"Does the country need more stimulus?"
That is the headline I woke up to this morning on internet news. While I need a fresh cup of coffee before I ponder such subjects, what grabbed my attention was the word "stimulus."
Maybe it's because today I meet a fresh bunch of undergraduate students whom I will instruct in the craft of writing well. Maybe it's because I know I will soon be reviewing a plethora of papers that will inevitably have some issues with words - too big, too many, and wrong choices.
Our culture today does everything at top speed. You would think that would drive more simplicity and clarity in our writing and messaging. In fact, it seems the opposite. But the biggest offender of all is word choice. People - particularly those who put their words out in front to inform, persuade, motivate, and inspire - don't always pause long enough to choose their words wisely.
I think about this word stimulus. I suppose when it first came into vogue, when this country was in its early recessionary grip, the word made sense to me. We needed something to rouse or incite an activity, namely spending. We needed it to happen fast, so that we wouldn't plunge deeper into the mess we'd gotten into in the first place.
Thus my issue with using the word on January 26, 2010. Do we need another stimulus? It makes more sense if the first stimulus moved the needle and this new stimulus were to take us further. But in the sense I read the headline - and knowing darn well what the current economy feels like - I'm not sure a stimulus is what we need. Perhaps bright idea would be an alternate? Or solution? Or a way to get people to have confidence and spend their money?
What money? That's where the word "stimulus" really falls apart for me. Stimulus implies a one shot deal, not a chronic poking to find out what might work. One stimulus, ok. But multiple stimuli? Making a poor word choice, or overusing a word past its initial value, is a communication no-no. Why? People stop paying attention. They don't listen. And nothing gets done.
Maybe it's time to find a new word - and a creative solution - so people can pay attention. Maybe we will be able to jumpstart ourselves out of our current state.