The View From Faraway Farm: Let's get granular


If I am recollecting correctly, it was February of 2016 when I first heard the word "granular" being used in a new context. Merriam Webster's simple definition of the word is: made of or appearing to be made of small pieces or granules. However, this relatively new context is quite different. I would define it as meaning "to view in greater detail." In my research of this new meaning, I've found that it is mostly used in business, and to one person who commented on it, it is "an ugly buzz word." The first reference that I could find of it being used as an ugly buzzword was back in 2009. We can only guess at the originator, but I would credit some unknown seminar presenter. I've heard a number of words being used in a new context, like "conversation." Adopters of buzz words probably picked this one up from seminars or webinars. In the case of granular, why not just say "in greater detail?" Business seminars are rich breeding ground for annoying new uses of words. Day to day communication spreads buzzwords and buzz phrases like STDs in a 1969 free love commune.

Do you remember when you first heard the buzz phrase "big time?" I adopted that one back in the 1980s when I heard it being used by a Madison Avenue advertising executive. To a small town media guy, hearing this new buzz phrase from a phone conversation with a sophisticated New York advertising executive was like an epiphany. What a great way to emphasize the impact of something. I used it in sentences like "this method of creating media impact will get you noticed big time!" Yes, it is somewhat embarrassing to look back at adopting buzzwords and phrases so readily, but when it comes to granular and conversation, I am resisting. They simply don't add anything to the language other than the smell of pretentious thought, all smoke and burning rubber but no forward movement.

For me, It has always been interesting to observe how our language has changed over time. The usage of certain words come and go like clothing styles in the fashion industry. I am under no illusion about my knowledge of the English language, I simply enjoy that it is so fluid. The fact that we continue to add words to our language means that society is always looking to express itself in new and more effective ways. We even borrow words from other languages. Deja vu is a perfect example. We don't have a handy English phrase that conveys the feeling of having the sense that you have experienced something before.

Words being used in a new context, or entertaining phrases often have a very short shelf life. Remember "New York minute?" I haven't heard that one in years. I can't even keep up with slang because it changes so rapidly. Does anyone say "bling" anymore? If you are old enough to remember, we used to call things "neat" in the sixties. Sick is another one that has probably left the building. Slang words usually evolve from urban street culture, but hit them with "Jeezum crow" and you are immediately a hayseed. However, in Vermont's culture, jeezum crow still works. I've noticed that quite a few of my fellow Vermonter's have shortened it to "jeez." To use another buzz phrase, "works for me."

Australian and British slang is very entertaining. The rhyming slang of Britain is like code or pig Latin. Certain phrases in Australian culture boggle the mind, like "Bob's your Uncle." I subscribe to a great British publication called "Classic Land Rover." While the writing style is usually devoid of slang, you'll occasionally run across some and it is fun to track it down to find out what it means. Spending that much time just to get all granular with language is an interesting new conversation, and that's hopefully the last time you'll hear me using those words in that context.

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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