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Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Monday, 30 January 2012


I notice that several of our 'leading' departments now have slick advertising videos on their web pages. Nothing surprising about that. As I've observed before, once blowing one's own trumpet gets a foothold then the Devil take the hindmost. What is perhaps a bit more surprising is how easily sociologists adopt the locutions of management speak. For instance here is a gem from one of the promos:
"...students gain a wide variety of employability skills and one of these can be exampled by the research project..."
Excuse me, but since when has to use or make an example become a verb? I example, you example, she examples.... If we translate this into English it is obvious that the first part is banal while the second part (even if you add in what follows the ellipsis) is meaningless:
...students learn things that may be useful in the workplace (I would hope so); an example of this is the research project... (what about it? In what way is this an example of a skill that students have learned?).
OK, I'm being a tad pedantic, but this sort of thing is insidious. Consider, for example, how to make, create or state a theory became a verb in sociologyspeak. Now all you have to do to dismiss any inconevnient empirical fact is to utter the magical incantation: "Your article/paper/sentence (tick whichever is applicable) is undertheorized." This phrase absolves the utterer from ever clearly stating what the actual deficiency is. It is in most cases the equivalent of shouting bugaboo!

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