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View Full Version : The misuse of language marches on



DennisB
04-11-2013, 04:36 PM
Those of us who still believe an issue is a controversial situation/proposal and a problem is a, well, problem, (and who think discrepancy is not synonymous with disparity....)

should take note of Ford Motor Company's latest ad:

A customer raves about a dealer's service, saying, "I brought my truck in and Fiona TRIAGED it."

Gee, I guess when a light starts fluttering, or the handle on a cooking pot gets loose, I can TRIAGE them before pulling out the tool chest.

Jamesaritchie
04-11-2013, 09:46 PM
I didn't understand your first sentence, but language changes, and should. I have no problem with using triage in this manner. In my dictionary, "triage", as a verb, means Assess or sort according to importance or urgency; prioritize.

So where's the misuse of language?

dangerousbill
04-11-2013, 09:55 PM
A customer raves about a dealer's service, saying, "I brought my truck in and Fiona TRIAGED it."


Makes the teeth hurt, doesn't it? But that's the evolution of language at work. At first, the term is used as trade jargon, then pejoratively in other venues, and finally is absorbed into the language. If it succeeds, it may well find itself in the dictionary in a few years.

It may be there already, as a verb; I'm afraid to look.

I've got to admit that it can be pretty useful for some purposes. I triage the mail as it comes in: immediate attention, later attention, straight to the shredder. More descriptive than 'sorting' the mail.

Axordil
04-11-2013, 10:01 PM
I don't mind using "triage" in other fields, but I suspect what really happened was that Fiona diagnosed the car's problem. I doubt Fiona labeled the car as "critical" and ushered it in for emergency repair.

kkbe
04-11-2013, 10:34 PM
Pejoratively? Yikes! I was irritated by TRIAGED, but now I'm sweating bullets.

I think that warrants medical attention STAT. :)

Chase
04-11-2013, 10:48 PM
Isn't Ford the company urging us to "Go Further"?

Jamesaritchie
04-11-2013, 11:50 PM
I don't mind using "triage" in other fields, but I suspect what really happened was that Fiona diagnosed the car's problem. I doubt Fiona labeled the car as "critical" and ushered it in for emergency repair.

I doubt "triage" always has something to do with labelling anything "critical", either. Nor anything to do with "emergency". Many words have different meanings when used as a noun or a verb. "Triage" is one of these. As a verb, it simply means to prioritize.

Do people not read past the first definition in a dictionary, or do they just watch way too many medicals shows?

juniper
04-12-2013, 02:11 AM
A friend recommended on FB a decluttering blog called "365 Less Things" - I refused, based on the title.

Mind you, I might take a look at "365 Fewer Things."

James D. Macdonald
04-12-2013, 02:58 AM
"Triage" in a medical sense comes from the French, which means "sort."

Ken
04-12-2013, 03:10 AM
... am pleased by stuff like this.
Means real writers, worth their salt, weren't s*ckered into taking some idiotic job like writing ads and are spending their time productively by writing novels. Let wannabees and wastrels handle the ads and catchy sales jingles.

guttersquid
04-12-2013, 05:30 AM
Ford probably put a lot of thought in to using triage as a verb in that commercial. Maybe they figured that a million young men who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan will be familiar with the term, and young men are the most likely to be in the market for a truck. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying . . . Those ad people aren't stupid.

And, oh yeah, don't forget to eat your healthy foods.

dangerousbill
04-12-2013, 06:46 AM
"Triage" in a medical sense comes from the French, which means "sort."

I always assumed that the 'tri' in triage meant sorting into 3 categories, urgent, hopeless, and unnecessary, but I see that isn't the case.

The first point of contact at my doctor's office is the 'triage nurse', who decides whether to make a regular appointment, slot you in right away, go straight to a hospital, or take an aspirin and lie in the gutter.

We used 'triage' 15 years ago to refer to equipment coming back for repair. The extension to automotive service is pretty clear and most important, understandable to everyone, however it makes grammarians squirm.

shadowwalker
04-12-2013, 03:55 PM
We all are guilty of these sorts of things - look at the discussions of what is a writer versus an author, or the current thread on what is a professional versus a hobbyist. Despite what the actual meaning of a word, people use them based on what they think they mean, or what they want them to mean, or what they want the perception to be.

DreamWeaver
04-12-2013, 06:39 PM
I think triage was a very poor choice by Ford. It implies some percentage of cars coming in for repair are going to be judged less critical and their repair put on the back burner.

'Cause, yanno, not everyone who gets triaged is going straight to surgery. ;)

Joe_Nobody
04-12-2013, 06:47 PM
I'm offended by the sentence, but not the use of the verb.

From Websters, 2nd meaning:

"the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success"

The word is described as a "transitive verb"

blacbird
04-13-2013, 06:01 AM
The English language is probably the most flexible and absorbent of any major language on the planet. The objection you raise to the verbing of "triage" can equally be raised to the verbing of "text".

Or the verbing of "verb", for that matter.

caw

MacAllister
04-13-2013, 06:13 AM
... am pleased by stuff like this.
Means real writers, worth their salt, weren't s*ckered into taking some idiotic job like writing ads and are spending their time productively by writing novels. Let wannabees and wastrels handle the ads and catchy sales jingles.

As much of my writing career has been spent as one of those "wannabe" and "wastrel" ad writers, thanks so much for this very cogent analysis.

:|

Cella
04-13-2013, 06:23 AM
... am pleased by stuff like this.
Means real writers, worth their salt, weren't s*ckered into taking some idiotic job like writing ads and are spending their time productively by writing novels. Let wannabees and wastrels handle the ads and catchy sales jingles.

I'm of the opinion that no writing is inherently easy. Some types may come more easily to some than others. In fact, ads and jingles present the unique challenge of conveying a particular message in an extremely limited space of print or time, and they have to do it in a visually or audibly appealing way. That's tough. Especially with a deadline...

Ken
04-13-2013, 06:37 AM
As much of my writing career has been spent as one of those "wannabe" and "wastrel" ad writers, thanks so much for this very cogent analysis.

:|

... well, only half of an insult, really ;-)
There are a LOT of very, very talented writers who work or freelance for ad departments, as told by the fact that there are many very, very clever and brilliant ads. To me, that's kind of a shame. Sure the money is good and all. But writers would be better served by writing novels instead if that's what they're into. But if they're not, writing ads is a fine occupation in and of itself. Guess I overreached a bit. My apologies.

Ken
04-13-2013, 06:40 AM
I'm of the opinion that no writing is inherently easy. Some types may come more easily to some than others. In fact, ads and jingles present the unique challenge of conveying a particular message in an extremely limited space of print or time, and they have to do it in a visually or audibly appealing way. That's tough. Especially with a deadline...

... agree 100 percent. The only thing is that ads are often about selling stuff that isn't exactly essential. But then again, who's to say what's essential and what isn't. To more than a few, books are not essential. Many people who I've know felt that way. Still encounter that from time to time. All a matter of subjectivity, I suppose.

benbradley
04-13-2013, 06:41 AM
Yeah, if language could only stay the same as it was when I was ten years old and learning all these words and their meanings, that would be fab.

lolchemist
04-13-2013, 09:09 AM
I think the word 'triage' looks clunky as hell in that ad. My immediate reaction as a customer is 'She did WHAT to it?' and my secondary and tertiary reactions are 'Is that customer really uneducated?' and 'So if I buy a Ford, will it get so bad that it might need a 'triage?''

All in all a bad choice for Ford, IMHO.

Zaffiro
04-15-2013, 02:22 AM
I'm so glad I'm not the only one who hates 'issue' being used for 'problem'. It's not that I mind language evolving - it's that I hate the implication that there's something wrong with admitting there's ever, ever a problem - you have to call it something else.

I have a friend who won't call anything a problem because it's 'negative'. After an hour-long losing battle with an airline website, she told me she'd 'had some challenges' with the site.

No you didn't. I've been on that website before. You had major, head-bangy, infuriating problems.

On the other hand, 'issue' is nowhere near as hideous as 'between you and I'/'this is from John and I'/'he gave it to Jane and I'/etc etc etc. Again, this isn't about language evolution, and this one isn't even about subjective preference; this is about the difference between subject and object, which is one of the most basic facts of most languages. When I rule the world, if I catch you disrespecting this beautiful language like that, I am gonna take your language licence away till you learn to use it properly.

Kayley
04-15-2013, 02:43 AM
... am pleased by stuff like this.
Means real writers, worth their salt, weren't s*ckered into taking some idiotic job like writing ads and are spending their time productively by writing novels. Let wannabees and wastrels handle the ads and catchy sales jingles.

I would be happy to take a job writing advertising copy and I do not consider myself to be an idiot or a wannabe. Just because an occupation is not of interest to you does not mean it is inherently inferior or immoral, as you imply to be the case.

Also, writing novels and writing ad copy are not mutually exclusive careers. There's nothing stopping a person from doing both concurrently.

Ken
04-15-2013, 04:13 AM
... besides the misuse of language as exemplified in the OP, the other obnoxious thing about ads in general is how often they are repeated. The same message over and over and over again. Do they think we're idiots or something? Okay. You want everyone to hear your message. So you will have to repeat yourself a few times. But 5 million times? Come on. It's enough to drive a person nuts!

:gaah

Plot Device
04-15-2013, 05:17 AM
Is "friend" a verb??

SomethingOrOther
04-15-2013, 05:26 AM
Is "friend" a verb??

Yes. It has been dictionaried (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/friend).

blacbird
04-15-2013, 05:58 AM
... besides the misuse of language as exemplified in the OP, the other obnoxious thing about ads in general is how often they are repeated. The same message over and over and over again. Do they think we're idiots or something?


Umm . . . yeah, they do, pretty much. If a sufficient percentage of the public weren't idiots, advertising wouldn't work. It obviously does, and has been doing so for a long time.

I've been watching the fascinating documentary series American Greed for some time now, and most of the stories there are about investor Ponzi schemes, or related things, in which otherwise sophisticated people with considerable money get duped into fraudulent investments and lose it all. It really is amazing how persuadable people can be, and both con-men and advertisers understand this at some point in the amino acid sequence of their DNA.

A greater percentage of Americans believe in astrology than believe in biological evolution. Advertisers depend on this level of faith.

caw

lolchemist
04-15-2013, 07:51 AM
I saw the commercial today! The word 'triage' really did sound awkward and clunky to my ears too.

I really wish I could find out for real what the ad-peoples intentions were with using that word.

I'm still sitting here over-thinking it and even using the word triage literally, it implies that a Ford car is likely to have SEVERAL things wrong with it at the same time that an employee will have to triage or sort into, bad, very bad and EMERGENCY bad!

Kevin Nelson
04-15-2013, 09:12 AM
Umm . . . yeah, they do, pretty much. If a sufficient percentage of the public weren't idiots, advertising wouldn't work. It obviously does, and has been doing so for a long time.

I've been watching the fascinating documentary series American Greed for some time now, and most of the stories there are about investor Ponzi schemes, or related things, in which otherwise sophisticated people with considerable money get duped into fraudulent investments and lose it all. It really is amazing how persuadable people can be, and both con-men and advertisers understand this at some point in the amino acid sequence of their DNA.

In my opinion, the problem with most people is the exact opposite. They're too closed-minded, too attached to their preconceptions--in short, not persuadable enough. The investors who got bilked weren't excessively persuadable; they were persuaded of the wrong thing, which is a quite different matter.

Anyway, I agree that the "triage" commercial sounds horrible. It implies that when you bring your car in, sometimes you'll get an "eh, maybe we can get to that in about two months." Other times, the problem will be so critical that the car is on the verge of exploding or something.

I was under the impression that in the original sense of triage, you sort patients into three groups. The first group will survive without treatment; the second group will survive, but only with treatment; and the third group will die no matter what. Then you devote all of your resources to the second group. I know the word isn't always used in that sense, but connotations linger...and these connotations aren't exactly positive.

Ken
04-15-2013, 02:30 PM
Umm . . . yeah, they do, pretty much. If a sufficient percentage of the public weren't idiots, advertising wouldn't work. It obviously does, and has been doing so for a long time.

I've been watching the fascinating documentary series American Greed for some time now, and most of the stories there are about investor Ponzi schemes, or related things, in which otherwise sophisticated people with considerable money get duped into fraudulent investments and lose it all. It really is amazing how persuadable people can be, and both con-men and advertisers understand this at some point in the amino acid sequence of their DNA.

A greater percentage of Americans believe in astrology than believe in biological evolution. Advertisers depend on this level of faith.

caw

... things haven't changed much over the millenniums.
You had Field's with his, "Sucker born every minute,"
and Shakespeare or some other fella with,
"Fools and their mullah are easily parted."

There are different sorts of intelligence.
Common sense for instance and booksmarts.
People often have one, but not the other.
So you can have some really intelligent people,
suckered into Ponzi schemes and whatnot.
And some dolts who are quick to spot a scheme,
though they couldn't add two and two together if they tried.

Whatever the case, I never really got commercials.
They're just so incredibly annoying for the most part.
For me, if companies just stated their case simply,
without any of the hyperbole I would be much more likely to buy their wares.
Especially if they limited the times they repeated the message to something reasonable,
instead of every other minute.

But they seem to be doing fine,
with their talking lizards and whatnot.
The public continues to buy their stuff.

Buffysquirrel
04-15-2013, 05:06 PM
The idea that only stupid people fall for cons is part of the con.

Lyra Jean
04-15-2013, 05:10 PM
It reminded me of the saying that I heard all the time growing up...

"I'd rather push a Ford than drive a Chevy."

So maybe they used triage on purpose.