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June 28, 2012

Daryl L.L. Houston

The Daily Post

A character in a book I’m reading right now uses a nasty sort of corporate speak in which he actually says things like “tangibilitate your utilization potential” and frequently utters “use” and then corrects self-consciously to “utilize.” He’s trying to use big words to sound smart, and the result of course is that he sounds foolish.

Thankfully, not too many of us go quite as far as this character, but it’s not too uncommon for us to substitute words or phrases that strike us as fancier or smarter for simpler ones. And “utilize” for “use” is one of these common substitutions. But what’s the difference exactly? First I’ll quote Garner on the matter:

Use is the all-purpose noun and verb, ordinarily to be preferred over utilize and utilizationUtilize is both more abstract and more favorable connotatively than use.

Frankly, the last part of that distinction is a little…

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