The Fell Gard Codices

A Tasking Langauge Shift

April 22nd, 2013

I’m old enough now that in my adult life I’ve seen new things come into the language, for better or worse or both. One of the things I’ve seen, and so have you if you’ve been paying attention, is the use of the phrase “tasked with” to mean “ordered to do.” It’s not a usage I like much. There’s a good look at it here, tracking its movement from military jargon through legal and consultant doublespeak and into general use.

I don’t care for it because it sounds like bureaucracyspeak, because it fills no particular linguistic gap — it adds nothing to the language — and for some reason many writers seem to think the phrase has been around forever and put it into the mouths of characters from previous eras. Maybe that’s a function of the Star Trek/Moby Dick quote which uses “tasks” in a different way (take a look at the comments of the linked article above). It’s also a symptom perhaps of the militarisation of society and language; military jargon entering civilian use. I wonder if people might also like to use it because “tasks” sounds vaguely archaic and mythic (like Hercules!), while “ordered to do something” is a reminder of the individual’s powerlessness. At any rate: not a phrase I like.

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