The Haught guide to the word “strategic”

A strategic waterfall

A strategic waterfall

In this ultra-cynical age, the word ‘panacea’ has been splashed with negative connotations. The 21st century has no time for the idea of utopia, and there is, admittedly, something slightly utopian about a remedy for everything in the universe ever. For that reason ‘panacea’ is a word – not unlike ‘alchemy’ and ‘Vodafone’ – that today evokes reflexive scoffing.

But we are wrong to sneer, for a panacea is theoretically possible. Indeed, it already exists. The corporate sector has known about it for at least a decade, and it takes the form, believe it or not, of a humble adjective.

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The Haught guide to new year cliches

Bitter workers with cpation

Is there anything worse than new year work cliches? Yes – many things – among them child labour, Kyle Sandilands and nearly every jellyfish species. But nothing makes you feel more like a minuscule, barely-required cog in the clockwork of capitalism than being congratulated for spending Christmas “recharging the batteries”.

Even worse is the language that comes straight out of cosmetics ads: people asking you whether you’ve returned to work feeling “refreshed and rejuvenated”. All that’s missing is “alive with clarity” or “pulsing with radiance”… and who’s to say these aren’t the new year work cliches of tomorrow?

“Reinvigorated”, “revitalised”, “replenished” – so many words beginning with re lead us to actions starting with the same two letters, namely regurgitating food and reconsidering our love of life.

So, what do we do about this, dear readers? Well, here’s a new year’s resolution for you: this year, don’t cop it.

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A few good words

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Linguists recently identified around 20 words still doing the rounds today that were being uttered as many as 15,000 years ago. They included ‘spit’, ‘worm’ and ‘mother’. 

‘Learnings’, ’empowerment’ and ‘monetise’ weren’t on the list. But these are such sturdy, evocative and indispensible words that I have no doubt they’ll be around 15 millenia hence. This got me thinking about what words not yet in the dictionary that I hope will be getting verbally lobbed across offices and work sites thousands of years from now. Here are a few:… Read the rest

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My email to Microsoft

My email to microsoft

Recently, Microsoft realised “oops – we desperately need to give the arse to many many thousands of employees”. Last week, they left the job of telling these people to a man by the name of Stephen Elop, the Vice-President of Microsoft Devices & Services.

The email he wrote to staff was 1113 words and 14 paragraphs long and, when it became public, received much negative media attention. You can read it here (but set aside a good ten to twelve hours):

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I decided I’d drop him an electronic line.… Read the rest

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How to write a mission statement

How to write a mission statement

 

Although I’m best known as perhaps the best blogger in the southern hemisphere, a columnist, raconteur, literary master, social justice crusader, sartorial paragon, steamboat captain, pen-and-ink artist,  consumer advocate, curmudgeon, letter writer, copywriter, sex symbol, myki sceptic, long-suffering Melbourne Football Club supporter, linguist, Weis’ lover, wit, social media megastar, alpine strawberry farmer, custard doughnut aficionado, corporate communications observer, botanist, northern Melburnian, former blimp manufacturer and poet, my true passion is teaching.

I love to pass on my expertise to those who possess less experience, genius and general brilliance than I do. If that sounds like you (if it doesn’t, you’re probably being a bit arrogant), I invite you to delight in my wisdom on writing mission statements:… Read the rest

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The Haught guide to “journeys”

I don’t ask much from you, dear reader, so when I tell you today that I have a task for you, I’d appreciate it if you take it seriously, complete it assiduously and then report back in detail on your findings.

Here’s the task. After reading this article, keep in mind the word “journey” and take note of every time someone uses it in the non-going-for-a-long-walk-holding-a-crooked-piece-of-wood sense.

My hypothesis is that you’ll hear it around three thousand times every four hours.

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Benign to Five on obliterating wank language

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

At least that’s what the character Syme from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four reckons. Syme is a contributor to the Party’s dictionary of Newspeak, the language that will eventually replace standard English, and admits to the protagonist, Winston Smith, that he relishes destroying words.

Of course, Orwell meant Syme’s words to be taken as outrageous sacrilege by his readers. I, however, was recently inspired by them.

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The Haught guide to “learnings”

Image: Ben Tyers, 2014