Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Most Unnecessary Neologism

It has been some time since I posted a Grammar Nazi post*, but in the past few days I have been reminded several times of a recently coined word that strikes me as perhaps the most unnecessary neologism I have seen. Not only does it have a particularly ugly sound -- always a sign of a bad creation -- but it has a meaning absolutely identical to an existing, often used word, and one that is not only shorter, but is no more confusing, difficult to spell or pronounce, or in any way less appealing than the neologism that is trying to replace it.

The word in question is "orientate".

I don't recall when I first ran into this neologism, but I know it was as a spoken, rather than written, word. And, at the time, I dismissed it as a simple colloquial use, similar to "conversate" or "irregardless" (for "regardless"). But, over time, I began to hear it more and more, and in settings where people generally use more formal language, all signs it was becoming an accepted word. All of which would probably not have inspired me to write about it, had I not come across it recently in an otherwise well written popular history, which convinced me the term had been accepted into the English lexicon.

So, what are my objections?

First, and most significant, the term serves no purpose. It is an ugly word, an example of "verbing" a noun, in this case "orientation", but, unlike most such neologisms which create verbs from nouns, in this case the process was pointless as there is a word which has precisely the same meaning. And, the identity of that synonym is the remainder of my argument, as it points out all the other reasons this word is so unnecessary.

And what is that synonym?

Simple. "Orient". The word "orientation" is itself derived from "orient", as one orients himself to a given orientation. Thus, there is no need for anyone to ever "orientate", since it is exactly the same process as orienting. Why create a new word derived from a noun itself derived from a perfectly good verb, and then give the new word the same meaning as that original verb?

Nor can one argue that "orientate" is in some way more useful than orient, as the two words are almost identical. The only difference between the two being the addition of an extra syllable to the neologism, rendering it less euphonious, but doing little else. Given the nearly identical spelling, similar pronunciation and indistinguishable meanings, I can imagine no conceivable argument that "orientate" is in any way superior to orient, or that there is any pressing need for the new word.

I know, it may seem a petty issue to many, but it bothers me when many feel the need to invent new jargon, or coin superfluous new words, simply because they are ignorant of existing words, or believe additional syllables make words sound more intellectual or professional. They are almost inevitably uglier, less useful and tend to simply clutter up the dictionary with redundant polysyllabic trash. I can accept that, at times, some jargon is needed for certain professions, and in some cases a neologism is needed to account for a usage which does not presently have a fitting word. But that is not an excuse to simply create words willy-nilly.

Is it so much to ask that, before one creates a new word, he looks to see if a word with that meaning already exists? And if he feels he must create a new word with a meaning identical, or even similar, to one that already exists, he do so only if the new word is either more pleasing to the ear, or in some other way superior to the one that already exists?


* See "Biggest Spelling Nazi Laugh of the Day", "Quick Grammar Nazi Note", "Return of the Grammar Nazi: Faux Latin Plurals", "Always Something Worse", "Crimes Against Language and Logic", "The Irony of Lax Internet Standards", "Ye Olde Grammar Nazi", "In Defense of Standards", "Rules of Grammar and Pragmatism", "Spelling Nazi Short Post", "The Grammar Nazi Versus George Lucas", "If It's New, Can It Be a Cliche?", "Officially Annoyed", "Two Small Grammar Nazi Gripes", "One More Grammar Quibble","Fictitious Words", "New Blacklist" and "Misleading Terminology".

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