Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More on proactive

Well, let's see . . .

First of all, Brian Garner's Garner's Modern American Usage, an admirable book, recognizes that "proactive" is a "Vogue Word" [a linguistic fad, sometimes working at a subconscious level. Vogue words are commonly used by speakers to make a statement about themselves or identify themselves in some way (apart from the meritorious use of the word)]. He also acknowledges, though, that "proactive" is "occasionally useful as an antonym of reactive. It seems to fill a gap in the language -- one not adequately filled by assertive or any other common word." This point has been made by the Jestaplero in his defense of "proactive."

Garner also discusses another word that, surprisingly, has been defined in an overly restrictive way -- obviate. And I would urge everyone to consider its use to avoid some uses of "be proactive" [or, I would argue, the synonymous "act"]. As Garner explains:

Some modern dictionaries define obviate as meaning "to make unnecessary." And some writers actually use the word this way -- e.g. "Volunteering does not, I repeat does not, obviate government's role in providing social services" [citation omitted].

But that definition is unduly restrictive. In fact, the OED doesn't even list this sense. Obviate more usually means "to meet and dispose of or do away with (a thing); to prevent by anticipatory measures." * * *

So. I urge us all, when arguing that someone should "be proactive" in disposing of something, that we might counsel that someone should obviate whatever they're dealing with.

*This*, my friends, is *sure* to make someone sound natural and normal in their speech, avoiding the tickle caused by proactive.


Anonymous Mister Parker said...

Are you sure you're not drinking again?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 4:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Jestaplero said...

Y'know, the funny thing is I actually use the "obviate", but usually in the restrictive usage you mention, and only when I'm drinking.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 10:48:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you'd say that in front of an alcoholic . . .

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 10:55:00 pm  

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