15 April 2010

Word Rage

I try not to be a word Nazi. I realize language evolves; usage of existing words changes, new words come into common use, others fall out of favor. I know that happens. Most of the time, I think it's interesting. It's just, occasionally, I run across something that sends me over the top.

I can't seem to help it. I scratched out a living as a writer for 20-some years. Admittedly, it wasn't art. I have no literary pretensions. Most of the time I was writing software documentation; user manuals and online help. In the unlikely event that anybody ever reads a System Administrator Guide, they aren't left thinking, "Wow, that's really a good manual." That's not the point. Tech writing may not require an extensive vocabulary, but the words you do use matter.

Like every other writer I know, I have my own personal list of word or grammar things that set my teeth on edge. "Access", for example, is not a verb. Neither is "Author." I know both have become common usage. They still offend me. "Data" is plural. "Utilize" is not the same as "use." Jargon makes me itch.

Every place I ever worked, the marketing department eventually stopped sending me copy to review. I guess they got tired of having me ask why you'd want to say software is "seamless" when software never has seams, or pointing out that "mission-critical", in the military sense, means if this doesn't work somebody dies. Don't you think it's a tad overblown when you're talking about software? Or editing a product overview because the super-condensed summary of what the product does is not exactly true. Marketing jargon makes me crazy.

The other day I started thinking about a word I've seen a lot lately:


Seems like it's everywhere, usually in the context of making money from a web page. It has such a marketing-y, jargon-y sound that I figured some marketing writer must've invented it because they thought it sounded cool even though you could use regular words to say the same thing. As I was working myself up to a truly tumultuous (if totally pointless) uproar, I tried to confirm that reputable dictionaries contained no such word. Imagine my surprise and annoyance when I found the following:

n Entry: mon·e·tize
Pronunciation: \ˈmä-nə-ˌtīz also ˈmə-\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): mon·e·tized; mon·e·tiz·ing
Etymology: Latin moneta
Date: circa 1879

1 : to coin into money; also : to establish as legal tender

2 : to purchase (public or private debt) and thereby free for other uses moneys that would have been devoted to debt service

3 : to utilize (something of value) as a source of profit

— mon·e·tiz·able\-ˌtī-zə-bəl\ adjective
— mon·e·ti·za·tion \ˌmä-nə-tə-ˈzā-shən also ˌmə-\ noun
Merriam-Webster seems to think it's a real word. False alarm, I guess.

Well, shoot.

I still don't like it.

-- Mme. Crabbypants


  1. Dear Mme. Crabbypants,

    I appreciate that you consulted with my partner Mr. Merriam and me before your reached full froth over the seeming inappropriate use of the word monetizable. I'm still scratching my head at the fact we wrote that access means ONSET and OUTBURST. I mean really? That must have been my partner's doing.

    Words are funny. Just when you think you know them . . .


  2. LMAO!!! I wish I had something... significant to post here other than LMAO but that is really what I am doing....