Nobody Makes “Bad Progress”
Three times during a radio interview, a White House spokesman stated that something was “making good progress.”
It occurred to me how often I hear the expression “good progress” uttered by politicians and administrators of various stripes.
We are making good progress towards introducing a bill that will advance that goal.—A US senator.
U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged that [our state] is making good progress on our Race to the Top plans.—A state governor.
We have been making good progress in three important areas.—A school principal.
FTA is making good progress on developing more detailed guidance on which we will seek comment in the near future.—An FTA spokesman.
The word progress, both noun and verb, derives from the Latin verb progredi: “to go forward, proceed, advance.”
The English noun progress is defined as “the process of a series of actions through time.”
As a verb, progress means, “to proceed, advance,” “to follow an expected course or pattern.”
“Good progress” is bureaucratic-speak. It sounds good without meaning anything. It’s enough to say, “The FTA is making progress on developing more detailed guidance.”
Progress may be rapid, slow, encouraging, delayed, or uncertain, but to say it is good is to pad language. “Good progress” is often accompanied by other meaningless phrases like “in the near future,” and “grounds for optimism.”
Ordinary speakers may be forgiven for using the occasional cliché, but politicians and others who wish to advance themselves by swaying public opinion should be aware that coming from them, “good progress” signals a desire to avoid specifics.
Note: The pronunciation of progress differs, according to whether it is used as a noun or as a verb.
progress (noun): PRAH-gres (American); PRO-gres (British)
progress (verb): pruh-GRES
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