Comprehensive, dedicated, optimal. Some use these words repeatedly. Others thunder that they litter the language. Are they definitely completely unnecessary? Why, then, have settled in our language? And what to do with them? Does replacing them with native synonyms always solve the case?
Why do we use borrowings that we can replace with a home synonym? Explanations come to mind without a second thought:
– they are fashionable,
– they sound attractive,
– they seem professional.
These intuitive answers, unfortunately, are quite superficial. I have serious doubts whether, for example, the optimal word, commonly used for years, can be considered fashionable. Does it sound attractive? This is a matter of taste, but I would say that it is rather a clamshell that usually does not attract attention.
The third argument is the hardest to refute, because we often succumb to the illusion that thanks to the complex vocabulary we give the impression of being professional and intelligent. These efforts, however, have the opposite effect. Research says that if we want to be perceived as intelligent people, we should be clear and simple. What you say or write will seem more sensible to others if they understand more.
So, since these three reasons can not withstand critical criticism, why do optimal or comprehensive words work well, and their native synonyms only sometimes take their place in a tentative way? What stands in the way? Wont? Ignorance? Obstinacy? Or maybe there is another reason why we choose these words?
Yes, there is, but about that in a moment.
First, however, I would like to draw attention to something that can easily escape because it seems obvious. Should language users be disciplined, or rather a clue to them? Is replacing a loan with a native synonym a good advice? This is certainly one of the ways that helps reduce these words in the text (yes, reduce, because I do not think that one should completely give up), but not the only one.
There are at least four of these ways. The editing of a text does not have to be limited to exchanging one word for another. It can be much more creative.
Delete the unnecessary word
This method, seemingly simple, requires looking at your own text from a distance. Let’s take the term integrated platform. Is it absolutely necessary to emphasize this integration? Or maybe it would only add the seriousness of the statement? If the word is an empty ornament, let’s deal with it bluntly. If, on the other hand, the platform has many functions, we should exchange them in the form of bullets.
Replace the word with a precise synonym
Let us assume that the comprehensive word is indispensable in our text. We refer to the dictionary in which we find the following synonyms: “comprehensive, general, cross-sectional, systemic, versatile, broad”. Seemingly, each of them is apt. The matter becomes more complicated when we try to place them in the text. We are overwhelmed by the unpleasant feeling that we did not want to express it. Why is this happening?
First, one should ask why, out of a whole lot of words that we could borrow from English, we choose just those, and not others. We return to the question I put at the beginning of the text. I then rejected three intuitive answers. She announced that there is also the fourth, the most rational one. Well, words borrowed very often contain some nuance, which is missing from their English counterparts.
So let’s not settle for the first of the synonyms. When in doubt, let’s get back to the original English-language definition, and then correctly match the equivalent. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word “complex” means “containing a lot of different but related parts.” Among the native synonyms: “comprehensive, general, cross-sectional, systemic, versatile, wide”, the most convenient, in my opinion, is the word “versatile.” Of course, its accuracy depends on the context.
Replace the general with a specific word
Let’s say we want to replace the word dedicated in the term dedicated training materials. Native synonyms intended for and specialized in, require additional definition and therefore do not concisely express the original meaning, which is “designed to be used for one specific purpose.” The English word thus contains a sense that we would have to express in a descriptive way.
But do we necessarily have to look for a synonym? After all, our text is not engraved in stone. Maybe it will be possible to replace a generic word dedicated to a precise term that says something more about materials, and additionally does not raise any doubts about correctness? For example, hand-drawn training materials or exercises based on the client’s texts. Yes, these terms are long, but they emphasize what distinguishes training materials, and this is what a dedicated word was supposed to serve.
Change the sentence structure
When we fail to find the right replacement, we can change the construction of the entire sentence. This method will work especially in the case of participles (eg realized), which can extend sentences to infinity. And so, instead of the investment implemented as part of the X project, we can write an investment that arises thanks to the X project. The implemented word has disappeared, and the sentence now rules in the verb.
It may also happen that none of the four ways will pass the exam in your text. Even if the borrowing is widely used in the industry and facilitates communication. This is the fifth, perhaps the most important reason for using it. Is it wrong that we decide on a word of marketing jargon or an official language? Not necessarily.
In his speech, Marek Walas asks the question: “What makes the word true?” According to the speaker, the author of the dictionaries does not decide about it. They have to pick up words that will survive, but they do not want to look like chasing after fashion. They make human decisions, and these are wrong.
In retrospect, some complaints about words seem ridiculous. For example, Benjamin Franklin stunned the word “colonize.“
Marek Walas notes that the same words appear in the plebiscites of forbidden words and contests for the word of the year, which means that both the first and second body notices words that take on significance but have a different attitude towards them.
And we can also choose one of these two attitudes. Do language changes interfere with us and raise our anxiety? Or maybe we treat them as a funny, interesting and worthy part of living language? “I will be honest. I do not like the word prominent, but it is irrelevant in the face of the growing popularity of the word in the general language and written prose – says Walas. – I want to say that you have to be more careful in deciding which change is bad. We need to be more cautious about imposing our beliefs about words on others. (…) If you use a word and know what it means – this is true. This word may belong to slang, it may be colloquial, you may think that the word is illogical or unnecessary, but the word used is true.”