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 restRead More
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. Read More
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 restRead More
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.
Moved to tears
While working in an office job, I once lost my bearings and blundered into the wrong meeting room.
The abhorrence I observed taking place inside filled me with a liquid disgust (not unlike the stuff that gets wrung out of the sponge in that famous anti-smoking ad).
It was a “moving forward” orgy: men and women, old and young, executives and dogsbodies – all going at it hammer and tongs – “moving forward” like it was going out of fashion. Which, it turns out, it wasn’t.… Read the restRead More
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.
“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.