The Word of the Year: A Solution to “Solutions”

The chief archivist to the city of Heliopoli nominates the word “solutions” for Word of the Year.

What the chief archivist terms “viral language” is rampant. A word becomes quickly adopted and spreads like a contagion, as if it must be used by all business entities; as if it is obligatory; as if it is an infection of the zeitgeist; as if it is voluntary mind control.

The word “solutions” is the current chief culprit of viral language this year.

Other examples of viral words: “community,” “passion” and “impact.” Struggling to become viral: “metric.” Occasional resurgence: inserting the word “nation” after … anything.

In the book The Psychology of Fashion, the lifecycle of trends is outlined. At one point toward the end of a trend’s lifecycle, people become self-conscious about the trend. It is discussed objectively; it is observed. At this point the trend quickly fades away.

Was Heliopoli destroyed by this self-consciousness toward the trends it incorporated? Did it become self-aware toward itself — too on-purpose, too forced?

Heliopoli_Full_EX99The chief archivist finds the lockstep obedience to the vicissitudes of viral language more than a little unnerving. In an attempt to stop at least one example, and invoke the self-consciousness of the trend’s use and therefore end it by discussing it and revealing it, he recorded over a three-week period all encounters he had with the word “solution.” These encounters were not sought out on purpose; they occurred naturally by hearing or seeing the word in normal day-to-day activities.

This should be interpreted as some kind of performance art, rather than sheer craziness.

Below is the list of encounters. (Note how Nov. 18 was a particularly horrific day.)

11/7/07 5:58 p.m. ” … your IT solutions provider … ” Radio commercial.
11/8/07 Same commercial.
11/9/07 Same commercial.
11/10/07 10:16 a.m. ” … total solution to your estate planning … ” Radio commercial.
11/10/07 12:29 p.m. ” … practical and proven solutions … ” Bank radio commercial.
11/10/07 1:48 p.m. “I’m part of the solution” with only the word “solution” displayed on the screen. TV commercial for volunteering.
11/10/07 ” … practical and proven solutions … ” Bank radio commercial.
11/11/07 _____ ______ Solutions. Company name on job search Web site.
11/11/07 ” … develop solutions briefs.” Part of a job description on job search Web site.
11/11/07 _____ _____ Writing Solutions. Company name on blog.
11/11/07 8:55 p.m. “A host of wireless solutions.” Telecom TV commercial.
11/12/07 “Find more solutions to your business needs.” Ad on Web site.
11/13/07 5:47 a.m. “New Business Solution.” Marketing e-mail.
11/16/07 ” … tested and proven solutions … ” TV commercial. Plus two more examples [not sure what this note refers to].
11/17/07 9:26 a.m. ” … unique and total solution … ” Radio commercial.
11/17/07 9:27 (a.m. or p.m.?) ” … practical and proven solutions … ” Bank radio commercial.
11/18/07 ” … security solutions … ” Radio commercial.
11/18/07 ” … solution … ” Gift card announcement over PA system in grocery store.
11/18/07 ” … public relations solutions … ” Job description on Web site.
11/18/07 _____ Government Solutions. Job site.
11/18/07 Distinctive Solutions. Job site.
11/18/07 Management Solutions Services. Company name on Google.
11/18/07 “Sensible Solutions.” Title of nutrition information on graham cracker box.
11/18/07 ” … expert design solutions … ” and ” … security solutions … ” in the same radio commercial (!).
11/19/07 6:59 p.m. ” … tax changes and revenue solutions … ” Promo ad on PBS station.
11/20/07 “Sensible Solutions” Title of nutrition information on packet of peanuts.
11/22/07 _______ Solutions. Blog name.
11/23/07 7:58 a.m. ” … quick solutions … ” Radio interview.
11/24/07 ” … we offer a solution … ” TV commercial for consulting firm.
11/24/07 ” … solution … ” Radio commercial.
11/25/07 “Extended Learning Solutions for School.” Part of business Web site.
11/25/07 5:57 p.m. ” … expert design solutions … ” and ” … security solutions … ” in the same radio commercial.
11/25/07 ” … security solutions for your network.” radio promo.
11/27/07 7:40 p.m. “Proactiv Solution” TV commercial.
11/28/07 ” … lay the foundation for a two-state solution.” Politician statement heard on radio.
11/28/07 ” … an oil company as part of the solution.” TV commercial.
11/28/07 7:40 p.m. “Proactiv Solution” TV commercial.
11/30/07 ” … anti-spam solutions help bloggers.” Seen on blog.

Bonus encounters: TV commercials for the Zimmer Gender Solutions Knee. The chief archivist finds the term “Zimmer Gender Solutions Knee” to be a verbal Mobius strip in need of a hyphen.

Fondly remembered past encounters: “Pepperidge Farm pot pies — your evening meal solution.” Radio commercial.

Readers’ encounters with the word “solutions” and other examples of viral language are welcome.


2 thoughts on “The Word of the Year: A Solution to “Solutions”

  1. Solving problems involves understanding what a problem is, where it comes from, how it travels and why it persists. Sometimes problem solving involves understanding who wants the problem to persist and why. This is very different than patching up, hacking together, exporting to somewhere else or any other sort of action on symptoms associated with the problem by inventing a, frequently costly, new problem and calling it a “solution.”

    Problem solving and solutions peddling are different activities.

  2. Yes — the problem, so to speak, with using the word “solutions” in this way is that there is no stated, corresponding problem. Calling something an “evening meal solution” or an “IT solution” implies that evening meals and IT are problems. One can see, in stores, sections marked by such signs as “Mobile Phone Solutions.” Are mobile phones problems? It’s difficult to know what “solutions,” as a buzzword, is intended to trigger for the consumer.

    Thank you for visiting.

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