Haught Take: is the rudest word “cunt”?

I’ve just got on to the The Allusionist, the best words-related podcast I’ve found. I highly recommend it.
 
I decided to start from the beginning and the fourth episode from back at the start of 2015 is all about profanity. Host Helen Zaltzman takes a poll on what people think is the rudest word in the language and the winner by a long way is “cunt”.
 
It got me thinking about what I consider to be the most offensive item in the modern Australian lexicon.
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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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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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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 “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 choosing your spirit animal

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Ten years ago, if someone had asked you what your spirit animal was, you’d have moved to the other end of the tram, dialled 000 into your Motorola flip phone and sat, quivering, with your thumb poised over the call button. Today it’s as unremarkable and pedestrian as pulled pork on a brioche bun with whipped kale and a pfeffernüsse crumble served in a terracotta pot.

You’ll have it asked of you at work, in job interviews and sometimes even during medical appointments. And it’s true: the answer you give to the question says a lot about you. So here’s my guide to deciding on which animal best represents you:

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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

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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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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 “moving forward”

 

Picture 6Moved 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 rest

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