Reject it, say what you do mean
This morning I have been for a routine medical review. Coincidently. On he bus I was reading on my phone a Facebook exchange between Rony Schenker and Lisa Gombinsky, that has inter alia touched upon Conductive Education's need to get it act sorted and define its terms –
This reminded me of my appointment letter. I had it with me to find my way to the right department. Rony and Lisa had evoked a particular sentence that had irritated me when I had received the letter a month ago –
When attending your outpatient appointment you are welcome to bring one relative or friend to support you during your visit.
Really? Does the hospital think me so decrepit that I need holding up? Or is there something that will happen to me that will leave me similarly immobile and, if so, is the hospital really so short-staffed that I may have to bring someone with me to help do the hospital's job? Or what?
A harmless-enough example. I can sort of work out what this well-intentioned letter means to say, I think, through what I know of the procedure and of the nonsensical jargon that professionals and semi-professionals use in this sort of context. But I should not need to.
'Support' is a word met everywhere now in English to mean, well, whatever it means in given contexts. Usually it means nothing because those who use it cannot find it in themselves to say what they really do expect or intend (through limited vocabulary, or just laziness). Sometimes perhaps they would prefer not to say exactly, in case they be held to account. And sometimes they have absolutely no idea, but would rather give the impression that they do...
And sometimes they may even be saying the very opposite of what they might intend. I have seen things telling me that conductors 'support walking' (er, in fact I have even seen photos and videos that suggest some do just that, so there you are, nature imitating art!)
As my personal example this morning illustrates, this is a far wider problem that just one for Conductive Education.
What is behind such diminutions in the specificity of language have in common? Perhaps no more than indicating that professional and semi-professionals might be unable or unwilling to state precisely what they mean – for a host of reasons. Lack of confidence? Yes, Rony and Lisa, CE deserves better than this.
Rony and Lisa were commenting on an example of my own terminological inexactitude. When I have had a look at the hospital lunch, I had better think of responding to them.