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  • Lawrence Bailey

Watch your language

A while back, I was offered the opportunity for an “on-line heuristic experience”.

It’s not nearly as painful as it sounds; it just means ‘self-learning’ but what’s a sales pitch these days without a bit of jargon?

The one I like is when marketing people throw around terms like “organic” and “generic” and you can tell they clearly don’t know the difference.

I hear the word “binary” used lately too, particularly by politicians. This is usually when describing a situation which could result in two opposing outcomes.

The nerd in me however points out that a binary system uses logical sequential 0 and 1 combinations to program a viable action; an outcome very seldom associated with most politicians, I venture.

I recently felt like I was back in an older incarnation, deciphering binary readouts, as I sat in a seminar where the speaker was introduced as a “second-wave ethical hedonist”. Yes, seriously – and it’s my own fault for staying in my seat thereafter.

At least the experience confirmed for me that word-mongery has reached an advanced stage of meaninglessness.

But who are we clever folk to quibble about arcane vocabulary? Your average meeting would be remarkable if “helpful” and “useful” didn’t figure in the proceedings. We readily “unpack” complex issues – which we now describe as “wicked” – and decide how we can tackle them “going forward”. Yada, yada.

I once described a solution as “efficacious” to blank-faced colleagues. I ended up apologising for sounding like Sir Humphrey Appleby; although the worst part was also having to explain who that was.

Things change. George Orwell foresaw “Newspeak”, a chopped-up version of English employed by a regime where Big Brother watched from giant screens. I wonder what he would have made of predictive text.

I’m told that there is more computing power in your average wristwatch than the analogue devices that guided the Apollo missions to the moon nearly fifty years ago. Nowadays however the key challenge is to communicate your thoughts using 140 characters or less.

This trend has prompted a linguistic expert in the States to predict that written English will be become as incomprehensible to future generations as Anglo-Saxon is to us today.

Speaking for myself, I sometimes think we’re already there.

Let’s get up to speed

I read that a guy in Powys has overcome slow rural broadband by getting his internet from a satellite 22,000 miles above Africa. Good for him, but shouldn’t we be asking why it was necessary at all?

It’s reported elsewhere that nearly 14,000 properties in Carmarthenshire have inadequate broadband and that there is a “strong case for automatically compensating customers”

I don’t know about you, but I rarely go looking for a poor service provider so that I can get compensation. I simply change suppliers.

And there’s the rub. We may have a range of providers but the physical infrastructure is down to BT who are patently not delivering on their monopoly arrangement.

The telecoms giant has now offered to voluntarily provide coverage across the country through its Openreach service following a commitment by Westminster to ensure high-speed internet is available to all.

Excellent news – but who will make it happen?

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