How good words turn bad

buzzwords wasteland

The items that we now categorise as weasel words, wank language and corporate buzzwords weren’t always the indefensible, indecipherable brain-slop of desk-shackled keyboard tappers.

Almost every single one began as a word or term that didn’t make you want to chainsaw it alive and throw its corpse into an abandoned quarry.

Some were very good words: think of bespoke, curate and granular.

Some were not quite so pleasing to look at or say, but had delightful original meanings: think of journey, storytelling or kicking goals.

And some were fairly plain but serviceable: think of action (the noun), drive and disrupt

Each of them has succumbed. Action has become an entirely unnecessary verb. Journey, drive and disrupt have reached epidemic proportions and have lost almost all meaning to the point where “Let’s drive a disruption journey” would now be considered a perfectly legitimate (possibly an “innovative”) sentence in many offices. Storytelling is what a lot of people who can’t tell stories profess to do exceptionally well these days. Etc, etc. 

Yes, each of the has succumbed, but not in a single, fell swoop. Instead they have succumbed in a relatively lengthy process of bollocksification. It can take many forms, but it usually goes something like this:… Read the rest

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“Grandpa, what was Agile Methodology?”

Grandpa and grandson - wind

“Grandpa, what was Agile Methodology?”

“Ah, that’s a very good question, kiddo.”

“And…?”

“And what?”

“And what’s the answer?”

“The answer to what?”

“My question.”

“About what?”

“About Agile Methodology.”

“Oh. Oh… that. I thought you were talking about the other thing.”

“What thing?”

“The… thing… with… about… the… the… bi-… about… Biff… Pelican. Biff Pelican.”

What?! No!”

“Well it’s a funny story, actually. I used to have this weblog. And -”

“I was asking about Agile Methodology.”

“No. No. Of course you were.”… Read the rest

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The Haught guide to “deep dives”

deep dive

I’m all for metaphors. If variety is the spice of life then metaphors are the smoked paprika of language. I just made a metaphor out of a metaphor; that’s how highly I regard them.

But my veneration for the figurative extends only so far.

Like so many things sucked into the corporate vortex, metaphors become significantly less delectable once appropriated by the Organisational and Regulatory Group for Aligned and Strategic Management (ORGASM), or whatever the central workplace buzzword creation committee is called in your region.

Here’s an example.

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Haught Take: inspirational quotes

Awesomness quote

Hello and welcome to the first ever Haught Take.

Hang on – what’s a Haught Take?

Do you want to know what annoys me about the ‘inspirational’ memes and quotes that do the rounds on Facebook and LinkedIn? Well, their preposterous oversimplification of the human condition, obviously. But also their ubiquity.

There are so many and they seem to be everywhere, turning social media feeds into ultra-efficient production lines of trite platitudes.… Read the rest

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The Haught guide to “downsizing”

Downsizing virabbits
Euphemisms are like rabbits. Actually, they’re like viruses. Oh, let’s just say they’re like virus-rabbit hybrids. Virabbits.

They’re small and fluffy and sometimes even comforting to be around (don’t tell me you haven’t ever wished you could stroke a little grey euphemism’s ears). For this reason, people underestimate them and the next thing they know they’ve spread with astounding speed and they’re everywhere.

Euphemisms are also very good at mutating. Just when you think you’ve become immune to one, a new strain emerges.

Take the euphemism ‘downsizing’, for example. … Read the rest

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The Haught guide to meetings

Larry's head

People often say to me ‘Jonathan, you’re the preeminent career agony aunt in the world today – when do I know that I’m going to too many meetings at work?’

I tell them a little story.

A few years ago I worked at a company whose senior management team decided it wasn’t ‘good at process’.

It was an abrupt, somewhat bewildering realisation, like a cat suddenly deciding it needs to be halfway up a tree. The staff all nodded and hmmed in the affirmative, but really they just wanted to placate those who had formed this opinion, horrified by their dilated pupils and shockingly enlarged tails.… Read the rest

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The Haught guide to “driving”

Driving value and efficiencies

If you’re reading this having set out with me on the Haught journey right back at the start – the very first post – thank you. You’ll no doubt remember that I long ago compared modern journeys to the wonderful (although admittedly futile) adventures that took place in the 1970s Japanese TV series, Monkey. (I think of you, dear reader, as my loyal, lascivious and temperamental Pigsy.)

You’ll no doubt also remember that I have already removed obstacles on your path to better in-office (and, let’s be honest, in-life) communication by revealing to you most useful words in the English language.

In the category of Most Outstanding Noun, the incomparable “learnings”.

In the category of Most Outstanding Adjective, the unimpeachable “strategic”.

And now for the blue riband Most Outstanding Verb.

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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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A few good words

squid03-jumbo-squid_18211_600x450

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):

Picture 20

 

 

 

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

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