Everything Language and Grammar

Pushback to Pushback

Posted by languageandgrammar on March 14, 2008

Since pushback (or is it push back?) has started to replace resistance in nearly every conversation in the business world in this country, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to step in and single-handedly prevent yet another non-word from entering our vocabulary—kind of like a grammar superhero. Alas, I may have been a little too late since pushback now appears on dictionary.com.

For many people, when something appears in a dictionary (any dictionary), it automatically qualifies as a word. That is understandable; while Ms. Coven and I have discussed on a couple of occasions that we believe that it takes more than comman usage (which is often common misusage)  in order for something to become a word, it is not well understood–or agreed upon. I will expand on that topic soon.

Pushback, though, is a classic example. It was not in the 1984 edition of Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, but it’s in the ultra-modern dictionary.com. The reason is clear: pushback is now used, but, apparently, it wasn’t even a sparkle in the eyes of even the trendiest of speakers in 1984.

We now say The client is giving us  pushback about the price rather than The client is giving us resistance about the price or even The client thinks the price we gave them was too high because it’s the trendy thing to say.

It’s just not the best way to communicate since many of us don’t consider pushback to be a word.

–Paul

Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

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3 Responses to “Pushback to Pushback”

  1. Potenroy said

    I find ‘pushback’ highly irritating. I term it “template talk”

    You write:
    “The client is giving us pushback about the price rather than The client is giving us resistance about the price or even The client thinks the price we gave them was too high because it’s the trendy thing to say.”

    Business English, especially in some circles, relies on simple sentence structure; hence, your counter-example of “The client is giving us ______”. People want to fill in the blank simply. And, especially in America, there is no reward for nuanced speaking. The problem goes on.

    Shall I fill-in-the-blank one last time? Please STOP ‘template talk’.

    Potenroy

  2. […] describing a feature in reclining chairs. Safire doesn’t seem to object to the new usage, but language bloggers do, based on their trademark objection that it is simply “not a real word in the […]

    Reply from Paul: You certainly have thought quite a bit about “pushback.” I have to honestly say that I haven’t given it that much consideration, and from my perspective, I’m not sure that it needs it. I tend to focus on the effectiveness of words and phrases, not the history of them, and pushback is extremely inarticulate. I do, however, have a sincere appreciation for the amount of research that you have done on the topic.

  3. jeff said

    As a college instructor, I warn my students very seriously, with the threat of hellfire, not to use pushback, takeaway, or “teachable moment” in a formal paper.

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