Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Standards, MIL-Speak...and Ultrarunning

I am in a hotel as I write this Mon evening for a Tues morning post.  My business in Atlanta is to participate in a standards conference.

It is boring. Boring beyond belief, yet I realize that standards are essential to commerce, government, the military, etc.  Think about something as simple as the size and shape of electrical outlets and the plugs that fit them.  Here in the U.S. we pretty much take it for granted that when we buy appliances we don't have to worry about whether the plug will fit or if the normal AC power will work.  They just do.  These are national standards that we adhere to in the U.S.

Note: Overseas power and outlets are another story, in that international standards never were quite consensed upon.

I deliberately used the word consensed above, as an example of what I call MIL-Speak.  It's the annoying habit that we who are associated with the military have of corrupting words.  "Consensed" is the verb form of the noun consensus, and is used to mean agree or concur.  You will NOT find "consensed" in a dictionary. 

Here are 4 other MIL-Speak words you will not find in a dictionary.  I love language, I love reading, I love writing--that's one of the reasons I blog--and these are particularly egregious and annoying examples of "words" from my personal experience:

1.  Footstamp: verb, meaning to add emphasis.  Example: Let me footstamp this point (corruption of adjective/noun combo foot stamp).

2.  Offramp: verb, meaning to exit. Example: Our plans to offramp Afghanistan are nebulous at best (corruption of noun off ramp).

3.  Propensed: adjective, meaning disposed. Example: He was not propensed to vote for that candidate (corruption of noun propensity).

4.  Churn: noun, meaning confusion and delay (if you have a little one and watch Thomas the Tank Engine, you will know exactly what I mean!).  Example: Failure to communicate our plans caused a lot of churn (corruption of a verb into a noun). 

Back to today's standards conference and reality.  The chair of this committee used as a verb the MIL-Speak word "footstamp" as a verb some 3 times just in Monday's afternoon session. I seethed inside and wanted to throw something at him.

The connection to Ultrarunning:  I really need to go on the Stone Mountain run I promised myself yesterday.  Tues PM may just work out....

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