“All the world’s a stage,” says Jaques in As You Like It, to which American social scientists and public policy aficionados add in chorus, “and all the scenes and places merely settings.” There must be something of the frustrated playwright in the denizens of modern foundations and think-tanks.

Wherever they look, they see not buildings or locales, but only settings. For example: “When care is available at all,” writes someone in a foundation health program, “it is normally in institutional settings.” Not in institutions? (Or better yet, in hospitals?) .IP 5 “Many lower-income youth currently receive balanced nutrition only in educational settings.” Not in school? “Recreational programs are provided in community settings.” That would be sports, we presume, in the neighborhood?

In every case, besides being redundant, SETTING is both more vague and more cumbersome than the simple word it replaces. Perhaps the writers intended their “settings” to include more than the specific places suggested here. Maybe there are “educational settings” that are not schools. There might even be “institutional settings” that aren’t institutions. But if so, few readers are likely to guess that fact, much less to conceive what all those other, unnamed settings might be. SETTING adds nothing but unresolved (and possibly spurious) mystery-a useless hint of undisclosed scenery lurking somewhere in the wings.

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