Vox pop — November 2010

Business language is a rich breeding ground for new buzzwords and phrases. What’s the best or worst you’ve come across recently?

There’s a terrible new piece of business jargon that I’m increasingly hearing from American based businesses. It’s ‘reach out’, typically used in a phrase like “I’ll reach out to you in the next day or so.” Roughly translated, this means, “I’ll call you or email you shortly.” Reach out? Preserve us. And let’s hear it for ‘hard stop’, as in “I’ve got a hard stop at 4 pm”. This refers to meetings where there has to be a definitive conclusion at a specified time.
Martin Lee

There’s been lots of coverage of business jargon in books and articles, and I think people are a little more conscious of their language as a result. Even ‘going forward’ seems to be going backwards. Having said that, businesses do seem to be stretching for words to describe the way different groups of people communicate and connect with each other. There’s much talk of us ‘interacting’ with each other, which conjurs up scenes of humans dressed as Cybermen. Probably the most discussed pieces of jargon in my neck of the woods are ‘tone of voice’ and ‘brand storytelling’, which have become buzzwords emanating from practically every mediocre brand agency. I’ve just seen that The Apprentice contestant Alex Epstein – who was recently Germ-O-Nated by Sralan – has set himself up as a ‘brand storyteller’. Business jargon is still several leagues below public sector gobbledygook, however. Fans of Carry On might enjoy some of the terms that issue forth from local government, like ‘Citizen touchpoints’, ‘pump priming’ and ‘deep dive’. But my favourite public sector phrases are ‘predictors of beaconicity’, ‘goldfish bowl facilitated conversations’ and ‘meaningful reusable interactivity’. There’s that word ‘interactivity’ again.
Tim Rich

When I think of business language as a rich breeding ground for new buzzwords and phrases, I can’t help but think of a field of manure. Now before you scrunch your nose at the thought of it, hear me out . . . In my experience, business itself doesn’t really create new words. It uproots existing words and strands of phrases, at first with minimal chewing, before finding a place to settle, where, having eaten the words, it then regurgitates boluses or masses of forage up its oesophagus and back into its mouth, where it is masticated, this time thoroughly, and then swallowed. The process is useful because the forage needs to be well and truly flattened to be digestible. Businesses, like cows, graze in numbers, so this practice tends to occur collectively. The result is that when business is put out in the field to do its business, what comes out the other end are nice, big piles of ploppy doo-dah. The best I can say about it is that the industrious use it as fertilizer, which, as we all know, helps plants and fruit and what not grow. And leverage hasn’t a damn thing to do with any of it!
Shano Cotechini

Two which annoy the pants off me are “behaviours” (don’t get me started) and the egregious “form factor” (what’s wrong with “shape” FFS?). Does anyone else find these vox pops bring out their inner Jeremy Clarkson?
Roger Horberry

‘Actionable’. The word induces a faint wave of nausea whenever I see it.
‘Journey’ comes a close second. Especially now it’s been endorsed by Tony Blair.
Jim Davies

On-boarding (Onboarding?): This seems to be in the air at the moment. I heard it at one client and assumed it to be some horror they had bred themselves, but then it cropped up somewhere else. Sounding vaguely like something pirates would aim to achieve against their foes, it’s actually a term for bringing in new staff or partners, getting them up to speed and all that. I have even been on-boarded (or have I on-boarded?) myself fairly recently. It would have been a perfectly comfortable process, but for that blunt, awkward word sticking in my craw.

Hastle: A client recently wrote to me about minimising ‘hastle’. I like this spelling a lot more than the traditional one. It rustles like a thistle, suggesting an appropriate mild spikiness. Folk spellings often suggest new ways of thinking about words, I find. Let’s have more of them.
Mike Reed

I’ve been training with a client and going through their jargon just this week. Here are some of their lovelies. I’m particularly tickled by ‘iterate’ just now, as in the new verb:

All-in-one; Automated; Automatically; Award-winning; Call-home; Comprehensive; Confidential; Cross-platform; Easy-to-use; Effectively; Efficient/efficiency; Enable; End-to-end; Ensure; Enterprise-class; Essential; Fast-moving; Flagship; Flexible; Hands-off; Innovative; Instant/instantly; Iterate; Multi-layered; Out-of-the-box; Policy-based; Powerful; Proactively; Protect your data; Real-time; Safeguard; Seamless; Tailored; Unique; Unrivalled.
Ben Afia

I like touchpoints. I like to think of them as erogenous zones.
And executing instead of doing is always fun. Unless the client has actually killed someone. Then it’s quite serious.
Deliverables are always nice. If the Post Office made the sequel to The Expendables I bet they’d call it The Deliverables.
And then there’s my current favourite – value proposition. Can we call that a buzz-phrase? I can’t even offer a joke. Or definition. Or reason for it to exist. It just scares me.

It’s fun to see the language going round in circles. Or lingua-circularizing, as I tend to call it.
Rob Self-Pierson

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