Geniuses and Sandwich Artists: Trumped-Up Titles

Some consumers avoid national chains because they feel that locally owned, independent stores are more authentic and sincere. But how are national chains insincere? As one example, consider the inflated job titles of their employees.
The clerks at Wal-Mart are "associates." Verizon Wireless has knighted its workers as "retail customer support representatives." Meanwhile, does the ubiquitous term "team member" actually foster unity among fast-food workers or big-box cashiers? No, it never seems to.

At The Awkward Adverb, we roll our eyes at the so-called "geniuses" who work at Apple Stores and at Subway's "sandwich artists." Although familiarity with Macs requires some smarts, it does not elevate anyone to Einstein's level. And the spreading of shredded lettuce over paper-thin tomato slices does not a Van Gogh make.

Why do big retailers wrap up employees in euphemisms? Perhaps company officials are trying to make workers feel better about humdrum jobs. Perhaps it's to please themselves, considering that these convoluted titles are always imposed from above. But if fancy titles are meant to impress the public, do not color us impressed. The Awkward Adverb prefers language that doesn't dress up the ordinary in pretension.

Henry Alpert,the secret identity behind Action Copy, discovered his writing powers when a radioactive bookworm bit him on the hand at a young age. Before going solo many years ago, he reported for an Asian daily newspaper and taught writing at esteemed universities. He's earned a Master of Fine Arts and has worked on staff at a New York financial trade magazine. In Mr. Alpert, the creative and analytical unite to create one powerful writer. Mr. Alpert currently lives a mild-mannered existence in a quiet neighborhood of New Orleans with his wife, infant son, and dog.

The Awkward Adverb is a monthly e-mail newsletter which highlights English-language flaws that have appeared on a sign, in print, on the Web, or anywhere in the public sphere. If you wish to subscribe to the e-mail newsletter version of The Awkward Adverb, click here. This link also contains archived entries.

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