What is a Paradigm, Anyway?

What is a paradigm? I’m so glad you asked. I have seen this word used so many times by know-it-alls and I’m sick of it.

The guy at the meeting that says, “We need to invent a new paradigm,” and everybody nods because they won’t admit that they don’t know what he’s talking about. William F. Buckley made a career of this.

A paradigm is an illustrative schematic diagram employed in learning languages, which shows all the forms of a verb or a noun (conjugations and declensions). For example “I jump, you jump, he/she/it jumps. we jump, they jump, you (plural) jump, they jump. I have jumped, they have jumped, we are jumping, she had jumped (the pluperfect), etc., etc., right up to the future perfect, “We shall have jumped.”

This paradigm is supposed to help people learn lots of other verbs that behave like the verb jump.

Sometimes a paradigm is not illustrative, but applies only to a single word, like the verb “to be.”
That’s because this verb, like the verb to go, is a combination of several other verbs:

I am, you are, he/she it/is, we are, you are, they are. Or: I go, she went, they shall have gone.

From this language learning meaning, ‘paradigm’ has been elevated to a higher plane, meaning a new pattern likely to be duplicated by others because of its success.

So that’s what it means. But in the future, when buttheads like William F. Buckley come up with words like this and wave them around like a badge of superiority, go look them up. Don’t pretend you know. That’s the way buttheads like him get the edge on people. That’s what gratifies these sad souls.

Don’t be a part of their pathetic game. First, admit you don’t know what the world means. Then use Merriam-Webster.com. It’s not rocket science. Then you can evaluate someone’s ideas on their merits instead of their skills with buzzwords.