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What’s in a word?

Whilst updating Rambutan’s style guide lately, Kat has been delving into the Oxford Dictionary on more than a few occasions, and realising that while the English language isn’t the simplest to understand, it can be a lot of fun!

Proofreading is a matter of course for the bunch at Rambutan, and we take great pains to make sure everything we send out, both internally and externally, is grammatically correct, to the point and easy to understand.

By easy to understand, I mean that we try to avoid (at all costs) any kind of jargon, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as: ‘Words or expressions used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.’ And now for my definition: ‘pointless fluff or meaningless acronyms that create a divide between the talker/writer and their audience’.

word

Office jargon has become commonplace; expressions such as; Blue-sky thinking; touching base; hit the ground running; in the loop…I’m sure you can think of a few more examples of your own. All have their own various origins (quite a few from sporting expressions strangely), but each seems to have been adopted into the workplace to represent something else. Why?

Here’s my thinking; why not keep things straightforward? If your granny can’t understand what you’re trying to say, why should you assume anyone else can?

That said, there’s a fine line between explaining something in a succinct way and actually ‘dumbing down’ the expression, and I guess that call is based on your relationship with your audience and the ‘tone of voice’ you use.

In the course of checking and cross-checking everything I wanted to include in the Rambutan style guide, I learned a huge amount about the good old English language rules of grammar and punctuation and it’s not an easy and straightforward topic to grasp, I can tell you! Useful books to read are: ‘Eats shoots and leaves’ by Lynne Truss and ‘My Grammar and I’ (or should that be ‘Me’?) by Caroline Taggart and J A Wines. And of course my bible, the Oxford English Dictionary, by lots of men in white coats (presumably) at University Press!

On that note, I thought I’d end with a little quiz based on my online research. The meanings of unfamiliar words can sometimes be guessed using common sense. Others, not so. See how you get on with this little selection:

Enervated

Noisome

Pulchritude

Vomitorium

Pusillanimous

Veracious

Answers in the Oxford English Dictionary. Break a leg!(?)

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