Agnostic (non-theological)

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Tue Dec 7 00:28:33 UTC 2010

As I see the word used in the business world, it doesn't mean  "I
don't care/am indifferent". Most frequently, I would take the meaning to be,
"I can make it work either way". Sometimes it means, "I have no basis (as
least, not yet) for choosing one over the other". Neither of these phrases
implies a "lack of interest", which is the basic meaning of indifference.


On Mon, Dec 6, 2010 at 7:16 PM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Agnostic (non-theological)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> If they just noticed that this meaning is "creeping into the vocabulary
> of American business people over the past year" they are very late to
> the party. The use "I am agnostic on this issue" to mean "I don't
> care/am indifferent" has been in normal "intellectual" use at least
> since I was in college in the 1980s. Perhaps the business audience is
> late in discovering this usage, but it certainly has not happened just
> over the past two years.
>     VS-)
> On 12/6/2010 4:15 PM, Federico Escobar wrote:
> > ... The word even drew this criticism from
> > a Houston newspaper just last year (it's stored in the COCA): "This is an
> > incorrect use of the word 'agnostic' that I have noted creeping into the
> > vocabulary of American business people over the past year or so.
> Especially
> > among individuals in the financial services industry, the word is being
> used
> > to mean 'indifferent,' as I think Immelt intended it to mean in his
> usage.
> > In business circles today, the word has become one of those buzz words
> that
> > people like to use."
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