Just talking normal

I’ve noticed that simply talking or writing on the internet in a relaxed, natural way is increasingly harder for many people, especially Americans.

Everyone talks like an influencer, even in casual conversations, in niche hobby subreddits. I notice so many people always talk in brand names as if everything is a product review. My guess is that they’re consuming ungodly amounts of influencer content and started talking like that unconsciously.

I also notice a lot of really awkward phrasings. One example that jumped out at me was a booked that mentioned checking your “communication device”. Simply using “phone” would have been perfectly understandable and I’d wager every reader would get that it applies to tablets, smart watches, and iPod touches — I know they’re still out there. Incidentally, a few pages into this book, the author was already hawking her courses. It feels like everything now is content marketing and an up-sale platform.

The reasons for this are more complex. There’s a misguided belief that in order to “inclusive” you have to have worked out every rare edge case. I suppose it’s a fundamental difference of opinion, but I’d rather write and talk in a way that’s more natural sounding and covers the vast majority of cases.

Going back to the idea of inclusivity, I’ve written about this before, but a quick recap:

[R]ather than ask that “women” present themselves for a smear test, NHS letters and poster campaigns might use gender-neutral language and direct the appeal instead to “individuals with a cervix”, the phrase used by the American Cancer Society. This kind of language is feted as “more inclusive”, but the question we should be asking is, inclusive of whom?

Unless you speak English natively and come from an upper-middle class background, good luck understanding what on earth an “individual with a cervix” is. Thankfully, we have a word that’s much simpler: “woman”. Admittedly there are some fuzzy boundaries with words like man and woman, but understandable communication is always a tradeoff between nuance and clarity.

I think the real motivation to speak in these weird euphemisms is to exclude lower social classes and mark the speaker as educated, erudite. When people talk like this, it’s worth challenging them. Who are they trying exclude by using stilted language?

I’m on the side of simplicity and clarity. In other words, talking normal. This is especially important in a place like Europe, where English is the main way people from different countries communicate with each other despite it being spoken natively by so few people here.