If you look around the business books section today, you will see a selection of books that have provocative names and the cover art makes the cover provocative too. A cursory glance suggests that the language of business seems to have gone the gutter way.
If a book store is not your destination, then head to LinkedIn, where the disease of bad language is even more rampant. Sometimes, it makes me wonder if leadership in business comes hand in hand with ability to be a bad Internet troll.
The decay of language is a serious issue, especially when it starts to get formalized. There was a time when business leaders would agonize over every word they wrote, even for an internal memo, but now it looks like use of poor language is almost a pre-requisite to being a successful leader, author and influencer.
WHAT PUNJABI DID TO ITSELF
The change often creeps up on us and even before it is noticed, a small spark becomes a raging fire. About a decade ago, Punjabi music started to celebrate liquor and toxic masculinity. Some of the singers who created that music became icons of success, they sang for Bollywood movies, appeared in movies and eventually appeared in ads as well. Every single public appearance of these artistes was in the same manner as their music video appearances, celebrating what can only be called as ills of society. These artistes came from a land that has a rich cultural heritage, has produced India’s finest poets and story-tellers, but today that rich heritage is lost to bad idioms and poor imagination and toxicity that makes bad behavior a pre-requisite for success. Who would believe that Punjabi language at one point was a rich source of imagination and was a symbol of cultural richness?
The only reason to cite Punjabi music as an example is to stress upon the fact that bad language creeps into the mainstream, and eventually destroys the edifice of richness that has been built for generations.
WHERE ARE THE COPY-WRITERS?
Today, decaying language is spoiling the image of leaders, brands and business leaders, and most often the brand and business feel proud of the language they put out.
There is a common question often asked, as to where have the copy-writers vanished? The copy-writers are very much here, they have been writing in the best possible way to make the brands and business create the right impact. The decay in linguistic skills is visible all around, the copy-writer alone cannot carry the blame.
EMOJIS: BACK TO STONE AGE
I have long maintained that the use of emojis is sending us back to Stone Age. Language started as pictures and moved to a codified way to expressing emotions. The codified way made our cultures richer and became the engine of progress. We are now back to pictures and the new language that has evolved from there is reaching even book shelves.
Decay of language is like decay of a radioactive atom. In the process of decay, the atom exposes everything around it to radioactivity and infects everyone around it. The results are catastrophic; we all know Chernobyl!
Will the language continue to decay, or will we, as consumers, ensure that the infection is controlled?
I personally shudder at where the decay may lead us.
(The author is Co-founder and CSO, Bang in the Middle. He tweets at @googlegupta)
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