Thursday, December 07, 2006

Language Police: I carry a badge

The other day, while doing some competitive research for a client, I came across a company that described their product as a "simplistic solution." Since they are direct competitors of ours, I sure do hope that their solution is simplistic!  Both our products are trying to solve an expensive, complex, and - dare I say - "mission critical" problem. Using a product that oversimplifies the problem just won't cut it.

Of course, before I started carping, I mean blogging, on this topic, I got me to the dictionary to make sure that simplistic does indeed mean what I think it does: OVERSIMPLE.

InfoPlease (online) and American Heritage agree. InfoPlease goes so far as to use the word in its definition of pablum. And American Heritage lists it as the adjective form of a wonderful word I've never heard - simplism, which is defined as:

The tendency to oversimplify an issue or problem by ignoring complexities or complications.

I tried to do a bit of further heavy lifting, craning my Oxford English Dictionary out of its casing, but I couldn't find the magnifying glass that goes with it and so had to give up on the eye-straining effort to read through the etymology of the word "simples."

Only Merriam-Webster (online) seemed to give any nod to simplistic as a synonym for simple. 

But I'm guessing the marketing person who defined a solution as "simplistic" wasn't consulting a dictionary. My guess: someone was trying to fancy-up a product description and thought "simplistic" sounded more elegant than plain, old simple.

Bottom line: sometimes plain is better than fancy.


And here's a little something for below the bottom line.  I live in the same block as the bar/restaurant that inspired the TV series Cheers. I rarely go there, but the other evening we had an out-of-town friend who "kinda" wanted to see it and we obliged. Here's a howler I found on their menu: "Please Visit the Authentic Replica of the Cheers Hollywood Set in Faneuil Hall Marketplace."  Don't know where to begin except by asking just what an "authentic replica" is that a "replica" isn't. And to offer that, before it was the Cheers Bar it was the Bull and Finch Pub, which didn't look all that much like the Cheers Bar (and the bartender didn't look like Sam Malone) which sort of makes the  Hollywood set a "fake replica" to begin with.

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