Wednesday, May 2, 2012

the English language: finalize

I was listening to an audio recording of a church talk from back in the 50s or 60s. The speaker was talking about the erosion of language, and he used the word "finalize" as an example, eliciting light laughter from the audience, mentioning that it was ridiculous that people felt the need to use the invented and seemingly complicated word to mean "finish."

I thought, "Wait. Finalize isn't a word?" In my mind, finish and finalize are not the same thing. I'll bet they aren't in your mind, either.

So I looked it up. And here is the oh-so-scientific explanation from some web site I came across. (No peer-reviewed source here. I don't have time for that kind of research.)

Usage Note: Once considered objectionable because of its association with the language of bureaucracy, finalize is steadily gaining acceptance. In the late 1960s, 90 percent of the Usage Panel found the example finalize plans for a class reunion unacceptable; in the late 1980s, 71 percent disapproved. By 1997, only 28 percent of the Usage Panel found it unacceptable in the sentence We will send you more information once we finalize plans for the reunion. Although substitutes for finalize can be found among complete, conclude, make final, and put into final form, none of these is an exact synonym. This may be why resistance to finalize is eroding.

Fascinating! Don't you find that fascinating? No? Hmmm. You must be weird. I find it fascinating.

Do you think "initialize" was just as ridiculous?

Makes me wonder what kinds of ridiculous words are going to be perfectly acceptable 50 years down the road. Irregardless? Ridonkulous? Ginormous? Oh wait. Ginormous is a perfectly acceptable word in my book. Reminds me of Ginormica.

What ridiculous words do you predict will be considered academically valid in 50 years?


Tamra said...

But "initialize" really can be swapped out for "start" without losing anything. Finalize has a similar but distinctly different meaning than finish.

It IS fascinating. I wonder how people "finished up plans" in the past without using "finalize." Did they "make the plans solid"? Interesting indeed.

jules q said...

I agree that it was fascinating. Because I am also a word nerd. I can't think of any good candidates for silly words on their way to legitimacy.

I could, however, give you a long list of corporatese that I would like to see go out of fashion. Synergy and leverage being the top two.

Kerri said...

"app" -- seriously NOT a word, but WILL now officially give you points in scrabble or words with friends. Ol' Webster's rollin in his grave I'm sure.

I'll finalize my list and send it over.

Sally Teeple said...

I just want to figure out how to get myself a spot on the Usage Panel (whatever that is)!

Ashley said...

I love that you love this stuff! I like it too--but probably not as much. :)

Emma and Dan said...

It is really interesting. I wonder what other words have a similar history.

Please NO to irregardless being accepted! :)