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Words that shouldn't be used

August 11, 2009 - Steve Murch
There are some words and phrases that baffle me sometimes. It's not that I don't understand them, but rather I don't get why they are used in the first place. My guess is that it's either to be cute or to be politically correct (or to soften the message).

EYEWITNESS: This is a favorite one of television news broadcasts, especially in the big cities. “Watch Eyewitness News at 6.” Only on Eyewitness News.” You get the idea. Now, how can it even be called witness if you don't see it. To witness something is to see it. If you hear something, you haven't witnessed it. In fact, if you heard it and didn't see it then you might have been duped by a sound effect.

HARVEST: This is one of the favorite words the Michigan Department of Natural Resources likes to use when discussing hunting. “There were XXX deer harvested during the 2009 season.” Maybe they don't want the anti-hunting or anti-gun crowd to complain about killing. The deer weren't watered, and checked on regularly to make sure there wasn't a locust infestation and then people walk into the field to pick out the ripe ones. No, they are shot dead. I have nothing against hunting and enjoy venison. I just think saying deer, turkeys, elk or any other wildlife was harvested is a little silly.

LAYOFFS: The newspaper industry as much as any industry has been hit hard with layoffs, so many colleagues across the country likely will agree with this one. We've all the read or heard the stories about the economy – The auto industry has seen massive layoffs. American industry has been down and caused several layoffs.

Unfortunately, in most instances the story then goes on to quote some industry exec about how Company A is downsizing and those jobs are lost forever. That is not a layoff. That is a termination. Maybe those people are hoping the “laid off” will see it as the door being ajar. If that really were the case, then Company A's executive shouldn't say the company is downsizing, but rather hoping its reduced staff will result in a rebound that will allow it to bring back laid off employees. It might seem harsh to say the jobs have been eliminated, and it might appear to be more humane to say the person has been laid off rather than terminated, but really – is that truly more humane than leaving a person to hope and pray they might get called back when the reality is they never will be?


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