Sunday, April 12, 2009


Coherent use of language occasionally requires context to ensure a potentially ambiguous term can be understood. It is particularly galling, then, when a word with multiple legitimate meanings becomes commonly used as a buzzword whose meaning isn’t clear at all.

One example is ‘posture.’ A posture can be a relative position, condition, state, attitude, carriage or bearing, while ‘to posture’ is to strut or otherwise assume an attitude for effect. The buzzword never conveys one of these definitions in particular.

On April 9, 2009, for instance, the U.S. ‘progressive’ website carried a Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) press release titled “Transforming the US Strategic Posture and Weapons Complex tor Transition to a Nuclear Weapons-Free World.” The release refers to “the Administration's pending Nuclear Posture Review.” It is unclear what a strategic and/or a nuclear posture is, leaving it sounding very ethereal.

On the same day, an information technology (IT) news site, Enterpriser, reported on a security company whose software promised to “automatically discover, inventory and assess the security posture of servers, hosts and other devices.” This seems to suggest ‘posture’ is a quality can be measured quantitatively—but none of its legitimate meanings can.

On April 6, 2009, The Toronto Star’s Asia bureau writer Bill Schiller reported that after a North Korean long-range rocket test, “Beijing issued a call for calm yesterday, not criticism – a posture out of step with the rest of the world.” This example is not so much a posture as a reaction or perhaps a sentiment.

In all of these cases, the use of ‘posture’ instead of a clearer, more specific term comes across as, well, posturing.

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