Do you get bad grammar off people?

I blame my grandmother. She loved providing real-time feedback on my grammar and her favorite was the difference between ‘off’ and ‘from’.

If I innocently reported to her that I had received something off someone, she would immediately respond that “you get fleas off people, but you get things from them”.


While I am a huge fan of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (and have a well thumbed copy on my bookshelf), I am also sympathetic to Stephen Fry’s tirade on language purists.

However, there is a happy medium.

Today well written, simple, plain English is the exception. Too often we descend to the lowest common denominator where we all proactively leverage robust, strategic solutions to global world-leading paradigm shifts.

Worse, in a deluge of meetings and conference calls we are routinely subjected to a verbal assault of meaningless phrases and buzzwords. This unscientific blog survey captured a few of the more common ones, although some of my personal favorites like ‘grok’ and ‘running it up the flagpole’ didn’t make the list.

Dan Pallotta put this very well in a post he published on the Harvard Business Review in December:

I’d say that in about half of my business conversations, I have almost no idea what other people are saying to me. The language of internet business models has made the problem even worse. When I was younger, if I didn’t understand what people were saying, I thought I was stupid. Now I realize that if it’s to people’s benefit that I understand them but I don’t, then they’re the ones who are stupid.

So, what is the point of this post?

I want to promote a balanced approach to language.  Let’s encourage each other to speak and write in plain, simple English and avoid the buzz word madness.

In that spirit here are two bonus links: