February 27th, 2008

summer reading

Business Lingo...the Enemy of English?

I'm sure you can imagine any number of instances where the business world has taken a word or phrase and twisted its meaning so that it can be used in a way having almost no resemblance to its original meaning. Or a meaning close enough to the original meaning that it confuses the general public into thinking this new meaning was what that word was about all along. Or a meaning that has no actual meaning at all when you really stop and think about it.

My latest annoyance in this vein is with the word "methodology". Up until a few years ago, I would've thought everyone would agree that this means "study of the method" or perhaps even "theory of the method". This is a perfectly legitimate meaning when, for example, a specific result is desired and one must evaluate the pros and cons of different methods that have been proposed for achieving that result.

In the business world, however, it seems that "methodology" has come to mean nothing more than "method". Why, then, the sudden and inexplicable addition of "-ology"? It makes me wonder how and why this particular corruption got started. I have a client that uses "methodology" all of the time, even though they mean "study of the method" only half of the time. Whenever possible, I've been changing written documents and verbally using "method" in the appropriate places - doing my part to stick a finger in the dyke, maybe get something in there subconsciously that'll help stem the tide.

Could be the flood is on its way regardless and I'll be fuming in vain for the rest of my days about this ridiculous addition of "-ology", but I'm compelled to try anyway. It may even be there are several other words and phrases that are more dire and more concerning that have popped up during the past couple of years while I've watched "methodology" take over.

But oh well. One must do what one must do. I only know I must do my part to let "-ology" go back to being a suffix with some meaning and not just a few extra letters tacked onto a word.