There it was lying on a city clerk’s desk, the catalog that belongs on everyone’s coffee table– Roadway Luminaries! Naturally, you might be thinking to yourself, what’s a roadway luminary? It’s an important sounding word for street light. But, why not call the catalog Street Lights? Would you pay $1500.00 to $2000.00 wholesale for a street light? No, of course not? How about two grand for a roadway luminary? Now it sounds like a bargain. At least that’s what the marketing geniuses at the street light store figured out.
It is a rapid trend in our language to replace small, better words with vapid, polysyllabic giant chains of Latin and Greek roots that stretch and grow through the language of commerce and industry like a verbal crabgrass. The disciplines of architecture and engineering are masters at creating large structures and words. Used in building codes and design manuals, the word fenestration is a favorite of mine. Windows doesn’t seem clear enough for our design professionals. One that is not a favorite is the term “signage.” I don’t know what knucklehead coined this phrase, but it sounds like an upper respiratory infection, e.g. “Yo, Joe’s got a bad case of the signage.” No matter how they’re displayed, they’re still signs.
Even when there is a perfect name for something, architects somehow make up another name. Walls that separate tenant spaces or different uses (think of the wall between the CVS and Spencer’s Gifts in the mall), are generally called “tenant separation” walls or fire barriers. Another hyperactive architect somewhere in the world started labeling these walls “demising” walls. Why there’s a “death” wall in the mall still mystifies me.
Nothing is sadder in the race for bigger words for less than in the job market. Stewards and stewardesses are lumped as flight attendants, secretaries are administrative assistants, and crooks are career criminals. I’d much rather be on a plane with stewardesses passing out peanuts, than flight attendants reminding me about how much jail time I’ll get if I sneeze on the plane. I used to get secretaries flowers on Secretaries Day, because I knew who they were and could distinguish them from the Treasurer, managers, and bookkeepers, and I’m considering a career change if unlawful acts are now institutionalized. In fact, I’m signing up for a few courses in crime at the community college– Theft 101, Burglary 211, and Advanced Safe Cracking 400.
Among all the stupid job titles created, including tree surgeon, human resource director, paralegal, and bar chef, my new favorite is patient navigator. I imagine a candy striper pushing a elderly man or woman down a hospital corridor on their way to surgery or, perhaps, to the lobby to go home. But it must be much more important that that! I was curious, so I visited the Cancer.org website to see if I could get a handle on what a patient navigator really does. This is what I found:
“The Patient Navigator program helps patients, families, and caregivers navigate the many systems needed during the cancer journey”
You’re kidding me, right? Cancer journey? I’ve thought a lot about cancer, but never thought of it in the same light as a trip to the zoo. Sounds more like an over-worked nurse who can be replaced with a medical GPS system.
If you can’t think of a fancy name that stands on its own, just throw in a few “pink slime” words in like specialist, technician, analyst or coordinator and “Shazaam!” instant title. Recycling coordinator (clerk to whom you pay your garbage bill), regional operations specialist (mail room clerk), sanitation technician (garbage man or woman) or retention analyst (clerk who cancels your insurance policy) fit perfectly into this category. You notice that clerks really get a bad rap. Appears no one wants to be called a clerk. If you ever watched an episode of M*A*S*H, you know better. The company clerk runs everything, much like in real life. I can’t think of a more important job, or job title, than that of a clerk.
But no matter what your walk in life, administrative assistant, associate assistant, barista, bar chef, person-of-interest, perpetrator, judge or jury, please remember to drive gently, obey the traffic signage by observing it through the clean car fenstration, and don’t forget to stop at the mall . . . the demising walls make it a safer place, and should the hour be late and darkness is upon you, there are plenty of roadway luminaries to light your way.