This verb turned up recently when Macquarie University’s Director of Property announced that the university was rolling out a “better and more intuitive wayfinding strategy” (I know, that ‘wayfinding’ deserves its own panegyric).
Anyone who has visited Macquarie’s lovely green campus would have suffered the peculiarities of our building naming system. We have a letter indicating whether the building is in the centre (C), east (E), or west (W), a number indicating its place on the axis perpendicular to the locational one (from 1- 7 or so), and finally the letter A or B to differentiate two buildings in close proximity. My building for instance is ‘C5A’.
The new ‘wayfinding’ concept was foreshadowed in the Director of Property’s official memo: “Macquarie Theatre (formerly W5B) has now transitioned to W2.4A and the new Australian Hearing Hub will adopt the building code S2.6”.
It is hard enough to see how ‘W2.4A’ might be more intuitive than ‘W5B’, but damn near impossible to think that a theatre renamed after the university itself (one of a few on the campus with a name easily remembered) could be better off under this new system. And changing ‘The Australian Hearing Hub’ to ‘S2.6? What gives?
This system was designed by a ‘strategic communications’ company. I wonder what a ‘non-strategic’ communications company would have worked up.
When I read this kind of language, I wish I was starring in my own series of Grumpy Old Women. What really irks me is that Macquarie Theatre didn’t “transition” to W2.4A. This makes it sound like the building did it all by itself. And the Australian Hearing Hub did not, of its own accord, trade a name for a code.
What this language does is obscure human agency. Rather than saying “we have decided to recode our buildings at Macquarie”, the buildings instead become the architects of the change.
Here’s a more serious example of the problem, from my postdoc research at Macquarie. The speaker is Brigidier Mike Hannan, who was, back in March 2003, a spokesman for the Australian Defence Force.
To a room full of Australian journalists in Canberra, Brigidier Hannan reported: “As you can imagine our activities in the Middle East area of operations are now fully transitioned from the preparatory deployment phase of the past weeks into active military operations, as part of the United States-led international coalition to disarm Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction”.
“… our activities … are now fully transitioned …”?
In other words: Alongside the United States and Britain, we have just invaded Iraq.
This column was first published by the NTEU here