Thursday, May 18, 2006

"Incentivize" and Family Vacations

And What I Think About It... A Small Detour from The Cheerful Ramble, but We'll Soon Be Back On Track...

As I drove Isaac to school this morning, the guys on the "Daybreak USA" show were interviewing a doctor. She has written a book about engaging children in family outings by taking away their electronic toys.

The doctor discussed how to plan a family trip around full days of activity and how to psych up the kids for gadget-free family fun. One of the guys suggested that the parents look for ways to "incentivize" the kids, and she agreed that was definitely the thing to do.

The interview irritated me. Well, maybe I was already cranky because I hadn't had enough coffee. Anyway, I had to change the station because they were giving me a pain.

Road tripProbably the doctor doesn't load her children in the car and drive for 500 miles (and more) in a day as we have done many times when traveling to Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska to visit family and friends on our vacations.

In my real-life experience, Game-Boys, CD players, books on tape, and the like can be a real help on the road. Family time in a car for hours on end with no means of escape gets a little tiring, even for parents. A few amusements for the kids can make the difference between a long miserable ride and a long bearable ride.

I don't think the low-class road-trips we've taken are the kind of family vacation the doctor has in mind, but I don't regret a single one of them. In fact as I look back, I remember those long drives as happy family times even though we had the back seat loaded with every possible toy (electronic and otherwise).

WalkmanEven the kids remember fondly those marathon drives to visit Grandpa and Grandma Hill, and Sammie and Rick, and Grandma Netz, despite the long hours in the car. It seems that, even though we brought the evil electronics with us, we somehow created some shared memories of family fun.

(Application of the doctor's book to my life analyzed and dismissed. Now, on to the radio announcer's word: "incentivize.")

I felt an instant distaste for the word "incentivize" and to the suggestion that "incentivizing" can be done to people. I thought the announcer might have invented the word this morning, but that's not the case. "Incentivize" is in online dictionaries and apparently has been in use for several decades in the business world.

I'm pleased that The American Heritage Dictionary's usage panel doesn't like the word. And I think that Paul Brians of the Department of English at Washington State University sums it up very well:

Business folks sometimes use “incent” to mean “create an incentive,” but it’s not standard English. “Incentivize” is even more widely used, but strikes many people as an ugly substitute for “encourage.” (Source)

Now that I have aired my ire, I'm not incentivized to write more on this topic. (What an ugly, ugly, awkward word.)

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LittleOne said...

It seems the business world is really good at coming up with akward, silly words. I don't like taking nouns and making them verbs. Lately, I've heard people say,"Let's calendar that activity." Calendar is a noun, not a verb! I think it's a way of sounding hip. When people say use those kinds of terms, I think it sounds like they're trying too hard to fit in. Eventually, though, words like this become so common that we forget how silly they sounded the first time we heard them.

Trixie said...

Amen! When I was working at the newspaper, our style manual had a whole section called "Damn Your 'IZE'" to discourage the invention of verbs from nouns with that suffix.

Having been the kid in the back seat of those long driving vacations, I can only say that life could have been so much better with the occasional diversion! Parents quickly grew weary of the car songs and guessing games that we used to try to fill those long hours -- and I can't blame them for being short tempered after miles of "I see a red car!" In truth it's often too difficult to read as a passenger, but games or the like would have been wonderful!

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