Monday, March 30, 2020

Really stupid words, Chapter 11.

It has long been a curiosity why, when we have perfectly good words in our rich language, we are so eager to jump on the bandwagon of the latest Rube Goldberg-concoction and turn it into a buzzword.
A somewhat recent example: “Going forward.”
Now, I am a soccer fan. And, for as long as I remember, “going forward” is what a soccer team does when it is on the attack. It’s a simple, apt description of something or someone moving in a defined direction in the physical world.
Nowadays, it has become almost standard vernacular used to describe something else. And the description is not nearly so apt, if it is apt at all.
We used to say, “in the future” or “from now on” or, if you wanted to sound pretentious, you might say, “henceforth” or “hereafter” or “from this time forth.” All those words and phrases mean what they mean, cannot mean anything else, and are perfectly descriptive.
“Going forward”? Not so.
Then there’s the long-standing philosophical argument about whether time moves in a “forward” direction at all, or whether it moves around and around in a cycle. But we’ll leave that discussion to the philosophers.
Years ago, in a meeting at the office, a coworker used “going forward” when it was still fresh and new. Afterward, I asked him why, and he said he did not know any other way to say what he meant. I guess he forgot that, as recently as the day before, he would have been perfectly happy to say, “from now on.”


  1. How about "Now we have a path forward," when we mean, "We have a plan."

    I so wish "What is your sense of--?" would die in TV journalism. More accurate to ask, "What do we know?" or "What is going on?"

    1. Right you are, Patti. I also wish interviewers would simply ask questions rather than tell their subject to "talk about" something.