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The Experts | Customer Service

Watch out for the vernacular

By Dick Olenych, Inside Business - Hampton Roads - 11/30/2009

Sometimes I like using words that garnish a bit of attention. But I’ve got to be careful because I can trip over my own vernaculars. Doesn’t everyone?

By the way, what is vernacular?

A nurse recently told me about an argot that almost got her in trouble. I guess a patient was reading his hospital file. Patients really aren’t supposed to be reading those reports. They are just for the professional staff. But he did read it. And he did become quite indignant.

He thought the staff was unprofessional and demanded to be moved to another hospital immediately. The staff didn’t know that he had read it, so they couldn’t understand what was going on.

The patient’s file read something like this: “Mr. Smith – 9:42 pm – complained – SOB”

Mr. Smith just could not tolerate this insult. How could an organization that was supposed to be so dedicated to the welfare of others write such things?

After the incident, the hospital changed its colloquial speech.

In another example, my bride is a teacher and her school will soon be preparing for the SOL testing. Personally, in this economy, I don’t need any tests that teach me how to be SOL.

I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, so maybe I’m missing something – but being SOL is plenty clear to me.

I know it’s an old argument, but why? Why would our state name a learning program SOL?

It’s kind of funny though, until I have to explain it to my out-of-state friends. They don’t get it.

Years ago I was a Hobart technician – I washed dishes in a restaurant. Now there’s an industry with a ton of idioms. Why would anyone “86” anything. What is 86?

How about, “…sling that hash, hold the road kill.” Who makes up this stuff?

“Yeah, give me a little varmint with those taters, will ya?”

We should all look at what we say and how we say it.

Recently, a customer came back to me and said, “Dick, Katy and I walked out of your print shop and we really didn’t have any idea what you and Pete were talking about.”

My heart sank. You see, a week earlier Pete and I had spent an hour with Madonna and Katy. We were brainstorming on design ideas. I thought it had gone pretty well. Everything seemed positive.

For crying out loud, I’m a professional speaker! I’m supposed to be a good orator. I am supposed to say words that others understand. It’s called communication.

I just couldn’t believe my ears when she said that. She must have seen my skin go white or my eyes pop because she quickly added, “It’s OK, we knew that you knew what we wanted.”

Is it OK to use jargon that doesn’t make sense to our customers? I don’t think so.

I’m going to make a stand of sorts, until my wife tells me to give it up. I will stand by the notion that less is more. That simple is best.

No more dialectal words or urbane phrases.

By the way, the patient, Mr. Smith, was complaining of shortness of breath.

Dick Olenych is the president of Spectrum Printing. He can be reached at info@dickolenych.com.

4716 Virginia Beach Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 23462 | (757) 473-9977  |  Email: info@dickolenych.com