The 4th Humour
uninfluential words from an uninfluenced man
Bile humour Apathetic hemetic Fluent indifferent Emetic Phlegmatic

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Wednesday, March 03, 2004
The Sin of Utilization

Strunk and White is a great little grammar book, but it has one major error: it lists "utilize" as a suitable substitute for "use" (which is also funny considering it discourages the -ize suffix in general). Utilize is not a synonym for use. To utilize something is to use something other than for its intended purpose, and thus rarely does the substitution make sense. If someone tells me to utilize a broom to sweep the floor, are they telling me to turn it upside-down and try it that way? I can't think of any other way to utilize it while still using it for its intended purpose.

An intended purpose presupposes a designer. Indeed, you can't utilize something if it wasn't intelligently designed, because it has no defined use. Most of our environment is the result of evolution, which has neither foresight nor design. Rocks have no intended purpose. Neither do dogs or bees (unless they were bred by humans for a purpose).

Clearly I'm not respecting the broom's design in trying to move dust with the handle. I'm not respecting the broom itself. Likewise, any damage done to the broom would render it incapable of fulfilling its purpose and would thus be disrepectful, whether the damage were purposeful or negligent.

Wait, I hear the naysayers now, "But Phlegm, oftentimes new uses for things are found after they are designed!" Really? I'd argue not. Does the new use fill a need, or is there another tool that already fills the need sufficiently well? If it fits the need better, could another tool be made to improve even upon that, perhaps based on the original design? It will probably end up modified to perform both tasks, yet inherit the original name (or a new version number). You would then feel not quite right about utilizing the original, since a new and better tool has been designed specifically for the new purpose.

Consumerism violates these principles. Things are expected to break, expected to be replaced. In fact, they're designed to break, such that in a twisted way they're still fulfilling their purpose. The higher purpose, of course, being Capitalism and the so-called advancement of society *cough cough*. I don't know who said it, but like many others, I'll say it again: where are we going in such a hurry?