I’ve seen a lot of emails and other documents flying around recently that use non-existent words, causing confusion and generally making people who read them feel inadequate – especially if they are not from an English speaking background.

Two of these ridiculous words are “Quiesce” and “Performant”, neither of which are listed in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as valid words in the English language.

Quiesce appears to be used most often to mean “bringing together things” or “making sure things are stable”, yet Quiescent (a real word) means “in a state or period of inactivity or dormancy” – almost the complete opposite of what people are trying to communicate.  The closest thing I can find to what people appear to mean when they use this word is Acquiesce meaning “to accept something reluctantly but without protest” however I’m not convinced this is entirely appropriate for the context either.

If something is deemed to be “Performant” then the general consensus appears to be that it is performing better than it was before or within acceptable limits.  We don’t need a new word for this (especially one that is quite hard on the ears!) we already have the ability to “outperform” previous versions of a product or service and we can always ensure that we are “seeing minimal change in our performance metrics”.

If English is well written, using phrases and words that are well defined then we can all understand it regardless of our background or native tongue.  There is a reason we have standards for our programming languages and I see so many people who are obsessed with Python’s PEP8 or other similar documents abusing English with words and phrases such as the above – you wouldn’t do it to your code, so why do it to our common method of communication?

Yes, this may mean more words, however English is a wonderful language (for example did you know that Mortgage literally means “death pledge“?) and if we take the time to use the correct word for the appropriate occasion then we may well find ourselves with common interests instead of Synergies and radically alternative approaches instead of Paradigm Shifts.

Please try to remember that good communication is like personal hygiene – you can ignore it if you want, but don’t be surprised when people draw the wrong conclusions.