Friday, November 12, 2004

Proactive Princess in Air Proximity Horror

Hearing 'proactive' for the 100th time this week I started wondering what we said before we said 'proactive'. The OED tells me it was coined in the 1930s but I don't recall it being used much until the last 10 or 15 years. Neither the dictionary nor a thesaurus (and I'd never used one of those before) offers much in the way of synonyms. Maybe we just said 'active' or employed a longer phrase. Of course, I've used 'proactive' a lot myself at work, along with 'key objectives' and all the other corporate bullshit. Not to do so is like being a Catholic who refuses to make the sign of the cross. We parrot these phrases to show we are one of the tribe, to invoke the gods of commerce and curry favour with the priesthood or, in this case, line managers.

The other day I used the term 'near miss' but I have always found it problematic. To me, if two planes 'near miss' they have almost missed each other, which is to say that they have collided. But of course it means a 'miss' that was nearly a 'hit', in which case it would make more sense to call it a 'near hit'. The latter sounds rather more scary (the truth often is) so maybe it's an aviation euphemism. But when Princess Anne's plane had a 'near miss' yesterday, the Palace came up with a new euphemism. It was an 'air proximity incident'. Well life itself is one long air proximity incident, unless you live in a vaccuum. It was an aircraft proximity incident in the air. Or in plain English, two planes almost collided. Or, as Anne probably put it, 'You nearly killed me, you fucking cretins'.


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