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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Four Buzzwords I Hate

What's that annoying buzzing sound that's flying around my head these days?

Is it mosquito?

Is it an electronic mosquito repellent?

Or is it the last, gasping hiss of the remains of an electronic mosquito repellant after I twack it repeatedly with a rubber chicken?

(It's supposed to be "ultrasonic", so why can I still hear its teeth-grinding, high-pitched shriek? WHY???)


Fresh Brainz is deliriously happy to bring you the worst of the worst - Four Buzzwords That I Hate:

4. World-class

Singapore has many world-class features: a world-class airport, world-class convention centre, world-class art centre, world-class education system and world-class transport system.

But has anyone stopped to ask: where exactly is this place called "world"?

This magical place where there are four million smiles and perfectly pristine public toilets?

Is it in Reykjavik?

And why is "world-class" so similar in practice to "by American standards"?

If it actually means "by American standards", does it mean that we should aspire to have the calibre of their soccer teams, the artistic quality of their inner city graffiti, their unhindered freedom to walk around with automatic weapons, and the state of their current science education?

It if really means "by European standards", shouldn't we aim to build an endless stretch of nude beaches, open bakeries enhanced with all sorts of mind-expanding drugs, and manufacture cars that stop running once the temperature climbs above 30 degrees?

Wherever the "world" is, everyone wants to live there.

3. Bicultural

"Culture" is an easily misused word, since it has so many meanings. In biology for example, culture usually means the growth of bacteria or cells.

In daily usage, culture has two common meanings:

a. A high degree of taste and refinement formed by aesthetic and intellectual training.

b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.

Here in Singapore, at the intersection of the East and the West, a mysterious new buzzword has emerged to describe people who embody the best of both "worlds" (see above).


Wait a sec.

If we are talking about the development of aesthetic taste in an individual, how can one person have two cultures - unless he is suffering from a split-personality disorder?

If we refer to the prevailing customs of the local population in Singapore, how can one person have two cultures in one country?

To matters worse, the exalted title of "bicultural" has been given to people who were born in some country, educated in another, just stepped into Singapore for two days... and suddenly they are bicultural Singaporeans!

They haven't even learnt how to order a dinosaur with extra Milo powder yet.

Oh my.

For me though, it's simple. Singapore may be strongly influenced by both the East and the West, but as a Singaporean, I only have one culture - Singaporean culture.

"Monocultural", if you like.

2. Self-radicalization

Comedian George Carlin once had this criticism for another ubiquitous buzzword "self-help":

If you could do it yourself... you didn't need help!

A similar problem here with the term "self-radicalization". Individuals who sought out extremist websites on the internet were not "self-radicalizing".

They were radicalized by somebody else. Through the internet.

Unless... they set up the websites themselves.

1. Passion

And the Ultimate buzzword that makes me throw up is - PASSION!

It's used so often and thrown around so indiscriminately that it has become a horrible cliché.

Passion at work... passion for science... passion for entrepreneurship... passion for success... passion passion passion...


The biggest problem with this concept of passion - it is always after the fact.

If a person becomes successful, then she was "passionate" about her work.

If she failed, then she was obsessed. Or fanatical. Or obstinate. Or reckless.

Or even "not passionate enough" - whatever that means.

The language used to describe their efforts becomes completely opposite. Business analysts have observed this psychological bias for years.

Thus, I've decided that for me there are only two legit uses for the word "passion":

a. A type of fruit.

b. A hot night of wild lovin'.

Man do I have language issues this week.


Any other buzzwords that get on your nerves?

Would you like to know more?

About misunderstood and abused words:
Most Misunderstood Terms In Biology
Most Abused Catchphrases In Science

About a nice, warm place where buzzwords deserve to go:
Buzzword Hell


ah said...

I am very passionate about bicultural world-class self-radicalization.

Actually, I hate the word 'Asian Values' more. Asian Values seems to be based on the assumption there is something called 'Western Values' (Presumably liberalism, freedom, etc surely human values?). Asian Values seem to be a fig leaf to hide Autocracy and a tedious respect of authority and seniority! Argh!!!

Lim Leng Hiong said...


As for the buzzword "Asian Values", I can only quote a world-class, bicultural and self-radicalized villain -

Dr. No: "East, West, just points of the compass, each as stupid as the other. I'm a member of SPECTRE."

James Bond: "SPECTRE?"

Dr. No: "SPECTRE. Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Revenge and Extortion. The four great cornerstones of power, headed by the greatest brainz in the world."

James Bond: "Correction, criminal brainz."

Dr No: "The successful criminal brain is always superior. It has to be."

Successful. And passionate, why of course.

HoneySweetHeart said...

Good blog!