Abused Word of the Day: Actionable.

July 23, 2019

In the action-packed world of business, the word “actionable” has become ubiquitous, but unnecessary. Can you think of anything that is “inactionable?”

“Action” is “the fact or process of doing something,” so anything is “actionable,” whether it’s advisable to take action or not. Among the synonyms for “actionable,” Merriam-Webster lists “practicable,” “serviceable,” “usable” and “workable,” each of which is almost as horrible as “actionable.”

Like many words that shouldn’t be used by people who want to communicate clearly, “actionable” also has a definition used by lawyers. If circumstances provide sufficient reason to take legal action, they are “actionable.”

The word also means “having practical value,” but the word itself has none.

The End of Mankind

July 29, 2019

The first words spoken on the moon 50 years ago couldn’t have been more inclusive: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

“Mankind,” at the time, meant everyone. The entire human race. No one questioned its meaning.

But Neil Armstrong might be reluctant to say those inspiring words today, given their maleness. Almost anything with the word “man” in it is unacceptable to today’s champions of gender-neutral language. Emasculating the oppressive English language, they believe, will make the world a better, more accepting place.

The Free Dictionary identifies 6,525 words that include “man” and 1,642 words that begin with “man,” such as “management,” “manicurist,” “manipulate” and “manufacture.” The gender police have not eliminated all of them yet, but they’re making progress.

Just a week before the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to emasculate the city’s municipal code. A “manhole” is now a “maintenance hole,” a “craftsman” is an “artisan” and anything that was “manmade” is now “human-made.”

The only surprise is that the Berkley City Council took so long, as colleges, companies and organizations have been neutering our language for decades, seeking to make “mankind” extinct. The net result does nothing to move gender equality forward, but it creates the perception of progress.

In some cases, gender-neutral language works – “firefighter” instead of “fireman” or “police officer” instead of “policeman,” for example. In most cases, though, it sounds forced and inelegant. Does “That’s one small step for humans, one giant leap for humankind” inspire you?

The descent of man is bad enough, but in Berkley and elsewhere, writers are now required to use “they” to accompany a singular subject. Pronouns “he” and “she” are unacceptable. Apparently, it’s more important to be sensitive to those who are offended by the use of singular pronouns than it is to be sensitive to those who are offended by grammatical atrocities.

Alas, “he” has been castrated and “they” is the people’s choice. Yes, “they” is, not “they” are. “They” can even be a gender choice today.

Given that there are now 62 genders to choose from, the logical next step is gender-free language.  Just as the American Civil Liberties Union helped us achieve true religious freedom by removing religion from everything, the only way to achieve true gender freedom is to make the English language genderless. Is using “it” any worse than using “they” whenever a pronoun is needed?

Some may argue that gender-neutral language is a small step forward for gender equality, but it’s a giant leap backward for the English language.