puzzling to the uninitiated, are infesting the language like weeds.

The one that most bothers me, though, is labelling. In the copycat world of media reporting and commentary, just a single word in a phrase is seized upon and repeated over and over until it replaces the whole.

The resulting label sees a dilution of clarity and/or a loss of meaning, all in the interests of brevity and time-saving.

To this fault I too must plead guilty.

When I started this piece, my intention was to observe that "the environment looks like being one of the major casualties of the political lurch to the right at Federal, State and regional level."

Ah yes, the environment -- a label that is surely a gross and meaningless generalisation.

A printed dictionary is now seen as a quaint collectible, but I still like to consult one just for old time's sake, and mine defines "environment" as "the aggregate of surrounding things, conditions or influences", so without particularisation of that thing, condition or influence, the meaning is left to the reader or hearer. …

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