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Palin May Be Gone But Other Threats To The Language Remain


Now that we no longer have Sarah Palin to misunderestimate anymore let's do away with some other threats to the language.

1) Phone Bots

Just when we got used to phone mail "Hals" saying, "I'll record your message now," and "I'll try that number," we have voice synthesized bots who want a whole conversation. Except that they can't hear. "I'm sorry we're having trouble. I thought you said, I want a round trip ticket to Detroit?" "Go to hell." "I thought you said...Wisconsin Dells?"

2) Home Entertainment

This oxymoron got its start when people bought a bottle of Grey Goose and invited their neighbors over for Sex and the City. It was major enabled by high def and plasma screens. Unfortunately a reality show and bag of Pirate's Booty is as close to going-out-for-the-night entertainment as a Nordic Track is to a gym. Nor do you have to look your best for either one.

3) Telecommute

Who is more aware of the telecommute travesty: Bosses who telecommuters "report" to? (Right) Bathrobe wearing 42-year-olds with a cell in one hand and strained apricots for Zachary in the other...telecommuting? Or those of us on the subway with our coffee, lunch and work from last night-hello-trying to get to our cube by eight?


4) Retail Emcees

You hear it all the time: "On your left, you'll see our new beach towel collection"-retail trainees on the public address system who think they are airline pilots. They always add, "At this time we'd like to call your attention to the tube socks" and conclude with "and once again we'd like to thank you for shopping at Macy's."

5) Personal anything

What exactly does the word "personal" add to computer, trainer, banker, adviser, diet plan, identification number or debt consultant except dollars? Personal as opposed to what? Having to crowd around one newspaper posted in Red Square? No one feels compelled to say personal toothbrush.

6) Retail Deejays

Public address systems which also play music let managers step on a song you like at the same time they humiliate employees. "Attention sales associates!" (the lower the pay, the higher the use of "associates.") Your six minute break is up. Please return to the sales floor. Remember to pick up surrounding litter as you leave the break room."

7) Duckin' and Divin' Annual Reports

The worse the year, the wordier the annual report. Instead of saying we're major down again this year it's "In light of the scheduled spinoff of the disappointing biotech division and reengineering of the global sales network, pretax earning shortfalls are roughly equal to those seen in 2008* when annualized, weighted by country and indexed to inflation." (*when most of you sold)

8) Opportunistic Help Want Ads

One out of ten people is unemployed thanks to the recession and jurists are worried about someone yelling "hiring" in a crowded theater. Employers are having a field day with bait and switch ads like Outstanding benefits. (We pay your FICA. Did you expect a trip to Maui?) and Pleasant sounding voice? (You'll love selling satellite dishes.) Job seekers beware.

9) Lean-On-Your-MD ads

Why did doctors go to medical school when patients know exactly what's wrong with them and the treatment they need thanks to coupons they found in USA Today and People magazine? Maybe one day doctors will say "Ask your pharmaceutical salesman if this drug is right for you."

10) Not a light bulb, a home lighting system

Thanks to "value added" marketing there are a host of products turned "systems" (pest control system, at home dental hygiene system, lawn sprinkling system, yoga ball system etc.) All it means is you pay double for a simple product and have to wade through pages of verbiage to find out where to plug it in.

11) Nutritional Facts or Bioassay?

In two decades we've gone from knowing nothing about the food we eat to culinary informed consent. Fact: This product (gum!) is not a significant source of protein, niacin and Vitamin C and should not form the basis of a full nutritional plan. (Shucks!) Fact: This product (neon blue Kool aid) may contain artificial flavors or colors. (You mean it's not ginseng!) Thank you, FDA.

12) Servings per bag: 300

Raise your hand if you've ever bought a candy bar or bag of chips that says it only has 80 calories to discover there are actually four or more "servings" in the package. Anyone want to help me eat this candy bar? "Serving" pretty much means bite today but at least you're not breaking your diet.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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