O, What a Tangled Banshee We Weave

This is only loosely related to naming. And yet I find myself unable to stop myself from writing about it. Perhaps you can scream at me (like a banshee?) and I’ll stop.

According to Web sources, a banshee is a wailing, weeping, screeching, or screaming harbinger of death.

So why is the term coming up in business? Perhaps as a warning to those that make bad business decisions? Or because of the reference to Celtic mythology?

Sadly, no. Mostly it’s just because people don’t know what the word means.

There’s “Grow Business Like A Banshee” from the American Chronicle – perhaps a reference to the fact that when you tell people they’re going to die they’re more apt to buy life insurance? Chet Holmes (CEO of Chet Holmes International) wrote the article without a single reference to the helpful screeching babes. Based on the article it seems, in fact, that the term “like a banshee” is actually a stand in for “people who can multiply by two.” Who knew?

There’s someone going by the handle “daibebtates” on 43things that wants to “learn to type like a banshee.” This is one guy I do *not* want to have in the cubicle next to me.

Though not technically business related, there’s a woman who met a guy who’d “want to kiss and make out like a banshee” but never went any further. I’m tellin’ you… death can be such a turnoff. Makes sense to me that after shouting into a woman’s mouth about morbid stuff I’d be in absolutely no mood for hanky panky.

Only related to business when preceded by “doing my…”, Kitty Foreman of “That 70s Show fame shouted “I have to pee like a banshee” as she rushed to the bathroom. We are left to wonder why we heard nothing from her once the door shut.

Professors even fall victim to misuse – saying things like “This thing will be spinning like a banshee” as if it were a subclass of dervish. Or perhaps a brand of wooden top.

The real cause for this post was something read to me by my wife (honest!) that came from O, The Oprah Magazine. The name of the piece was “Network like a banshee.” Is it just me, or does everyone else also picture someone showing up, grabbing a beer, a snack wrapped in a greasy napkin, then turning to the crowd and shouting,

HI EVERYONE! I’M TATE! YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!

OH! AND HERE IS MY BUSINESS CARD – LET’S GRAB A BITE SOMETIME. BUT SOONER RATHER THAN LATER! PREFERABLY BEFORE… WELL… YOU KNOW.”

C’mon – with all Oprah’s money you’d think she could hire editors that catch this stuff…

At least Yamaha got the name/sound connection right. (Though the whole ATV as symbol of impending death is a little distasteful to me given the safety issues it has…)

Lesson in naming:(?) Don’t use a word just because it feels right. Make sure you spell it right and don’t unintentionally choose a homonym or eggcorn that makes you look foolish or uneducated. The ear isn’t always right…

4 Responses to “O, What a Tangled Banshee We Weave”

  1. People are using the word “banshee” as a synonym for “someone (or something) with wild abandon.” While the dictionary doesn’t yet incorporate this definition, it probably will someday.
    When someone coins a term, they clearly have a singular purpose for it. But no one can control how terms evolve and the additional meanings they adopt over time, especially when it comes to slang and colloquialisms — “Dude, that’s killer!!!”

  2. Tate Linden says:

    I think you’re probably right, Jeffry.
    Language is a living thing and resists most concerted efforts to control it. I’m still not convinced that “wild abandon” is an appropriate label for what is in effect a really sad ghost. I’m pulling this out of my nether regions, but I’m pretty sure that banshees weren’t known for their craziness and rabble-rousing.
    So if it does become accepted it will become accepted *despite* the fact that the connection to the original meaning is tenuous at best. It will succeed because of ignorance rather than intelligence.
    While I’m not genuinely mad about it, it certainly doesn’t make me happy. Sorta like every time a person uses the word “anymore” at the beginning of a sentence – a little piece of me dies.

  3. “It will succeed because of ignorance rather than intelligence.” Hmmmm, kinda reminds me of a certain politician. Or rather, most politicians.
    My lingual pet peeve: “Irregardless.”
    And here’s one I use to make my point and get my idea across: “Repetively redundant.”

  4. Never underestimate the universality of ignorance. For example, consider the Boston Celtics. Anyone who had to study Chaucer in college English should be aware that the “C” sound in the word celtic is pronounced like “k” not like “s”.
    Nonetheless, a whole nation is at this point in the firm habit of mispronouncing the word. Whoever convinced them to use that name should have included a pronunciation guide as part of the contract…



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