What the heck are “learnings”?
Reader Paul wonders about
the legitimacy of the word ‘learnings’? I find myself wanting to use this word on occasion however feel it is not an actual word. wondering about “the legitimacy of the word ‘learnings’.”
My instinctive response was, “Of course it’s not a word! Who, other than Borat, would abuse the language in such a way?
However, before shooting back that answer, I took the precaution of searching the web. I was astounded to discover that there really are writers out there–presumably native English speakers–pretending that “learnings” is a word!
Learning as a singular noun is a perfectly idiomatic and useful word:
learning: The action of the vb. LEARN. a. The action of receiving instruction or acquiring knowledge; spec. in Psychol., a process which leads to the modification of behaviour or the acquisition of new abilities or responses, and which is additional to natural development by growth or maturation… –OED
Renaissance thinkers called the revival of interest in Greek studies the “New Learning.”
A scholar possesses learning. Children may have learning difficulties.
I suspect that the pluralized form originated in the corporate world, but, because “learnings” sounds so supremely pompous, has been enthusiastically embraced by those other lovers of obfuscation: Educators and Social Scientists.
Preceded by the word new, it is especially popular in headlines and in committee names:
New players, new learnings –headline at Businessworld
Winds change direction with new learnings –New Zealand Department of Corrections site
Committee 10. SC5 Procedures and Learnings –ISO Standards site
Old Wisdom: New Learnings –lesson title at University of Illinois Extension site. The lesson is about proverbs like “A stitch in time saves nine.”
I couldn’t help wondering if students being taught this lesson would be encouraged to translate the proverbs into learnings-speak: The unique movement of a threaded pointed implement through fabric obviates the future necessity of numerous movements of the aforementioned pointed implement with the resultant outcome that time is retained for other pragmatic exertions of energy.
New Learnings Begin –blog about social media and large companies
New learnings from old understandings:conducting qualitative research with Māori. –title of academic paper listed at Social Care Online
There’s even a medical definition at The Free Dictionary:
new learnings: n.pl new suggestions and perceptions given to the unconscious during hypnotherapy to replace old restrictive messages.
Those who have the insensitivity to use it seem to prefer “learnings” to the more familiar and readily understandable word lessons. It’s a usage that probably has Orwell spinning in his grave.
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