Where’s the common-ground: different worlds or dumbing down?

Would you say that ‘hire’ means ‘replacement’, and ‘not repairable’ means ‘not worth repairing’? And that ‘Mary’s’ and ‘Mary s’ means the same thing? For some there are no differences!

Recently another motorist drove into me. Instead of letting my own car insurer deal with the non-disputed claim (the other party accepting full responsibility) I elected to let the other party’s insurers, deal directly with me since they assured me of their efficiency and effectiveness. The first issue that arose is whether my car is considered to be a write-off because the engineer judged it to be not repairable. When I queried this I was told the judgment was not in fact based on whether my car was repairable but whether the cost of repair exceeded the current value of the car. Clearly most but the most serious damage could be repaired but at a cost! The insurance agent finally accepted there was a difference in meaning but continued to refer to the damage as not repairable. The damage was to rear near-side passenger door and panel and therefore repairable.

To their credit the other party’s insurer immediately provided a replacement vehicle. But because of a breakdown in communication between insurance company, engineer and car replacement agent I received a request from another party (if you’re counting – that’s four separate agents I’m dealing with: so much for keeping costs down!) to return a hire-car! Since I had been dealing with a replacement car agent and there was no obvious link between the hire-company and the original insurer I contacted them to clarify matters. I told them that I had no previous contact with them and not hired a car from them. It transpired that the insurer had contacted their car-replacement agent who then contacted the car-hire agent who provided the temporary replacement car. Surely there’s a difference between me hiring a car and someone else providing a temporary replacement car? Apparently not as far as the car-hire firm is concerned.

These differences in how we use words demands a two-worlds interpretation or lack of common-ground interpretation.

On a slightly different tack, I recently tried to enter the street name of my home address ‘St. Mary’s Close’ in an on-line banking form, without success. Despairing I contacted the bank using their webchat facility to be informed that I couldn’t use ‘Mary’s’ I would have to use ‘Mary s’ instead. Is this a case of dumbing down and / or being dictated to by the requirements of a robotic machine? I suspect both since the local authority ‘Warrington’ has abolished the use of apostrophes on street name signs.

Tempting though it might be to claim that these are instances of dyslexic thought patterns this can’t be the full explanation for this mechanistic shift. Are there no guardians of the common-ground? Or do we have to acquiesce and use words as others use them?

About petermathews

Member of the Royal Society of Medicine
This entry was posted in Common Ground, Education, Labelling, language change and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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