There’s something uncouth about chopping up two words into their etymological roots and mish-mashing them together with the expectation that the new word will somehow mean more than the original words. There’s also something funny and cute about it.
I should know better. I remember when my father taught me that “auto” meant self and that “mobile” meant moving. That made sense to me, so I was irritated when I first noticed the section labeled “auto parts.” Is it the section for self parts? Obviously not. “Automobile” is irreducible. You can’t just use a piece of a word and expect it to mean the same thing.
Yet I committed this crime when I coined proprietism. “Propriet” came from “sole-proprietor.” The root actually means “owner,” which technically makes proprietism a system of owners rather than a system of sole-proprietors. Put that way, it’s not an egregious misnomer.
But maybe there’s more to word mish-mashing than that. “Automobile” is probably the most common noun that starts with “auto.” I doubt the first people to hear “auto parts” thought that the parts were automatic or for automatons. The same could go for proprietism. I *think* sole-proprietor comes to mind quickly enough.
Maybe that’s the case with this new word I made up: bureauplacency. I think “bureaucracy” comes to mind, and so does “complacency.” Have you noticed bureauplacency before? It’s the phenomenon of taking for granted superfluous layers of professional human intervention.
I’ll give an example. My HOA charges $75 per month and has over 300 properties within its domain. There’s no fitness center and no pool. The charge is to cover the landscaping of everyone’s front yard. Don’t get me wrong, my neighborhood is well manicured. My front yard however, which is average or large compared to most front yards in the subdivision, is probably about 200 square feet. I think if that 200 square feet were my sole responsibility, I could make it look good for less than $75 per month.
Let’s say that in two years, I spend $250 manicuring my microyard. I would pay my HOA $1800 in that same time period. So the approximate cost of bureaucracy is about $1550 over two years, or about $65 per month.
You know that feeling you get when you’re watching a movie and you know there must be a plot hole, but you choose to enjoy the movie rather than expending the energy to think about it? I think we do that with bureaucracy. We get a feeling that something should probably cost half as much as it does, but we say “eh screw it.” As long as we’re not getting suckered more than everyone else, we’re complacent. We know the service we’re getting is insured. They are certified and registered with the government. They have owners and lawyers and managers who keep track of little things and yadda yadda yadda. We get bureauplacent.
I get it though. I’m a manager. There’s lots of things an HOA can pull off that the homeowners wouldn’t be able to coordinate amongst themselves. My invention of the term is not to foment uprising against bureaucracy. A little awareness of the phenomenon however, might be good for us.