Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jargon Riff -- Part Two


I suspect the reason I'm so miffed about jargon right now is my need - with so much serious illness and upheaval in my life - to pare things down to the bone. 

I've always been fond of sparse, precise prose. "Be precise,"  I say, over and over and over again, to my writing students. In fact, my own precision hang-up is the number one driver of my on-going writer's block.

Sigh.

So imagine my miffed-ness when I looked up at coffee shop television (blessedly muted) and saw the following bullet point:

Fear of Risk Aversion

Just what does that mean? Am I supposed to be afraid of "risk aversion" or am I supposed to be averse to "fear of risk"?

Literally, both form a kind of emotional double negative and connote bravery in the face of risk. 

When I googled the phrase, however, I found the following quote:

Can GM overcome the fear of risk aversion so many American consumers have about its brand, regardless of the actual reliability and competitiveness of its cars and trucks? That's a hard question to answer, and one only the consumer, over time, will be able to answer.

This poses another interpretation, in which "fear of risk" modifies "aversion" (i.e. What kind of aversion? The kind that fears risk, of course!). Such sloppy modification drives me nuts.

But this version, posing perception against reality, offers a lesson far removed from current economic crises.

What is depression (both economic and personal) if not fear of risk? Of change? What is it if not paralysis of courage?

I want to be clear: I do not see depression as cowardice or even as something that can be alleviated by a change in perception; neurotransmitters don't respond to will, after all. Clinical depression is a medical issue, and it's not what I'm about in this post.

A "fear of risk" aversion - just like "process management" - keeps us from living fully and authentically. 

Here's hoping all of us can put such aversion aside and stride out into the messy chaos of life.


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