Keepin’ It Real – Fill In The Blank Base

I’m starting a new feature called where I will provide a short rant on the misuse and abuse of language. Because I’m an English major and a big fan, I appreciate precise language and the thoughtless use of imprecise or meaningless language drives me nuts.

But Keepin’ It Real will not be a rant for a rant’s sake.

Saying what you mean and speaking like a real person is ever more crucial for successful online communication. Or successful communication, period. At a time when people distrust the government, corporations, and organizations, authenticity becomes far more valuable as an indicator of trustworthiness. And people are far more inclined to trust someone who speaks plainly than someone who reiterates the same spin phrase over and over again or who uses Corpspeak.

It’s all too easy to fall into the practice of using Corpspeak. Organizations can act like echo chambers in which corporate shorthand and acronyms and industry phrases and catchphrases ricochet around enough that they being to sound natural.

Today’s rant has to do with bases and I’m not talking baseball.

I keep everyone talking about their bases. Celebrities talk about their fan bases. Publishers refer to their subscriber base. And companies discuss their customer or client bases.

Since when did groups of people become bases? The charts below demonstrate how common the usage is:

Posts that contain per day for the last 30 days.
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Posts that contain per day for the last 30 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!
Posts that contain per day for the last 30 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!
Posts that contain per day for the last 30 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!

Here are some :

  • A base is something that supports another thing. The base of a lamp holds the lamp in place.
  • A base can be a foundation or basis: the base of needed reforms.
  • A base can be a bottom layer or coating such as a base of paint.
  • A base can be the principle element or ingredient of something such as paint with a lead base.
  • A base can mean a starting point or point of departure or a gathering place.
  • A base can refer to on of the four corners of a baseball diamond.

There are many more meanings of the word, but none has to do with groups of people as in the usage we are discussing.

The use of the word "base" in the manner we discuss here is absolutely meaningless. Why can’t they be just fans or subscribers or customers or clients?

Finally, and more importantly, needlessly tacking on the word base to a group of people has the effect of putting the focus on the group rather than the people within the group. It’s much easier to visualize fans than it is a "fan base."

The use of the word "base" dehumanizes groups. And people don’t like being dehumanized.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.