Have you got any website words that set your teeth on edge? “Passionate” is one of mine, as in “we’re passionate about quality” (or about our work, our clients etc).
First, it’s over-used and doesn’t do anything to distinguish company A from company B. If everybody’s passionate about their work and their clients, where’s the unique selling point?
And second, I don’t think it’s appropriate. I love and am enthusiastic about my job and feel privileged to be a translator and editor. I care a lot about producing good-quality work for my clients and helping them communicate better.
I have loads of enthusiasms. But the one thing in life I’m really passionate about is my family. That’s it. (I’ve thought a lot about this and in the end decided that not even chocolate, shoes or G&T with lime qualified).
Jonathan Downie of Integrity Languages posted a tweet this morning which makes a similar point from a Christian perspective.
It’s all about perspective and degree.
By Marian Dougan
Published by Marian Dougan
Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster.
From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group.
She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options.
Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland.
She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.
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Great post Marian. It got me giggling and thinking of The Apprentice where the word “passionate” is a common as “current” is on X-Factor! You’ve also got me thinking about all sorts of adjectives to describe the different levels of emotional priority in my life and I’m struggling with the in-between things. The things that really stir me and that mean more to me than my job (emotionally, not financially!) but less than my family. I love translation but it doesn’t give me the joy, the pain or all the other emotions that other things do, or to a different degree. And I do it out of financial necessity, because I need a job and it’s the job I do and enjoy best. So I came to the conclusion that I am not passionate about translation, not even about words, or languages. I am professionally interested in them and I am totally “committed” to my job. I feel “devoted” to my family, in that it will always come first. But I’d like to keep “passionate” for a few of those things that are in between “devotion” and “commitment” but so much higher than “shoes” and “G&T”. Those things that are the “USP” of my life, and my family’s life. Those things that “love” simply no longer covers since it seems to have lots so much of its meaning. “How very French!” I hear you say, but can I keep it please? 🙂
Thanks Anne for such a thoughtful comment. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? I ended up using the “crime of passion” test on myself, ie what would drive me to such extreme emotion that I’d kill to protect it. And the only thing that passed the test was family. I love art — a painting can have such a profound and enriching effect, and stay in your mind for years, if not decades. And books. And wonderful buildings. But I don’t think I’d kill for them.
On a linguistic point, my daughter recently got annoyed with her Dad because he never says, in Italian, that he loves her. He tried to explain that “ti amo” is only used by lovers, while for your children or other family members it’s “ti voglio bene”. But I don’t think she was convinced.
And from the sublime to an advert I’ve just seen for an internship: “Are you passionate about social media from a commercial marketing perspective?”. I mean, really?
Just realised I didn’t answer your question at all! Sorry about that. I just lost myself in my thoughts publicly.
Website words? My pet hate has to be “award-winning”. It covers a multitude of sins and is as vague as can be. A true translator’s nightmare too.
Ah… I never thought of the crime of passion approach as I always equated “crime passionnel” with “passion amoureuse”, so more of a sexual thing really. Very interesting…
On the linguistic point, I know exactly what you mean. It used to be the same with French but has changed over the years and “je t’aime” is said more and more between parents and children, between friends, you name it. It didn’t use to be so and I think it’s mostly due to American influence. Now, I married an Englishman so I never had cause to say it… I’d almost add “sadly”, because love or passion in a foreign language don’t feel quite the same, do they?
Of course, I realise that my judgement is clouded by the simple existence of the French verb “passionner” (or “se passionner pour”) which is all about having a very keen interest in something. Looks like I’ll be reassessing the place of these notions in the English part of my brain.
Out of interest, a Google search on “passionate about” gives just under 33 million hits!
You’re right — I hadn’t thought about the different meanings (or emphasis) given to “passion” in English.
Italian uses “appassionato” in a similar way to French:
1 impassioned, passionate: un amore -, a passionate love; una lettera appassionata, a passionate letter
2 (che ha passione per qlco.) keen (on sthg.): – per la musica, keen on music ♦ s.m. fan, enthusiast, lover: è un – di fotografia, he’s very keen on photography; – del calcio, football fan.
Perhaps I might add a business perspective – completely dispassionately of course. The challenge many small businesses have is language or a lack of vocabulary to fully express their uniqueness. For some uniqueness is expressed as ” I am cheaper than my competitors”, usually rationalised as “…because I am working from home I can charge less..” That is a fallacy but also for another day. The rest can fall back on passion.
Most small businesses don’t know how to identify their USP or indeed understand WHAT their customers and clients want and so be able to explain or articulate to others why their current client base buy from them. Copying others is (sometimes) a good way of learning: I am learning how to do mountain biking properly by learning from other club members who’ve been doing it for years but I will I hope graduate to developing my own style. Trouble is that many small businesses, having found a “formula”, a method of copying if you will, never consider graduating, or creating their own style or image; too often content with a “me too” approach.
Perhaps this is why passionate is popular and why – as you say, Marian,- none of them would recognise a passionate relationship if it hit them on the nose.
I too find it tricky to verbalise what makes me – as a brilliant small business accountant – special and unique. Unless it is that I am simply too crazy and socially on a different page to the rest of the pack, to be copiable. But that doesn’t sit well on a web page so maybe I’ll just stick with passionate….
I once saw a truck bearing the legend:
. . . . . . . passionate about laundry solutions . . . .’
yeah, sure . . .
CORPORATE SPEAK . . . I used to produce large scale corporate events – one large organization went through a series of different consultancy strategies – first they were serving customers, then they were delighting customers and finally they were dancing with customers, fortunately they drew the line there – – I’m not sure I could handle ‘sleeping with customers’ . . .
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