Friday, April 9, 2010

On Around, or The Selected Ballads' Most Boring Post Yet

I'm on board with the idea that a language needs to evolve.  Usage is fluid.  That doesn't mean there shouldn't be rules or guidelines (see this David Foster Wallace piece for a heroically thorough discussion of this topic), but I'm no fan of language pedantry.

All that being said, I'm a little puzzled by the way the word "around" is being used these days as a weirdly vague substitute for "about", "on", or "concerning", often from guest "experts" on TV news shows.  It's almost as if the new usage was rolled out a few years ago at some kind of academic or corporate-speak seminar.  I'm not sure why this bothers me, but when I hear "around" used in this way, it sounds like a clanging, out-of-tune note in an otherwise innocuous sentence.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I couldn't find anything on the web about this, with the exception of these two posts on a New Zealand-based professional writing/editing site.  The examples they give ("new legislation around", etc) are exactly the kind of thing I'm thinking of, so if you're trying to figure out what in God's name I'm talking about, just follow the links.

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