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

107 views

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.

162 views

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

109 views

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

179 views

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

209 views

The Haught guide to change managers

 

Airship

Every single word I write on these pages and in the pages of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald is true. If my stories and accounts sound far-fetched, it is because I have lived a rich, kaleidoscopic life, replete with encounters that stretch the outer membrane of believability to near-breaking point and acquaintances living astride the boundary dividing Real Life and Cartoons.

But the margin dwellers – the loaf bowlers, the fishpond sippers, the  scatalogically obsessed – always seem to die on their run in the Sublime Idiocy Stakes, passed in the last 200 metres by fast-finishing members of the nominal mainstream.

(Corporate) truth, it seems, is stranger than (what looks like, but isn’t) fiction:

213 views

The Haught guide to “learnings”

Image: Ben Tyers, 2014