Pulling the Envelope inside the Box

One thing exhausting us can be undone: the overuse of tiresome modern expressions. Rather than risk coining another irksome term, I’ll call them isms—expressions beaten to death by people unwilling or unable to come up with less hackneyed terms. You can fill in your own prefix.  Trite-isms. Annoying-isms. Tool-isms. Have at it.

There are two ismal varieties: conversational and corporate. No way you’ve escaped the conversational ones. Some were funny to begin with and lost their luster, others never funny:  Don’t go there (initially sassy, then grating); too much information (with dumb caboose, “TMI!”); been there, done that (listener thinks with fake smile, “I’m supposed laugh at this…again?”) A person or animal of desirable qualities referred to as a keeper is another groaner.

My peeves: It is what it is. You do the math. Reach out. Shout out. I hear ya, girlfriend. Pick his brain. Face time. Me time. MehPanties in a bunch [wad]. Hilarious misapplications of What happens in [wherever] stays in [wherever].  No one tells you anything anymore, they share it. Ick.

Aha! moment: The Aha! Effect, coined by psychologists in 1979, mutated into a “moment”— based less on cognition than on personal growth—on Oprah. I love Oprah but it reeks of yourselfness when you use your own ism a lot. (There I go again: Ism!) Or was it Dr. Phil’s? Same thing.

I requested isms from friends. Their vitriol, largely unprintable, was the usual high comedy. Some hate yada yada yada and blah blah blah; others not so much. One loathes “young people saying back in the day.  You’re 25, back in what day?” A polite friend detests whatever, and “no problem as a response to ‘thank you.’” An old friend dislikes partner; also epic, as in an epic failure, fight, or concert experience. Uh-oh “concert experience” could be one. You have to watch yourself. It’s Ism Bewareness Month.

 The more noxious variety is the corporate ism. In meetings, an Orwellian Newspeak quality makes the ism-adverse colleague wonder, “Does he really think I’m falling for this?” Like when obstacles and problems suddenly became challenges. Sometimes I’ll say “problem” in a meeting just to see if anyone bites. That can be fun. Not fun is how now we’re supposed to be embracing things (like diversity and transparency) while still pushing the envelope and thinking outside the box, then using our skill sets to facilitate it all. Much of this idiocy started in corporate management books, and spread like Fluff® over the white bread of our lives. By white bread I mean meetings, pop-up ads, and e-mail forwards by contagiously dull-witted people. It’s causing the doltification of America. We’re like monkeys with a 37-phrase vocabulary and hand signals.

My list of banalities is topped by the stale robust (as in “robust platform”) and leverage (as in “leveraging our robust platform”), followed closely by on the same page, ROI, win-win, and pushback.

My rankled friends despise: knowledge transfer, synergy, buy-in, talking points, getting energized around [a subject] , the New Normal, at the end of the day, cohort, walk me through the document, coming late to the party, drill down, carrying the water, sound bite, we have a good story to tell, kicking the can down the road, invite as a noun, and “impact as a verb…in the name of trying to make what we’re doing sound more important than it is.”

Yes, corporate isms are worse because they are (1) designed to increase productivity by minimizing time spent on original thought and (2) mingled with jargony buzzwords in a sad attempt to (a) elevate one’s dim or under-researched presentation to a higher level of importance or (b) to disguise meaningless blather as something of actual value. That is, to impress—when there’s no there there or, at the least, precious little. Apologies to Gertrude Stein.

E-mail and texting have their own shopworn abbreviations. I can’t stand LOL but dig her longer cousins. I add my own initials on with no explanation—say, “ADASD” for “and dying a slow death”—and let the recipient figure it out. Try it, you’ll like it (<–still funny).

IMHO It’s all TMI, friends. We’re LOLAPOBO [and puking our brains out].  If isms taint the family argument at your Thanksgiving dinner table, why not wait for a lull, say, “You know, Cuz, the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink’  – George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946”…and see what happens?

Good eatin’, good conversin’, and good day.

Posted on November 19, 2011, in holidays, humor, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Holy cow! (Probably an outdated phrase and certainly nonsensical one) I wanted to see your earliest blog posts. You ROCK!

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