A Different Kind of Objective Language

objective (adj)
relating to or existing as an object of thought without consideration of independent existence —used chiefly in medieval philosophy

As someone who reads and writes often, I have come to value highly precise use of language. With that said, I’ve noticed a trend that makes me nervous, and it refers to the above definition of objective, one that we don’t think of so often, but literally means “to treat as an object”.

“I just finished a book, but I’m not sure what to think about it. I need to process it.”

“There’s lots going on right now, can I have some time to process?”

It took me a while to figure out why the use of process (or its equally objective relative, “marinate”) got to me so much. But after some time, I think I have it.

Know what processes? Computers. Machines. Know what marinates? Food. (I was going to say meat, but you can marinate other things). And the hint as to why I’m concerned lies in how those last few sentences were worded. Humans aren’t “what”s, they’re “who”s!

Humans think. They ponder. They consider, they ruminate, they debate, at the most graphic they digest.

Science is already realizing the adaptation that our brains are doing to deal with the constant input we subject ourselves to.

We encourage it by consuming ever-heightening quantities of data.

We buy into it by pouring our hard earned money into the devices that deliver this information.

We accept it by using words designed for objects, on ourselves.

I would like to introduce this concept with the help of my good New Zealander friends, Bret and Jemaine: (skip to 0:23)

“I’m a person. Bret’s a person. You’re a person. That person over there’s a person.”

We’re people. People with emotions and thoughts. That ability to have and do these things independently is what separates us from machines. So why would we use language that dismisses that extraordinary and unique skill?

Therefore, I’m calling for a return to terminology that embraces our human nature. Think. Ponder. Consider, ruminate, debate, digest. And leave the processing to our computers (and the marinating to our meals).
BONUS: Thank you Susan Cain for posting this article on the difference between human and mechanical productivity. All the more reason to treat the two as different!

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