Old words with new meanings that we can do without

We PR professionals are in the communication business. Our job is to structure the messages of those we represent and communicate them in the clearest, most understandable words possible.

But every now again, new word meanings creep into our daily lexicon. It’s hard to tell who comes up with these alternate ways of saying the same thing, but some – many – catch on. Before you know it, we all are using the same new-styled wording to convey the same thoughts when the words we have been using for decades have worked just fine.

Perhaps it’s nothing more than looking and sounding cool; like you just bought the latest model sports car so you must know something. But having practiced PR for several decades, successfully, I do my best to avoid the newest and latest lingo because I don’t think it adds to my credibility, and frankly, I think it makes me sound silly.

Here are a few examples: Feel free to add to the list:

Space – No longer do people work in a business or industry, they occupy a certain space. I had a conversation with a nice young person recently who was trying to sell me a service. Every other word from his mouth was the “space” my company occupies. The only space I occupy is my office space and I pay rent for that. That’s the only space that makes sense to me.

Reach Out – There was a time when people would call or contact one another. Today, everybody “reaches out.” I wanted to reach out to you about any openings you may have in your company. You mean you are calling me about a job?” If that person was really current, s/he would have said “I wanted to reach out to you about any space I could fill in your firm.” But I guess there are only so many new-fangled clichés a recent graduate can muster in one sentence.

Different Direction – This has actually been around for a while, and won’t go away. Years ago, as the story goes, Johnny Carson decided to fire one of his writers. He called him into his office and said something like, “I just want you to know we’re taking the show in a different direction.” That was Johnny’s way of firing him. Later, the writer said in an interview that he never knew what different direction the show took, as it seemed the same to him until Johnny retired.

Circle Back — “I’ll tell you a bit about my company, you tell me a bit about your company, and then we’ll circle back to how you can help us.” You mean: After we get the preliminaries out of the way, we’ll get to the point of the meeting? Can we do this while remaining in our chairs or do we have to get up and walk in a circle?

Best – Prior to email overtaking our daily communications, people wrote letters. Yes, with actual paper that had to be folded and put in an envelope and mailed, or in later years, faxed. For as many years as I can remember, letters ended with something like Very Truly Yours, or the ubiquitous Sincerely. Then, when email arrived, people wanted to sound more friendly and started using All the Best. And now, All the Best has morphed to simply Best.

Best what?

It was nice hearing from you, Best, Gary.

You mean All the Best? You mean I Wish You the Best? You mean I Am the Best? Perhaps You are the Best? I never know what best you’re talking about. Please explain.

Hey – I saved my favorite for last. I can’t tell you how many emails I get, usually from people soliciting business or more likely people sending resumes, that begin with Hey! If I am not worth a Hello, then why bother? Colleges should offer a course that teaches would-be PR pros the difference between writing a business email and writing a text to a buddy. If you are asking me, or anyone for a job, don’y start with Hey!! We’re not drinking buddies, at least not yet. And for heaven’s sake, drop the exclamation points unless you are writing for a comic strip.

So hey, now that I have reached out to you, I want to circle back and take this in a different direction because of the space that I occupy. Thanks for listening.