Thursday, February 04, 2010

End (at least for while) of the bad omics word awards

Well this is it. I am declaring that I am (mostly) done with the posts about bad omics words. I will on occasion I am sure rail about one word or another with my Worst New Omics Word Award, but I will try to let ome words rest in peace, at least for a while. Mostly this is because the task is too overwhelming.  There are simply too many bad omics words out there.

I would like to note however, that as I have browsed around, I have noticed many other bloggers doing similar occasional snarky complaints about omics words here and there. That was good to see. But most amazing was that there is in fact published literature on the topic of bad omics words. See for example The Wholeness in Suffix -omics, -omes, and the Word Om and apparently[The odd omes and omics] (which is in Finnish) and many others.

My favorite published rant even has rant in the title "A rant against jargon and neologisms". It is definitely worth a read and is free in Pubmed Central. In it, Simon Young says many things I agree with. In particular the ending
This does not mean that these terms are not useful. However, as with all new terms, they will help to promote knowledge and ideas only if their precise meaning becomes known to a broad range of researchers. Only time will tell what will become a useful scientific term and what will remain the jargon of a subgroup of researchers.
The best discussion I have seen of the issue is by none other than the great Joshua Lederberg (may he rest in peace) who wrote 'Ome Sweet 'Omics — A Genealogical Treasury of Words with Alexa McCray. In it they discuss the history of the word genomics, among others. They also quote Roland Brown author of "Composition of Scientific Words"
"words, when they make their debut in scientific or literary society ... should be simple, euphonious, pure and mnemonically attractive."
Clearly many of the new omics words do not meet this criteria but I am going to leave that for others to (help) judge. If you personally want to see some lists of the every growing number of omics words, check out any/all of the following:

1 comment:

  1. Everyone who writes for publication should read Orwell's Politics and the English Language. It would save us all a lot of trouble :

    Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.


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