From The Wall Street Journal:
Those of us with the effrontery to set up as guardians of the English language find ourselves in the condition of the village idiot of the shtetl of Frampol, whose job it was to stand at the village gate awaiting the coming of the Messiah. The pay was low, the poor fellow was made to understand, but the work was steady. And so it is with us guardians—such are the relentless depredations upon the language that we are never out of work.
Not that our work is much appreciated. I have myself railed about the emptiness of the word “focus,” a weak metaphor taken from photography, when in all cases “concentrate” or “emphasize” will do nicely and serve more precisely. Despite my admonitions, the word continues to flourish in politics, sports and for all I know animal husbandry.
“Issue” is another word I have complained about. There are questions, problems and issues. Questions require answers, problems solutions. Issues are matters in the flux of controversy. So I implore you, don’t tell me you have “issues” with your knee or with your kids, when what you have are problems.
. . . .
Language guardians have long groused about turning nouns into verbs. An early example was “prioritize” from “priority.” This barn door should never have been left open, for from out of it have debouched the hideous “incentivize” and “weaponize.” The latter is especially popular just now, and pops up in such sentences as “They are weaponizing the Mueller report to use against the president” and “Weaponizing the Supreme Court against Congress is not what the Constitution intended.” It’s enough to disincentivize you from reading.
. . . .
Weaponize, incentivicize, fraught, existential threat: These are all what H.W. Fowler, that god in the pantheon of language guardians, called “vogue words.” “Every now and then,” Fowler wrote, “a word emerges from obscurity, or even from nothingness or a merely potential and not actual existence into sudden popularity. It is often, but not necessarily, one that by no means explains itself to the average man, who has to find out its meaning as best he can. His wrestlings with it have usually some effect upon it; it does not mean quite what it ought to, but to make up for that it means some things that it ought not to, by the time he has done with it.”
Such was Fowler’s description. Now his judgment: “Ready acceptance of vogue words seems to some people the sign of an alert mind; to others it stands for the herd instinct and lack of individuality.”
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal