In modern tymes, it is difficult to avoid corporate jargon invented by management smoothies who write books. This invasive lexicon trickles down via Meetings and Presentations to people that have not read the books. Like a parasite, it penetrates each Host and rewires his brain, implanting annoying phrases and replacing perfectly good words with bogus ones, such as “utilize” for “use,” and “impact” (as a verb) for “affect.” A “platform” is always “robust” — when a number of other adjectives would suffice. A “problem,” apparently a dirty word, is reduced to a “challenge.”
I’m not sure why corporate language is grating, but it makes my friends insane. I suppose it’s because the speakers of this terrible language are parroting management smoothies — instead of using their brains – because they think it sounds more sophisticated. Yes, that’s what it is. Dumb, over-repeated phrases are Downloaded, Integrated, and Utilized by the speaker to sound more articulate or techy.
Thinking outside the box, pushing the envelope, and being on the same page, now 20 years old, cease to amuse. But the newer ones, often hyphenated, remain rich. The white space. Multi-tiered. Value-added. Portal-based. Drill down. Impactfulness. Granular.
Hilariously, a founder of Silicon Graphics invented Buzzword Bingo, to be played surreptitiously at meetings where it is likely that speakers will deploy buzzwords or arcane business concepts rather than supplying actual information. Bingo card squares come pre-loaded with corporate jargon, and you get a dot each time some silly lingo on your card is spoken in the meeting. The various ways to announce that one has achieved BINGO are mouth-watering. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in such a meeting, mercifully, but I’d suggest alternate mischief wherein contestants randomly combine buzzwords in nonsensical ways to jar deeply tranquilized meeting-goers out of their fog, e.g., “Drilling down to multi-tiered value-addedness was impactful,” or “His low-hanging fruit is right in my wheelhouse.”
The Corporate BS Generator, a fun online pastime, takes 2 “corporate” adjectives and randomly pairs them with a noun. Synergistic, results-based solutions. Top-down, client-driven transparency. Go ahead, make your own. What’s more fun than spewing twaddle?
I asked some of the brilliant cynics I call friends for their most despised terms. Their choices:
From CT: Alignment – when all divisions of an “enterprise” need to buy office furniture in the official corporate color palette. Branding – see above regarding the color palette. Re-branding – new colors.
From VT: Silos (not the farms). Organic (not the food). Cross-pollination (not the bees).
From NY: Reaching Out – “I thought I’d reach out” rather than “I’m contacting you.” Disintermediation – eliminating the middle man. Multi-sourcing – code for outsourcing. Business Development – a.k.a Sales. Market Development – a.k.a. Marketing.
It makes me wax nostalgic about another form of invasive language, one I welcomed as Host, probably because I was an unsuspecting child at the time. It remains a part of us. Yes, television advertising.
Wessonality. Certs with Retsyn®. Figurines (“Crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch.”) “I’m Rula Lenska.” (Alberto V05). Kind of wow, kind of now (Charlie!). “She conked out, but her hair held up,” (Final Net). “…and my dress is vivid red,” (RCA). I miss the flagrantly untrue, now-illegal product claims (Mark Eden’s “bust enhancement”) as I miss TV in general back then, when snow shoes were always falling out of closets, people were routinely shot out of cannons, and “the old switcheroo” prevailed.
For good or bad, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Now TV shows are based on doctored “reality,” and the ads are all for prescription medicines (“side effects may include new body hair, sleepwalking, swollen tongue…”), or class-action lawsuits (“Were you or a loved one exposed to…THIS?”). Just as Fab detergent had an intoxicating secret ingredient (lemon-freshened Borax), today the power of suggestion secretly leads us by the hand to litigation and a cascade of daily pills. Well, at least the car commercials remain. A comfort. Until they start driving themselves.
Let’s face it. Sometimes a problem is not a challenge; it is a bloody problem. It may not be fun or solvable. I had so many “challenges” outside my “sphere of influence” recently that in the ocean I was momentarily afraid of my own shadow — thought it was some kind of ray, poised for attack. My advice: when the going gets that rough, get yourself on a robust platform that can withstand the weight of a cannon, get a cannon, climb inside it, ask someone to spark that baby up, and just get the hell out of there. Good day.
*This title written before Harvey hit Houston.
** Cannon photo credit and interesting column here.
A friend requested a column on weird modern phenomena, like how we stand in front of doors now and expect them to magically open. He named our dismay when it doesn’t happen: Automatic Envy. After traveling, you expect the home faucet to run when you put your hands under it. I’ve hit the back button on my car’s (obsolete?) CD player because I missed what someone on the (oops) radio said. And who doesn’t want to Undo? All signs of the Apocalypse. (Repent!)
Last week a diamond fell out of a homemade ring I own. Gone forever. Didn’t care. I lose my phone for 24 hours? Panic. A girl’s best friend used to be diamonds. Now it’s a radio frequency transmitter -receiver.
If you ask older people (50+) if they’d rather travel backwards or forwards in time, they mostly say backwards. The YPs* say forwards — because they dread neither horrific new developments nor the vexations embedded in modernity’s [alleged] conveniences. Dear Reader knows of my distaste for modern tymes. The punishments in Game of Thrones faze me not (, my Lord). I’ll take a cat-o-nine tail flogging over the horror of forwarding an e-mail to the wrong person any day of the week.
Polling (electronically!) my friends for their modern peeves, the response was uproar. From technophobe to misanthrope, they went OFF. I have categorized (and sanitized) them for your reading pleasure.
When did sending an email become a good way to end a 6-month relationship? The whole idea of “selfies.” Surveillance. People who don’t read your entire e-mail (what, they’re too busy?), then ask questions you’ve already answered (Now I’m too busy!) Internet bullying – comments made by cowards. How complicit we are daily in giving up control over our personal information. Notices from Linked In—who cares?! People who think Facebook solves all communication situations; people who change their portrait daily. Social media: enough already. When people haven’t tested equipment/remotes for their PowerPoint or whatever and it doesn’t work; for the love of God, go in EARLY! Phony, planted e-mails like “A great company is interested in you!” When my long e-mail disappears just before I hit Send. The buffering signal cycling while waiting for the Internet to do something. PASSWORDS. And [from a tech genius:] People who refuse to make an effort to understand technology.
Trucks’ infernal backing-up beeping. Loud TV commercials. Radio commercials with dangerous driving-distraction sounds (cell phone sounds, sirens, bells). Leaf-blowers – get a rake!
Telephones—the quality is crap now; I used to be able to HEAR people when I talked to them on the phone. Friends toying with their phones (no eye contact, constantly checking their devices). Morons having loud cell phone convos in stores — or your car. Robocalls. Checking phone messages on three @#$! phones. Automated phone “receptionists.” When people call you and immediately say “Hold on.” That every new phone requires different chargers. How everyone has a preferred method of communicating – text, phone, email, FB. If your way doesn’t match your friend’s, you NEVER talk.
A GPS takes you to a wall/obscure goat path. Left lane drivers refusing to pass the car next to them or driving in the left lane when there is no one in the right lane. Massachusetts drivers. Unorganized travelers in front of me on the TSA line. No one has manners anymore –could people say excuse me while they shove past you in a crowd? Hell no!
People needing to record every moment on devices rather than actually experiencing the moments. Interviewers who ask questions & don’t let the person answer as they keep on jawing. Reality TV glamorizing rude, competitive individuals with faces so distorted from plastic surgery they look like “the Hunger Games.” “Parties” where my “friends” are selling items I do not need but feel obligated to buy; I could stay home, drink better wine, and save my money. “Tweet us live at hashtag [whatever]!” Everyone writing a YA novel.
Corporate jargon. Acronyms. Branding. Modern sayings like “It’s a no brainer,” or “Reframe it.” People saying “literally” when they mean “figuratively” blow my figurative head off. The attitude of being horribly offended within “Really?” and “Seriously?” People who say “Hash tag xyz” (#peeves) in real life. Apostrophes wrongly before the letter “s” (= the Vermont Special). Use of “I” where “me” is objectively called for. Mangled common expressions (“A tough road to hoe”), called eggcorns by linguists.
Truffles. The Cloud. Millennials. How countries still invade other countries. Kids in hazardous situations while parents text. Celebrity perfumes. The new light bulbs. Archaic contagions resurfacing. Hand sanitizer. Too many things in my life. Stores using a decimal point and the cent sign (.35¢), meaning the item is less than 1 penny. Open floor plan office spaces. Media reporting a story before the facts are proven. Gluten-free. How we can’t learn the price of medical procedures ahead of time. Tip jars at Starbucks, DD, etc. Pomegranate in EVERYTHING. Dog owners who let their dogs bark at, sniff, or mate you. People not washing their hands in the restroom—many of them out there. Families ignorant of Hot Tub Etiquette. My achin’ back. My mother.
And finally, from my misanthrope: Calling tech support; smart phones, stupid people; people.
And there you have it. You didn’t ask, but me, I’m going back in time. Catch you at Stonehenge (, Sassenach!) Good day.
Suggested Bumper Sticker from Braintree Naked Swim Club:
IT’S A NICE DAY FOR A RED WEDDING;
IT’S A NICE DAY TO THRONE AGAIN.
While pagan America is getting its jollies skipping around a beribboned pole today, some of us are crying May Day over the decline of the English language.
That George Orwell thought English was going down the flusher some 80 years ago is a comfort. This article covers that nicely in its analysis of weird, annoying language in the workplace. The Comments reveal how workers across the Land have secretly played Corporate Jargon Bingo during meetings. Hats off, keepers of the language! And way more fun than a silly Maypole.
But we’ve only just broached this topic. Stay tuned.