The Write Stuff
The –ize Don’t Have It
A firm in Yorkshire, England, called Solutionize Global “utilises” video conferencing to help new hires adjust to their place of employment. Where to start? “Solutionize” is creeping into common use, where it does not belong and serves no purpose. It’s a borrowing from metallurgy, apparently, and refers to heating a metal alloy “to form a solid solution.” It doesn’t mean to solve something, as in a problem, though I have heard someone on NPR say that they have found a way to “solutionize poverty.” And “utilise,” or “utilize,” is just a fancy word for “use,” though that is not really accurate, either. Utilize, purists insist, means using something in a way that is different from its intended purpose. You might utilize a hammer to kill a mosquito, for example, rather than use it to drive a nail.
And speaking of driving, you will also drive readers crazy by writing like this. Turning nouns into verbs by adding these suffixes uglyizes the language, as Amanda Bales writes, even if some such word finds its way into everyday use. The result is “tongue-twisting, bureaucratic-sounding clutter.” Unless your coinage, or your theft of someone else’s coinage, has some unique meaning, avoid it. And if just sounds bad, avoid it.
“Do not jargonize and awkwardize the language,” writes Bales, who recommends a book called When Words Collide: A Media Writer’s Guide to Grammar and Style. “It may be all right to pasteurize milk, but it is not yet acceptable to zucchinize a casserole.” And let’s pray it never is.
ANNOYING WORD OF THE MONTH: SURREAL
This year is “going to be surreal, at least when it comes to creative trends,” Adweek has announced. What does that even mean, surreal, except that the writer couldn’t think of anything more descriptive and didn’t want to work hard enough to do so? “Surreal” has become the go-to word for anything out of the ordinary, but aren’t creative trends supposed to surprise us, at least when it comes to advertising? You see the word everywhere these days. Coming just days after the Capitol was stormed, the inauguration was surreal. Pat Perez, a PGA golfer, formed a surreal friendship with Michael Jordan. East Tennessee State med students helping vaccinate people against COVID-19 called the experience “surreal.” And the CES in January was, as Wired reports, “as surreal as we suspected it would be.” Now wait a minute: If something is as you expected it to be, how can it be surreal?
For more information, contact Alan Crawford, editor of Impact.