The English Language Institute removed “utilize” and “cleanse” from the English language today as part of the organization’s long-term plan to trim the language of unnecessary words. The words were recommended for removal by the organization’s Word Removal Committee last month and approved for elimination by the board of directors today.
“We grow attached to words, so it’s never easy to say goodbye to them, even when they’re unnecessary,” says Nigel Porter, president of the English Language Institute. “But for the long-term good of our language, today’s actions were necessary and long-overdue.”
According to the Institute, “utilize” has long been used as a complex variant of “use,” but it was found to have no meaning beyond “use.”
“Members of our Word Removal Committee spent months trying to use ‘utilize’ in a sentence in such a way that it doesn’t mean the same thing as ‘use,’ but they were unsuccessful,” says Porter. “What they found is that, ‘utilize’ is used when people want to sound as if they’re saying something more technically accurate than ‘use,’ but in fact, it’s just the same as ‘use.'”
“When you ‘cleanse’ something, you’re really just ‘cleaning’ it,” says Porter. “Of course,’cleaning’ is an ordinary word and so some users of English like to say ‘cleansing,’ because it sounds like you’re saying something with additional meaning. Removing the word from English will be a blow to the advertising industry, we realize. But we’re not here to do favors for any one industry; we’re here to keep our language meaningful. So, we unceremoniously give the word the boot today. I guess you could say we’re cleansing house—ha ha.”
Not everyone is in agreement with the organization’s actions. “We strongly disagree with the hasty and ill-conceived actions the English Language Institute has taken today and will utilize all means at our disposal to get ‘utilize’ reinstated into the English language,” the American Lawyers Association says in a statement. “Our members are careful and deliberate users of language and they utilize ‘utilize’ on a regular basis. In our members’ experience, ‘utilize’ is a word unique unto itself and is not the same as ‘use,’ as anyone who utilizes the word correctly can see.”
Two other words—“quash” and “currently”—are also being considered for removal and will come before the organization’s Word Removal Committee next month. “Quash” appears to be a variant of “squash.” It is most commonly used in the context of suppression, as in to “quash a revolution,” but that appears to be another way of saying to “squash a revolution.” “Currently” is currently thought to be to be the most overused and unnecessary word in the English language, and for that reason the committee is currently looking at it carefully.
The Institute’s Word Removal Committee will meet in London on April 15.
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