Wednesday, June 12, 2013

keep on using me, until you've used me up

Stop it, goddammit! Just stop it already! Stop saying "utilize" when you mean "use." Those two words do not mean the same thing! I don't know when the corporate world deemed those words interchangeable, because they are not!

Use is defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (the modern electronic version of that big book from which you copied your vocabulary words in fourth grade) as "the act or practice of employing something." To simplify things, I'll provide an illustrative sentence: "I will use this umbrella to protect me from the rain." See? The primary purpose of an umbrella is to shield one's self from the failing rain. Therefore, employing an umbrella for its intended function is the definition of "use" in its purest form. Use. USE! It's a great word and a familiar concept.

Utilize, as explained by that virtual Merriam-Webster tome, is a little tricky. The concept of "utilize" is to make use of something for other than its intended purpose. As an example (and sticking with the scenario of adverse weather conditions): "I'm going to utilize this folded newspaper to protect me from the rain." See the difference? A newspaper's intended purpose is to deliver a convenient, printed report of current events. However, employing a newspaper as a makeshift umbrella when a conventional one is unavailable, that, my language-challenged friend, is the proper time to take advantage of "utilize."

Somewhere in the tangle of corporate meeting catch-phrases like "low-hanging fruit" and "within our wheelhouse," "use" and "utilize" became casualties of war. Pencil-pushing desk-jockeys with a hard-on for face-time with their middle-management comrades twisted the definition of these two innocent, well-meaning words, with the sole purpose of making their feeble speech sound more intelligent. They carefully and deliberately eliminated the pedestrian-sounding "use" from their communication, in favor of the more important tone of "utilize."

Well, using the wrong word is just that — wrong. And it makes you sound like the idiot that you are. If you are going to go out of your way to consciously use an incorrect word, then, for Chrissakes!, go for it! Instead of "use", you might as well say "fellate". It's equally as colorful and just as wrong.

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