Verbiage: A Word Most Foul

In Abbott and Costello’s legendary Bagel Street routine, whenever the word Susquehanna is mentioned, all hell breaks loose.

That’s sort of how I feel when I hear the word verbiage.

People often use verbiage when they mean text or copy. “We need to change this verbiage,” or “We should add some verbiage here.”

By definition, verbiage refers to something that’s excessively wordy, or as M-W puts it “A profusion of words usually of little or obscure content.”

To be sure, it’s a common error. I was in a meeting recently where the V-bomb was dropped four times in just half an hour. Instead of going Susquehanna on them, I kept my mouth shut and tried to look interested.

Worse yet is when people say verbage, a made up word that’s a combination of verbiage and garbage. As a professional, I’ll be the judge of what’s verbiage and what’s verbage. And what is neither.

Let’s be clear, I’m not being a language snob. My grammar and usage is nothing to write home about. Not throwing a stapler at someone who misuses the word verbiage — or smashing their Susquehanna hat — is what separates us from the wild beasts.

10 thoughts on “Verbiage: A Word Most Foul

    1. Shoot, another missed opportunity to work that one in!

      On the other hand, I don’t want people to feel bad about using that word, I just want it to stop. Or I’ll do something crazy.

  1. You would have loved my company’s negotiations with a local healthcare provider. Our well-schooled German attorneys looked quizzically at each other when a local attorney kept using verbiage in reference to certain areas of our finely hand-crafted legal agreement. “Ven you zay verbiage, does zis mean verding? You do know zat verbiage is a pejorative, yesss? Are you inzulting us?” Our Regional Manager used to hum “Deutschland über Alles” whenever this particular attorney came in on the G5.

    Attorney fights are much better than Girl fights. About $3,000 an hour worth of entertainment in nice suits. We still got the sale, and a priceless memory of watching some local ‘talent’ take a tremendously expensive verbal bitch-slap. “Your eenglish iz not zo good”

    1. That is exactly what I’ll say next time someone uses that word in a meeting, accent and all: You do know zat verbiage is a pejorative, yesss?

  2. Dude, just throw the stapler. Yes, you’ll fired, but you will have stood up for something that matters.

  3. My personal pet peeves in this arena include regular misuse of the words “nonplussed” and “methodology” . . .

    I also have to grip the stapler tighter when people talk/write about roads to hoe, or mute points . . .

  4. I’m late to the party here, but …. “irregardless” there are “a myriad of” expressions and misused phrases that make me grab the stapler, er, nail gun.

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