Descriptor Bloat
Posted: 29 August 2007 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Michael Bywater uses this term in Lost Worlds (2004 - which isn’t about language but often touches on it) to describe overblown phrases for ordinary things and he gives the example Recycling Operative for dustman. He is actually talking about the term Specified Tertiary Education Providers (Steps) which he says will replace “universities” in Scotland soon.

I googled “descriptor bloat” (with speech marks) and got one hit from a highly technical computer site. (Bywater is also a tech Apple geek and blogger as he admits in Lost Worlds and he wrote video games with Douglas Adams, and now teaches classical lit at Cambridge when not writing acerbic newspaper columns.)

Has anyone else come across this term? Can a contemporary term exist and not be googlable?

(I reckon he lifted it for his own purposes and would be delighted to admit this (read his book!) and that it does the job admirably.)

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Posted: 30 August 2007 07:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I mean has anyone ever researched a word or expression they know exists offline and got no hits?

Bywater’s book sold well so it is odd an ostensibly unrelated googlewhack exists for the same expression. Does this suggest coincidental nonce phrases or Bywater appropriating the term for his own uses?

Even better, this post could be my first duck (in the cricketing sense) a la ‘Orange orangutan” one I once saw and sympathised with here, a signal honour.

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Posted: 30 August 2007 11:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Try “bloated descriptor” (without inverted commas), venomousbede. You will find about 38000 Google hits. Most of them are written in what i take to be high-tech jargon. Some of them seem to use the phrase in the sense you describe. Your Mr. Bywater may have borrowed a high-tech concept (everyday for geeks --- arcane for ordinary folks), twiddled the words a bit, and used the resulting phrase in a non-high-tech context. Aren’t you being a bit impatient in expecting ordinary folks to rush and snap it up? Most of us already have vocabularies of a sort, suited to the worlds we inhabit, and not all of us enjoy foisting new buzzwords on our listeners. i suspect if you wait a few years, “descriptor bloat” may gain greater currency. It certainly has wide application. Think of advertisements for used (sorry, “pre-owned") cars. Or most CV’s.

Sorry for spoiling your duck. There’ll be other opportunities ;-)

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Posted: 30 August 2007 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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And we already have terms such as pleonasm, periphrasis, circumlocution, prolixity--do we really need another term for such things?

BTW, leaving the inverted commas out of your search will (in theory) pull up every page containing “bloated” and “descriptor”, whether they have anything to do with each other or not.

“Bloated descriptor” with quotation marks (as I call them, being a red-blooded American) gets no hits.

[ Edited: 30 August 2007 02:19 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 30 August 2007 11:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dr. Techie - 30 August 2007 02:12 PM

And we already have terms such as pleonasm, periphrasis, circumlocution, prolixity--do we really need another term for such things?

I’m not sure that need has anything to do with it.  Some of these irritating neologisms seem to be able to be coined one day and be everywhere the next.  On the other hand, some don’t make it, thank God.

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Posted: 31 August 2007 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Thanks, lionello. Juggling the words explains it - I should have thought of that. Still aiming for that duck.

Pleonasm, prolixity, etc are established terms students are taught. I was investigating one from 2004 I found interesting and apt which was clearly a non-literary neologism (but how recent? I was thinking) which got only one hit but lionello has explained that. I still like Bywater’s ‘vulgar’ expression, though, which conforms to the Carl Sandburg quote about slang being when language rolls ups its sleeves, spits on its hands, and gets down to work.  And descriptor bloat now gets two google hits!

No one said if they’ve ever investigated online a term they know exists with no results which I think is an interesting avenue to explore etymologically and regarding how pervasive and encompassing the internets now are.

(Oops, neologism for pleonasm edit, and now for know, yikes)

[ Edited: 31 August 2007 12:07 PM by venomousbede ]
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