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Slanguage in the Gray Flannel Century


Atorgenics is a twentieth-century science, born and weaned in America's business world. The atorgenicist has a more familiar name. He is a public relations man, prophet and historian of the Social Ethic.

The men of public relations are fond of telling you, over a gin-and-tonic, that Jesus Christ began their clan. Today they are an integral part of the white collar colossus, disseminating millions of words annually. They have a man in the White House, two national societies, unlimited expense accounts, and a language all their own.

Since historians and humanities professors agree that the vitality of language reflects the vitality of culture, it is in semantics that PR makes its real contribution to Americana.

Language in public relations must be dynamic. Old terms quickly become inadequate. Certain grammatical rules exist to facilitate this flexibility:

1. Add -wise to any subject, indicating pertinence. A PR man never says "concerning" or "pertaining to"; he speaks of matters circulation-wise, industry-wise, or productivity-wise.

2. Add -ize to any loose nouns for a dynamic verb. A PR man never "finishes" or "completes" a project; he finalizes it. By the same token, subsidiaries are activized, problems are empathized, and slack departments energized.

3. Change -ion nouns to -ive adjectives for new verbal vistas. Things become participative, consultative, and permissive.

Public relations has certain key words, characterizing the business world in endless multilithed news releases. Creative imagination (coupled with know-how, technical or otherwise) has supplanted Thinking Big-Brainstorm, feedback, humanation, engionomics, generalist, and Group-think--all are indicative of PR's dictionary vitality. Public relations poets pen such couplets as extinct by instinct, selection by inspection, and paralysis by analysis.

Motivational Research, a mysterious "depth-probing" process, constructs "Image Profiles" of the public through "purposive sampling" and "dichotomous questions."

Whether the terms themselves survive, the Madison Avenue method of expression is likely to endure for many years, Any PR man will be glad to let you in on the trend.

We have come a long way, the PR man will tell you. We have come from Jesus Christ to James M. Hagerty in this, the gray flannel century. And business is not only good, but getting progressively better.

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