While some buzzwords are used to connote erroneous meanings, others are used in contexts that fail to provide sufficient meaning of any kind. Such is the case today with ‘perspective,’ a noun that, when referring to a point of view, requires context to suggest what that point of view might entail.
An example provided in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary is “a Marxist perspective”—the point of view of a specific ideology. This is sufficient context, given the definition of Marxism itself suggests the nature of that perspective.
Yet, there are many flippant references these days to ‘perspective’ that leave the question utterly open-ended. On March 13, 2009, for example, The Globe And Mail previewed a TV special lampooning recent U.S. President George W. Bush, starring Will Ferrell and co-written by Adam McKay. The article reported:
“Both men went into the project believing Bush should be held accountable, albeit from a comedy perspective.”
Comedy, however, is not a specific idea like Marxism. It does not suggest a single, identifiable point of view. Thus, the term ‘perspective’ adds nothing here; the writer, Andrew Ryan, could have used the simpler phrase, “albeit through comedy.”
Two days later, The New York Times’ coverage of the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, featured an interview with filmmaker Joe Swanberg. Discussing his latest film’s premiere, the article reported:
“… the so-called day-and-date release with an assist from the festival here suits his needs from a financial and artistic perspective.”
This wording, too, is needlessly complicated, given it simply means to say the release “suits his financial and artistic needs.” Often a ‘perspective’ is suggested where there is none.