Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vocabulary Cop on Patrol

I am judging you

I know it's been a long while since I posted anything here. It's not for lack of time or interest, but a failure to focus which kept me away.

I'm easily distracted by all sorts of small things. (It's why I have more or less constant adult supervision.) I'm also, therefore, easily irritated by small things.
Take, for example, vocabulary use. Like the Grammar Nazi, I take umbrage at laziness in applying the standard tools of communication. And, under normal circumstances, I will leap upon the offender at the drop of the first apostrophe, the first obvious malapropism.

This year, however, something began as a niggling disquiet, and only recently have I found it to be an honest-to-Roget hair shirt, sending me snarling from the room.

My issue? The increasing use of the term, "abdicating responsibility" for people who fail to perform their duties, when context implies no stated intent. The word they're looking for is "abrogating".

In the dictionary, the two mean almost the same thing. The difference, though subtle, is enormous in context. To abdicate is to formally step aside, with stated intention that one will no longer perform the assigned duties. To abrogate is to evade.

Abdication is public announcement that you will not accept the duties, or even the role. This generally allows the affected parties to find a replacement for you, to fulfill your duties. Abrogation is to accept the title publicly, but just not allow yourself to be bothered with the terms of the contract (implied or written). A government agent who announces he will not accept a title of office he would be entitled to, under normal circumstances, abdicates. But if that same official takes the title, and then proceeds to draw a paycheck while doing none of the actual work of the job, he abrogates. Abdication of responsibility can be honorable. Abrogation...not so much.

Call me an angry old pedant, if you will, but I just want communication to be as clear and refined as is humanly possible -- not fancy, just lacking smoke and smudge.

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