Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Antidote about an Ad Hock Solution...(groan)

Dorothy Parker once said of Oscar Levant, "If he did not exist, you could not imagine him."

We have a similar sentiment about two real life examples of business malapropisms that were reported in the past twenty four hours.

The first -- from a meeting at a large consumer packaged goods company -- suggests that "brand decisions are made at retail in an ad hock (sic) fashion."

First off, the primary definition of "ad hoc" (we reserve the "k" to describe what the Chicago Cubs will be doing at most of their at-bats in the upcoming season) suggests something that was created to solve a specific problem or address a particular task, e.g., an ad hoc committee.

One can also use "ad hoc" to mean improvised, as in an ad hoc solution or, yes, ad hoc decision.

The phrase's roots are, of course, in, Latin.

No "k" please.

The second leaves us speechless as we hear it with frequency. "We have no hard data," reports an executive, "but we do have antitodal evidence."

Once we have picked ourselves off the floor, we note that, unless the evidence in question is a cure for a recent snakebite or for the Ebola virus, it's likely that the speaker meant "anecdotal," evidence that comes from an anecdote, which is a twenty-five-cent word for story.


Finally, a question to our gentle readers: do we really need to go into the abuses of "irregardless," or can we stipulate that it's not a word, that it's an illiterate, messy mash-up of "irrespective" and "regardless," and that its use is an act of grammatical war?


Anonymous said...

Why would you ruin a perfectly good grammatical observation with a crack against the Cubbies? That, dear sir, is an act of war!

Anonymous said...

Irregardless is a crime and always will be

Gregory said...

Alright, let's discuss "hard data" versus "anecdotal evidence." I don't share your distaste.

Presumably the speaker intends to communicate that (a) supportable, statistically valid data is unavailable but (b) some data exists to support the proposed premise. The data in the set "b" can fairly be described as a "story" in that it may present a coherent narrative or version of reality, but that narrative may, or may not, ultimately be borne out by either actual or statistically valid information. That is, stories may, or may not, prove the point. Their use unflagged as such, is a logical fallacy as they prove absolutely nothing; conversely, their use flagged is to provide context or flavor or to predict actual evidence in a non-scientific manner. Reduced to "local color", such stories can be illustrative or entertaining. What's your beef with that?

ps: Cubs suck.

Gregory said...

To quote Emily Litella, "nevermind." Is there any way to erase my comment? I need an antidote to public humiliation. D'oh. Or is it spelled dough?