by Taffy Cannon
Perhaps the only thing dedicated grammarians agree on is that the English language is under continuous assault by linguistic barbarians and probably will not survive the attack. This position was first articulated in a compelling series of grunts by a cave librarian who overhead some surly cave teens using slang, known in that culture as “dung,” and has been regularly updated ever since.
Popular culture takes a lot of heat for perpetrating atrocities on language, and in my lifetime alone the named culprits have included beatniks, hippies, greasers, gangstas, hipsters, and folks in all manner of music fields: R&R, RNB, C&W, disco, bubble gum, hip-hop and rap. Was ever thus. Who can forget the Music Man warning the parents of River City to watch out for such nasty words as “swell” and “so’s your old man”?
A young grammarian of my acquaintance we’ll call Deep Briefcase has become immersed in a major national corporation, and has found the language challenging since orientation, when new employees were warned to avoid email jail, proactively touch base with others on the team, and keep everybody in the loop about the timing of bio breaks. Bio breaks, it turns out, are a TMI way of letting others know your excretory habits, as opposed to the more discreet “breaks” that we used to take a few decades back when I was wandering around the business world as a perennial temp.
Deep Briefcase was happy to provide the following sample of current corporate lingo, which no longer pushes the outside of the envelope or thinks outside the box. Instead, it seeks sufficient bandwidth to take a 30,000 foot view of reallocation of resources, thus assuring a win-win.
I’ll ping Rick and communicate to him that moving forward, we need to circle back with the team to parking lot that idea. My understanding is that he wanted to spike out some of those concepts and leverage them into a more brand-centric approach to client communication and get this project off the ground in the 3rd quarter. We are using a much more robust piece of software, and should be able to solution for this issue I referenced earlier and drill down to deliver the final product by EOD Monday.
There is much to find annoying here, of course, but I think that the single most irritating feature of current Bizspeak is its reassignment of words to different parts of speech. For the most part, this involves turning perfectly good nouns into highly questionable verbs, and of the current crop, I have to say “parking lot” is my favorite. Sure, it has lots of competition: repurpose, ball park, transition, prioritize, incentivize. But “to parking lot” actually carries a pretty good visual. Your idea, that brilliant concept those morons couldn’t understand – it’s sitting out there under an eerie orange-brown light in row 5-H, surrounded by other junker notions.
Certain outright corporate doublespeak has blossomed in recent years as a sign of unfortunate economic times. Take termination, which now has as many synonyms as “snow” in cultures located above the Arctic Circle. Few, of course, come even close to addressing the central issue, being fired, or the end result, being unemployed.
There’s downsizing. Rightsizing. Outsourcing. Reduction in Force, also known as RIF, which doesn’t feel like a Keith Richards move when it happens to you. Some companies will even say with a straight face that you are being de-hired, as if the whole thing were simply Pam’s bad dream on Dallas.
And if Bizspeak has gotten cagier about ending things, it is falling all over itself with beginnings, which now have their own beginnings. You don’t plan until you have pre-planned. Prepare at your own peril if you haven’t pre-prepared. All of which will get you ready for the pre-meeting to set up the meeting on Best Practices, which is usually another way of saying outsourcing.
But I’ll have to get back to you on that. I’ll be out of pocket the rest of the day, drilling down on some low hanging fruit.