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A Train Wreck In the Making

Based on how some of us with the Communications Network constantly rail against offending jargon, you’d think it’s only foundation and nonprofits that are guilty of this sin. Well, you can take some comfort knowing that other abusers of language abound, including organizations – like foundations and nonprofits – that also depend on clear communication so the public knows what they are talking about (and in some cases, more so). According to an article in the New York Times, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)  — the agency that oversees the state’s public transportation systems — recently issued a report detailing efforts to reduce its carbon footprint that the Times says “filled with colorful, head-scratching, tongue-twisting gobbledygook.”

Examples from the Times:

Rather than describing itself as an operator of trains and buses, the MTA calls itself “a provider of climate stabilization services.”

To makes its operations more environmentally friendly, the report recommends that the MTA “develop a climate-adaptation matrix” and a “Climate Adaptation Resiliency Evaluation Procedure.”

Finally, the report urges the MTA to “promote ‘clustered development’ while also fostering ‘robust, flexible feeder and distributor services.’”

I don’t know about you, but reading that is enough to sending me in search of such warm and comforting foundation jargon like consensus, operationalize, and parameter.

–Bruce Trachtenberg

Photo from rcstanley on – used with gratitude under a Creative Commons license — click photo for terms.


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