Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Roslyn Petelin, Associate Professor in Writing, The University of Queensland

Buzzword bingo arrived in the contemporary workplace in the early ’90s, as a way of ridiculing the prevalence of management-speak. To play it, employees prepare cards containing some of the more dreaded terms, then tick them off when their colleagues use them, which tends to be in meetings.

From 'opening the kimono' to 'incentivizing', the war against corporate buzzwords rages on Author / The Conversation, CC BY-ND Many of the expressions on this bingo card are some of my least favourite. Still, they can be unpicked: an “idea sherpa” is an expert guide, to “knife and fork it” is to tackle a problem bit by bit, and “face palming” is the act of slapping one’s face as a mark of personal exasperation after making an idiotic comment. Some of the others are not just annoying or impossible to unpick, but also tasteless. Republican representative Jason Chaffetz reportedly urged Donald Trump to “open your kimono and show us everything” in a bid to see Trump’s tax returns in the run-up to the 2016 election. Not just horrifically icky, but ineffectual as well! Trump has still not released his returns. André Spicer, professor of organisational psychology at the University of London, attributes the birth of management-speak to a management-training program of gobbledygook launched by the telephone company Pacific Bell in California in 1984. But what defines a buzzword (“buzzword” is itself a buzzword), and when these become clichés, is unclear. As Justice Potter Stewart said of hardcore pornography in the obscenity lawsuit against film director Louis Malle, “I know it when I see it”. Read more: In defence of grammar pedantry Buzzwords are derided as “brainlessly upbeat language” by some, but praised by others for being time-tested and familiar, with “sturdy truthfulness and comforting ancientness”. Management professor Robert Kreitner calls buzzwords “the literary equivalent of Gresham’s Law” — “Bad money drives out good money” — because they drive out ideas and/or disguise a lack of them. Do buzzwords provide any benefits? Yes. Organisational jargon has its place in the professional arena. It can function as shorthand when used in a context shared by all involved. It can help newcomers to the organisational conversation to “enter the parlour” (as Kenneth Burke put it in 1941) and gain a sense of identity and comfort as part of a club. But it is also clear that buzzwords can obfuscate and deceive. From metaphor to cliché Buzzwords, like most of our language, originate in metaphor. In Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson argue that metaphors are pervasive in everyday language, thought and action. A metaphor is a comparison in which a word or phrase in one domain of experience is applied to another domain. There’s no literal connection. Take, for example, “strategic staircase”. When a buzzword first makes its appearance it can evoke a powerful image. However, the buzzwords that “gain currency” (there’s a cliché for you) almost inevitably transform over time to become overworked and banal. In other words, they become clichés. Nouning and verbing, abhorred by many language mavens, are commonly relied on to express corporate clichés. Nouning occurs when verbs are used as nouns in expressions such “fulfil an ask” or “set up a fail”. Read more: When we needed a new word, Twitter gave us 'milkshake duck' Verbing occurs when nouns are used as verbs: “We are efforting to determine where the storm hit.” “Let’s kernelise the issues and tangibilise, bucketise and solutionise our problems.” Of course, the ugliest of the lot is “utilise”. And how about adjectiving, turning nouns into adjectives: presenting an impactful, planful, bandwidth talk? Plain language, please Ever since the origins of business-speak there have been those who have tried to combat these words. Despite many such efforts to mock or combat these corporate clichés by organisations such as the Local Government Association in the UK, which once outlawed 200 words and expressions such as “predictors of beaconicity”, they have proved to be annoyingly resilient. (Elsewhere, a New York bar, The Continental, which has happy hour seven days a week from 4pm to 7am, has banned the word “literally” in a bid to stop what it calls “Kardashianism”. Anyone using the word gets five minutes to finish their drink and leave. Anyone heard starting a sentence with “I literally” is ejected from the premises immediately.) If you’re curious about the meaning of any frightful examples of the organisational twaddle that you come across and need them “unsucked”, go to unsuck-it.com, where you’ll get mostly cynical translations of buzzwords. You can also use Houston PR’s Buzzsaw to measure the prevalence of corporate-speak in your writing. In his 2001 book, The War Against Cliche, Martin Amis makes a heartfelt plea: “All writing is a campaign against cliche. Not just cliches of the pen, but cliches of the mind and of the heart.” It’s a commendable aim for us all – but especially the corporate perpetrators of obfuscatory management-speak, who need “incentivising” to adopt plain language.

Authors: Roslyn Petelin, Associate Professor in Writing, The University of Queensland

Read more http://theconversation.com/from-opening-the-kimono-to-incentivizing-the-war-against-corporate-buzzwords-rages-on-92657

Writers Wanted

Not feeling motivated to tackle those sneaky COVID kilos? Try these 4 healthy eating tips instead

arrow_forward

Sydney Festival review: The Rise and Fall of Saint George shows the transformative power of music

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Business News

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

Avoid These Mistakes When Changing up Your Executive Career

Switching up industries is a valid move at any stage in your career, even if you’re an executive. Doing so at this stage can be a lot more intimidating, however, and it can be quite difficult know...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion