My Contributions to the English Language

 

I love language. I'm a grammar geek (I believe I've admitted that one before) and I can spend hours arguing about things such as when to use a semicolon and how many spaces go after a period. I revel in word play and there is nothing quite like the sound of a well-turned phrase or a well-written passage. And one of the things that makes language so much fun is that, no matter how hard we try, we can't pin it down.
 
Oh, we make our attempts to codify it. In 1604 Robert Cawdrey published a tantalizing little book titled "A Table Alphabeticall, conteyning and teaching the true writing, and understanding of hard usuall English wordes". (In those days they really knew how to grab the reader's attention with a snappy title. By the way, all of the foregoing is sic.) Cawdrey's is the first known attempt to put together anything we might even remotely recognize as a dictionary.
 
But, even though the marvels of our electronic universe now allow us to instantaneously document the state of our language, such attempts are a fool's game. The technology that allows this rapid response to changes also facilitates faster change.   And any documentation of said change is outdated as soon as it is posted.
 
We can't keep up. New words come into our language and old ones disappear. (Two points for anyone who, without looking it up, can define gardyloo. And, yes, people still use it – just not many of them.)
 
I mention all this because, recently, I made up two words.
 
In the first instance, I was talking to someone about a subject which eludes me at this time. (The topic was quite important, I'm sure, but I can't remember the actual content of that conversation.) I said something had "valuebility".
 
The phrase popped from my mouth and I (metaphorically) took hold of it, looked it up and down, and was quite pleased with what I had wrought – so proud of it I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget it. 
 
I look at the word now and wonder why I thought it was so brilliant. In my mind, the word "valuebility" meant the ability to add value. And, while I suppose there might be some real specific instance where it would be just the proper word, I am now hard pressed to figure out what "valuebility" says that other currently existing words don't. Upon reflection, the word feels made up and far too proud of itself.
 
On the other hand, a few days ago I typed the word "morrassive". Now there is a word that has substance and adds to the language. Morrassive is meant to describe a person or thing or situation that is a massive morass. I like that word. Your mileage may differ.
 
Here is the point. (You know how it goes; some days it takes longer to get to these points than others.) Nothing we ever do should be encased in concrete; we should never be able to execute a final "pin down" of the perfect situation. Things change, and so must anything we do.
 
And that means, no matter what we do, experimentation is the key to finding better ways to do things. Experimentation is the only way we will find better approaches to performing internal audits. (It always makes me feel better to mention internal audit at least once in every post. These are, ostensibly, supposed to, however tangentially, be about that subject.)
 
If you have pinned your audit process down and encased it in concrete, then you will find yourself as mired as the sabertooths in the tarpits. Feel free to make up words. It doesn't mean you want them in all (or any) of your reports, but it is a part of innovation. Take a leap and make up new ways of documentation. It may not work in all (or any) audits, but it will help you change the way you look at your work. Experiment with your clients to find new ways to review and assess operations. It may not serve the purpose of your work every time, but it might be the tip of the iceberg for a new way to do things.
 
Experiment. Throw out what doesn't work. But put a vicelike grip on anything that appears to have a chance. As much as I loved valuebility, I'm no longer convinced it achieved any improvement in communication.
 
Now, on the other hand, morrassive...

Posted on Jun 30, 2013 by Mike Jacka

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  1.  Someone has to make up the new words... That is how they start showing up in the morrassive area that is the modern English language...

    As for me, I nominate Mike Jacka, internal auditing's foremost freeform author, as the official creator of words that have valuebility!

  1. Mike,

    Every other year it seems one of the big firms produce a listing of good/bad words to use when documenting work papers.  (i.e "noted" is a word thats used all the time)  IA noted this...IA noted that. Whenever i see the word "noted" i often pause for a moment and think "what other word would be acceptable to use in place of "noted" becomes it sounds rather magoo to me.  That being said i'd love to know your take on "Words to use/not to use" when documenting work papers.

  1. Josh, great question.  Wanted you to know I'm not ignoring it, but just got back on line from vacation.

    In fact, such a great question I think I'll address it in a future blog post.  With any luck, some time this week.

    Mike

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