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spend[ing] mistakes

"Languages evolve."
"Yes, but I'm trying to prevent that."
—exchange between a student and my Latin teacher at Thomas More College

I just edited a white paper that centered around the topic of managing government spending. Throughout the paper, in most but not all cases, the writer or writers used "spend" as a noun or adjective, instead of the proper gerund form, "spending". So for example the paper might talk about the solution offering the ability to "analyze spend data," or "make better use of the state's spend." I did find at least one dictionary entry that allowed for that usage, informally, when talking about an amount paid for a particular purpose or over a particular period of time, but I'm not aware of that being a common usage and in this paper "spend" was being used in more general terms than that entry suggests. My guess is that this use of "spend" may now be common in government circles, maybe even business circles—I joked that they're trying to further reduce spending by leaving off the ing—but even if it's become common in a particular field like that, it's still jargon and should not be used.

What I think is funny about this example is how it contrasts to my usual complaint, which is that business people misuse longer or more complex words apparently in an effort to make things sound more important than they are. "Leverage" is one of the most commonly-violated words in that respect. "Utilize" is another one; no one can ever simply use something, they're always utilizing it. "Irregardless" persists for a similar reason, adding the extra syllable of "ir" as a prefix makes it sound more important, unless of course you know anything about English and understand that it makes no sense because it's a double negative.

"Spend", however, as I said, represents an opposite trend: reducing words unnecessarily so they fit better into soundbites, or maybe just to spend less time on them. Usually this comes up in the tendency to make acronyms or initialisms out of everything. Sometimes people do this because they're trying to simply things in order to improve communication, but often it just leads to more confusion.


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