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The Dumbest Word in the English Language… January 27, 2009

Posted by rscottgriffin in The Queen's English.
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…and by ‘dumb,’ I mean pretty much useless, and WAY over-utiliz — I mean, used.  For your consideration, I present the word, “utilize.”  Basically, it means use or to use.  First, I will give this word TWO appropriate uses: 1) I understand from a good friend that it is a specific term of art in the medical field for “utilization” of services – it’s a statistic; and 2) very similarly, law firms and other services firms use the term – a statistic – to determine how much of a worker’s hours are actually collected.  The point is, outside those very specific uses, which are really just statistical descriptions, there is really no reason to use the word instead of its monosyballic older and wiser cousin, “use.”

The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines “utilize” as, “: to make use of : turn to practical use or account.”  The definition for “use” is, “1 a: the act or practice of employing something, b: the fact or state of being used.”  There are other definitions of use, but I think the above will suffice to illustrate the point.  “Utilize” means “use” or “to use,” but in two extra syllables, or a built-in, usually unnecessary, preposition.

The word just plain bugs the hell out of me.  I don’t know why people use it.  I guess they think it makes them sound more scientific or more intelligent or more…whatever.  But, it really makes someone sound more verbose.  In a world of hyper-uber-productivity; multi-tasking; working smarter, not harder, and all those other ridiculous things we say to ourselves to try to squeeze more into the twenty-four hours that will always be in a day, it has become common to use THREE syllables to say what can just as easily be said in ONE.

That’s pretty much all I have to say, but I’ve been waiting to get that one off my chest for a while, now.  What a great forum to USE for this occasion.