Failure to communicate, but not in a bad way

Sometimes I remind my teenage children that words have meanings. There are things called dictionaries that provide definitions for them.

The reminder is needed, because people around them say perplexing things.

One of the more confusing additions to youthful conversation is “random.” Random can be added before any noun. It describes people, places, and things that are random or (perhaps) not random at all.

One might say they bought a pair of shoes at “some random store.” But the store was not random. It was a very specific store, selected by the shopper on purpose, precisely because they sold shoes.

The word random was inserted for a purpose I don’t completely understand. It appears to be added (literally) at random.

People my age have developed a bothersome use for the word “intentional.” We encourage each other to “be more intentional” as though we usually stumble our way through life doing things unintentionally.

I understand we can do right things and wrong things, with good intentions or bad intentions. I know we can fail to do things, ignore them, or put them off. We can even forget our original intentions, but we are not acting unintentionally.

To encourage those of us making poor choices to simply “be more intentional” is to let us off the hook. Now, instead of admitting “I was wrong” or “I failed,” we can simply say “I wasn’t intentional enough,” which is not true.

My favorite phrase for reducing the precision of modern communication is used, again, by the young. It’s rather like a tag line added to the end of any criticism.

First, I say something undoubtedly, unequivocally negative about you. Then I simply add “not in a bad way.” This is the updated equivalent of “no offense.”

We know, when the phrase is used, that 1) something “bad” was just said about me and 2) the person saying it lacks the courage to be direct.

I know what you may be thinking: “but I understand what they are saying…” This, in my opinion, is the problem. Imprecision is now baked into our communication cake. We mean what we say, but not literally.

Language changes. I am well aware of this fact. Sometimes it changes for the worse.