Bad Words Like Tasked
From the bad words department (e.g., concerning incent): “General Washington tasked the troops to battle on the Brandywine” may be a fine use of the transitive verb. But is that so of “Professor Cunningham tasked the class to brief the Drennan case”? It seems better to say “Cunningham assigned the class . . . . ”
Before the mid-1990s, tasked tended to be limited to usage relating to military matters. For example, in legal scholarship, it appeared almost exclusively in military law journals. But the word gradually crept into other settings in the late 1990s, in part after consulting firms began to talk that way. Until recently, though, the usage was relatively scarce. In legal scholarship, for instance, the word never appeared more than 100 times annually through 1998 and never more than 300 until 2004.
In 2010, however, usage is set to exceed 1000 times. Staggeringly, the word’s frequency has increased steadily nearly every year from 1989 through 2010: 16, 16, 22, 20, 27, 55, 56, 55, 75, 95, 105, 120, 141, 184, 218, 294, 368, 435, 591, 719, 880, 905 (partial count for 2010).
This is lamentable. The stultifying jargon of the military aside, the usage, in general and certainly in legal scholarship, sounds terrible and should be laid to rest.