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you're all crazy

excuse me...that was "argument"...in the heat of passion I tend to misspell

mme

Why not see what the masters of the written word have to say about this argument?

According to Strunk and White (The Elements of Style, Third Edition. With index!), the word ‘utilize’ is a commonplace of careless writing and bad style. Stunk and White have found that when a person employs the word ‘utilize,’ he or she is likely misusing several words to form a vague, rather than definitive, statement.

For example, Stunk and White suggest doing away with the phrase “I utilized the facilities.“ In its place, the authors suggest saying, “I used the toilet.” While I find the latter statement to be a bit graphic, who am I to question the man who wrote Charlotte’s Web?

In addition, Strunk and White seem to indicate that the word ‘utilize’ may in fact fall into a larger undesirable list of words ending with –ize. “Why use the word moisturize when there is the simple, unpretentious word moisten?”

In conclusion, it seems that Strunk and White believe using lotion should probably an integral part of everyone’s skincare routine, and that the word ‘utilize’ should be avoided at all costs.

Amanda

I tried to pronounce that town once, Damian. I was in the hospital for a week. ;)

GirlInTheDark

I prefer to say use instead of utilize because its shorter and it doesnt make me sound like some sort of a smartass.

powerhouse

damian, your welsh town reminds me of another city that has a ridiculously long name that has about 37 or 38 syllables and is called:

Krungthepmahanakhon
Bovornratanakosin
Mahintharayutthaya
Mahadilokpop
Noparatratchathaniburirom
Udomratchanivetmahasathan
Amornpimanavatarnsathit
Sakkathattiyavisnukarmprasit

but is more commonly known as Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. i have no idea how they got bangkok from that.

the name (in case you're wondering) actually translates to:

Great City of Angels, the Supreme Repository for Divine Jewels, the Great Land Unconquerable, the Grand and Prominent Realm, the Royal and Delightful Capital City Full of Nine Noble Gems, the Highest Royal Dwelling and Grand Palace, the Divine Shelter and Living Place of the Reincarnated Spirits

i heard someone say it once, and it literally took about 30 seconds to say the entire thing. wtf?

Steffie

Thank you all for your comments!

I agree with Strunk and White that you can't utilize a toilet, unless, perhaps, you're Marcel Duchamp and you call it art.

This veritable frenzy of wordsmithery is very entertaining, if a bit strange. I can't even begin to respond to it all but I do need to set a couple things straight.

1. Just because I challenged Damian's claim and blogged about it (mostly because it was a holiday weekend and thus fairly uneventful) doesn't mean that I think he was a pretentious ass who didn't know how to properly *impact* the banter at a Los Angeles cocktail party. I enjoyed the conversation, opened my dictionary the minute I got home, and googled him the next day. That's good tipsy chit-chat if you ask me.

2. I'm still not even sure if he meant to use the word "officious" because it doesn't really fit the context. Damian? Either way, as a writer I would hardly be mocking someone for using "SAT words." Nor do I consider that the pinnacle of erudition; let's not forget we take the SATs in high school.

3. Re: the east coast/west coast and New York Times comments, apparently the author didn't read my bio. I just moved here from New York and do, in fact, write for the Times. And by the way, the blond plastic people thing is a very tired cliche.

cheers to you all...

Katy

"in the department of long and absurd words, here's the real name of a welsh town. admittedly, it'a a name, but it's still a pretty impressive word:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

check out the four serial L's..."


HAHAHAHA. Somebody once brought in one of those souvenir squashed pennies that they'd gotten from that town in Wales to show in my Shakespeare class, and the name literally went around the penny almost two times.

Sorry, that added no intellectual merit to this conversation whatsoever.

I do agree that "utilize" and "use" have basically become synonymous in modern English. (If it makes you feel any better, I told several of my English major friends your argument while watching "America's Next Top Model"- HAHA- tonight, and they all yelled, "OH MY GOD IT IS JUST A MORE OBNOXIOUS WAY OF SAYING 'USE'!") But afterwards, my roomie and I (one of said English majors) did agree that there seems to be a very subtle difference in definition; "utilize" seems to convey that the object being utilized is participating in the action, while the object being "used" is merely being acted upon. I also disagree that it's a completely useless word. While it may irk you personally, I don't feel that simply because it's used fairly often in a way to present a more "educated" vocabulary on the part of speaker makes it useless. I'm sure there are times at which the word "utilize" could come in handy. (I'm just too lazy to think of any right now, which probably doesn't help my argument any, but oh, well.)

But we've basically beat this topic to a pulp, haven't we? What I really want to say is that I'm a little lost as to your use of the word "officious." From what I've gotten from various sources (including the Oxford American Thesaurus of Current English, and Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary, which I know is reliable because 1) it's very large and 2) it's sitting in the Smith College library :D), "officious" basically means "rendering a service or duty," "eager to help or serve," "unofficial," or "meddlesome." None of which really seems to fit in your argument against "utilize." Were you perhaps looking for a synonym for "pretentious," like "showy," "ostentatious," or "grandiose"? Or is there some other hidden meaning for "officious" that I'm missing?

Or were you just really trashed and maybe we shouldn't take your drunken ramblings to heart?

Regardless, thanks for the distraction from the Sociology homework. Reading about the alternate working class cultures of 19th and 20th century Worcester, MA is going to be far less interesting than this debate, I can tell you that...

GirlInTheDark

Why any person with a brain in their head would actually use google as a word and not a website's name is totally beyond me. It sounds like something an extremely social teenage girl would say. Me not being one wouldn't know why. I do believe that it does make one sound like a complete moron and a little bit of an ass. While some people say that google should be added to the dictionary as a word, it isnt because it has no actual definition, unless u consider it to be 'to search something on the internet through the popular website www.google.com.' To me that sounds quite stupid....


-Sarah-

Jessy

So "use" is better than "utilize".
si o no?

GirlInTheDark

si

Damian

Jesus, this has turned into quite the maelstrom of criticism, huh? I'm signing off after this one...

To oblige, however, I was using 'officious' as in the OED definition: "asserting authority or interfering in an overbearing way." That is frequently how I hear "utilize" utilized: by someone overbearing seeking to assert authority by sounding technical or precise, when I think that they just sound puffed-up.

Katy

Still not doing homework!

"While some people say that google should be added to the dictionary as a word, it isnt because it has no actual definition, unless u consider it to be 'to search something on the internet through the popular website www.google.com.' To me that sounds quite stupid...."

I'm not saying that it should be added to the dictionary, but you have to admit that "google" has become widespread cultural slang. This kind of brings me back to the old "ain't" debate- all through my childhood, teachers would tell me "'Ain't' isn't a word!" But the truth is, it is a word- it's just not proper vocabulary. I feel like "google" is kind of the same way- you can argue that it's not really a word, but at the same time, you can't deny that it hasn't become widely used in popular culture and language, and must therefore have some sort of linguistic importance. (Whether it deserves that importance is another debate.)

Okay! I just realised that I might be making an ass out of myself. Really going to read now!

m

"Jesus, this has turned into quite the maelstrom of criticism, huh? I'm signing off after this one..."

Damian, I expected a stronger tolerance for mockery and criticism from you. We kid because we love.

Margaret

Well, I doubt I was at the party in question, seeing as I'm stuck here in Massachusetts until I finish High school, and I'm also all of fifteen and a half years old. =) I wish I had been, though. It sounded exciting.

stuff like this just interests me. (plus jorge posted a thread on ok go's forum and has promised to give points to those with the best arguments, for either side.)

on a side note, I want to learn to speak welsh one day. It seems really cool.

and the other latin scholars here managed to prove my point way more than I could, I'm
only in my second year of Latin at school.

I'm not even sure I was trying to disprove your point. (even my mom said utilize was pompous and overblown.) I just felt the need to point out some arguments.

I can't really believe I spent as much time on it as I did. I'm really very sick of research seeing as my teacher's decided to give me big projects all due in the same week...=(
so I guess I really am a language nerd.....
go me.

-Mergwin (origin: margaret to meg to merg to mergwin)

Erin

I always get a thriling shiver down the back of my neck when I am able to make up a new word that fully embodies what I need it to mean.

My new favourite word is 'fuckhead' when reflecting on the flakiness of the twentysomething males I keep getting entangled with. Sometimes I like to make a combination and have a "flakey fuckhead". Not the most cultivated of words. But I think it does a great job of expressing what I need it to say. Simple and to the point is always best.

Katy

Margaret-

Where in Mass. are you?

Selena-Renee

I must admit that it pleases me, that you, Damian, take offense at people who use words hauntingly; but now I am more worried by this drunken stupor that has led us nowhere. Any clever, witty person can bemuse a crowd with his ideas when drunk, but it’s tiresome if it’s taken on too far, i.e. blogging and comments by little fans for days on end. Even if this is fun, be careful the next time you drink and there’s a New York Times writer nearby.

P.S. When I use the term SAT words, I don’t mean words that are useful if learned properly, but rather the words that kids learn in conjunction with 300 others just to get 20 points better on a test. I don’t mean to degrade good quality, high potency words that carry weight when used properly.

P.P.S. I know I am a little fan posting on this, the hypocrisy is not lost on me.

christy

I just noticed, Damian, that you used the word "maelstrom". You don't happen to subscribe to dictionary.com's word of the day email do you? It was a word of the day a couple days ago.

Selena-Renee

I must admit that it pleases me, that you, Damian, take offense at people who use words hauntingly; but now I am more worried by this drunken stupor that has led us nowhere. Any clever, witty person can bemuse a crowd with his ideas when drunk, but it’s tiresome if it’s taken on too far, i.e. blogging and comments by little fans for days on end. Even if this is fun, be careful the next time you drink and there’s a New York Times writer nearby.

P.S. When I use the term SAT words, I don’t mean words that are useful if learned properly, but rather the words that kids learn in conjunction with 300 others just to get 20 points better on a test. I don’t mean to degrade good quality, high potency words that carry weight when used properly.

P.P.S. I know I am a little fan posting on this, the hypocrisy is not lost on me.

Katie

Simply stated it is the general usage of synonyms can often be credited with making language more interesting. The utilization of bigger words does not infact make one sound smarter, but often accomplishes the task of making one sound like a pompous jackass.

Often arguments with my (lawyer/law librarian) brother can be resolved by simply pointing out that he is being a jackass. I don't use big words to accomplish this. Naturally this falls as a last resort to me, because it is rather enjoyable to best him in a war of words. Being the baby of the family holds it challenges.

Though I must note that idiocy beats out synonyms as the most interesting celebration of language. For instance, my close associate 'inventing' the word dip-fuck to combine her two favorite curse words; dip-shit, and fuck.

shades of blue

liz - you are correcting the wrong person. the authors are named after their message and not before, so check yo'self. love, shades.

Anna

I was at the party, and I bumped into Steffie last night at a bar, and she told me to take a look at this blog. I think all 5 or 6 of us that were standing in a circle discussing these words that Damian finds annoying woke up the next day and looked these words up.

I think everyone's covered the "utilize" issue pretty well. And while Damian and quite a few commentators here don't like the word and deem it redundant, clearly it stems from various Romance Languages and definitely has a different enough meaning from the word "use" that it popped up and remains in the English language. If you don't like it, don't use it. But if you are going to go on a tirade about useless words, and most especially useless words that come up too often these days, you might want to refrain from using the word "fuck" so much.

This one here is from the American Heritage Book of English Usage:

Impact has been used as a verb since 1601, and its figurative use dates from 1935, allowing people plenty of time to get accustomed to it. It may be that its frequent appearance in jargon-riddled remarks of politicians, military officials, and financial analysts has made people suspicious. Nevertheless, the use of impact as a verb has become so common in corporations and institutions that younger speakers have begun to regard it as standard. It seems likely, therefore, that the verb impact will eventually become as usual as the verb contact has become over the last 30 years.

'Nuff said, right? I just thought I'd put my two cents in because I was there, and my opinion on the matter couldn't compete with Damian's confidence at the party...

By the way, I'd never heard your band before, but the, ahem, "conversation" at the party certainly made you memorable. I looked your band up and listened to your music right after I looked up "impact" and "utilize".

Caroline Ryder

Steffie, I am getting comment envy. 38 and counting!
As a real English person from England who speaks proper English, I have only thing to say to you all - SAN DIMAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL ROCKS!
Love to you all, Caroline

Caroline Ryder

Shit, I guess its 46 comments and counting, not 38. (dont want these clever clogs thinking I cant count)

nounoune

I wanted to agree with those many females disagreeing with Damian; I’m usually all for the misguided cementing of the sisterly bond through ganging up on the males. In this case, however, I have to concede. (I should have predicted this, as the entire debate is more or less based on [insert euphemism for bullshit] gleaned from varying degrees of research and informed by a similar range of horniness, compounded by the fact that Damian was a semiotics major. Aside from my own majors, semiotics as a field of study is a type of bullshit [Yes, I’m just going for it there.] so thick and rich that I’ve found it to be the compost of the Humanities.)

In any case, the “use” or “utilize” argument is much like the rule children learn in kindergarten geometry: a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. “Utilize” can be spoken/written/etc. instead of “use,” but “use cannot always stand in for “utilize.” (It also may be helpful to review Damian’s first post, in which he addresses the problem/solution of context.) The interchangeability of the words in modern usage, however, is colored by audience perception. How many times have I gleefully watched “Judge Judy” only to see her give the You’re-Simply-Dumb-As-Piss look to some trailer-dwelling defendant attempting to appear intelligent by saying “he had axed me a question” rather than “he axed me a question”? What I want to make clear is the fact that the defendant’s use of the imperfect tense was not intended to convey that the person axing the question did it multiple times and that the axing was not, as would have been implied by the use of the perfect tense, a one-time affair. Instead, the defendant chose to add the “had” in order to influence how Judy and the court of public opinion would judge her; she wanted to be perceived as bright. (The paltry success of this device is a topic I don’t wish to tackle.)

Similarly, those who employ “utilize” instead of “use” in situations where the latter would suffice, at least in my view, deserve any ridicule that should come their way for their thinly veiled attempts to seem eloquent. (It is possible, however, that either a more earnest or more successfully sneaky treatment of drawing on the Fancy Word, that is, the lack of veil or application of a thicker veil, would eliminate the desire to mock the user.) “Use” is a more colloquial form of many, many verbs and verb phrases; the derision of one who substitutes “utilize” for the sake of variety is less warranted, especially if he/she is operating in the realm of communication more formal than spoken conversation.

In such conversation, it is decidedly not disturbing to come across the random, though not randomly misplaced or misused, Big Word. It is inspiringly surprising that intelligence is gaining ground as modern currency and commendable – either as a triumph of tolerance or true wit – that one could more or less correctly exercise one’s vocabulary when inebriated. Especially in L.A.

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