Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Category: Writing and Poetry
Honestly, why do we feel the need to criticize others' use of language? I will now criticize others' use of language. Efficacious is just the snooty way to say effective. In most of the dictionaries, they're synonyms. So when the PhD researchers say that efficacious means something that is effective only in a laboratory or research setting where the environment is controlled, whereas the term effective itself is to be used to describe something that is effective in a real world setting, I say... no. In English, no one person or group of experts has the right to redefine words.
As Edward Shannon Davis quoted "What it is is what it is." I think I've dealt with how language is learned and the social contract that is involved in a previous blog.
Experts have no right to redefine words. The word 'adolescence' has a definition learned by each of us after hearing the word used in context many times throughout our lives. That is what it is. Some expert can't come and say that it's something different. And anyway, as far as I know, effective and efficacious have the same history. They come from the same root word, just through different channels. Middle English and Old French or something like that.
I honestly don't think that you'll ever hear someone say "It may be efficacious, but is it effective? You might read in a research article something like "X treatment is efficacious in research studies, but its effectiveness in clinical use has not been validated." The words are always used with context, because most people need the context. And if the words have to include context to be understood by most readers, even graduate level readers, then the difference is imposed rather than accepted through common usage. (I apologize for my simplified punctuation, I'm on strike against colins, semicolins, dashes, and other rare and complex punctuation) There isn't a real need for the word efficacious when the context must be included anyway.
So my feeling is that people use efficacious to sound smart. That's what it's for. To separate the brilliant intellectuals from the commoners like ourselves. Why else do we have graduate programs, if not to drop the fact of completion in everyday conversation.
Are you still in school?
Why yes I am. I'm studying Speech Therapy.
Wow. Is that like a Masters degree?
Why yes. yes it is.
I bet the pay is great.
Actually it's terrible, considering the years of hard labor and suffering...