Enough with the corporate speak already! Just say what you mean for Pete's sakes. Many years ago while a technology officer at a top 10 U.S. bank I noticed that there were a group of words that were consistently used in conversations by staff members. It got so bad that we devised a game to use during meetings. We called it "Buzzword Bingo."
The way Buzzword Bingo worked is each meeting attendee would keep track of words and phrases such as, "at the end of the day", "when the rubber meets the road", "net, net" and so on. The person who reached bingo first would simly make a coughing sound (ahem) to indicate that they won. The manglers of the English langauge never caught on and we had lots of fun at their expense. Over the years this corporate speak has reached the point where one can hardly understand what is being said.
So it was with great glee that I read the article "Attack of the Weasel Words" at the MSNBS website written for Newsweek by Susanna Schrobsdorff about a new book by Australian author Don Watson. Like many of us, Mr. Watson is so fed up with this mealy mouth style of communication that he has written a book called “Death Sentences: How Clichés, Weasel Words and Management-Speak are Strangling Public Language,” a surprise bestseller in Australia last year which prompted a flood of mail from other frustrated language lovers like yours truly.
Some of Mr. Watson's examples are beyond comical and border on the ridiculous. For example, He laments the fact that librarians are now referred to as: “information needs identifiers,” and that his 12-year-old granddaughter’s report card said that she had “developed a variety of products” in history class. He cites a John Deere tractor safety notice that warns customers to lock the brake or “unexpected non-powered tractor movement may occur.”
When asked what are some of the words he detests most Mr. Watson replied "Implemented." You'll see implemented everywhere. In this language, you “implement” rather than speak or do. And then there is enhanced. Everything is being enhanced. That word is being used in place of other more precise and descriptive words. You can enhance your marriage or your job. You can even implement your enhancements. And "input" is another good one. Companies talk about “input into our people.” This reflects technology and accounting [ideas]. It all has to do with input and outcomes.
But wait, there's more. In my opinion, the worst example of this mangling of the language is this one from a high-school [evaluation]: “Just as the skill and processes are not compartmentalized in the creation process, the evaluation of outcomes will occur against a background of understanding that separation of outcomes into discrete components is subordinate to the evaluation of the total process as a comprehensive outcome.” Nobody has any idea what that means.
Mr. Watson has collected examples that people have sent to him and they are posted on the Web site www.weaselwords.com.au. The site is filled with great cartoons and even a confessions section. My favorite is by Barry Carter who writes "I’m a weaselwordholic." Check it out and let me know what you think. I don't know about you, but I'm going to buy the book if only for levity during stressful moments.
Thank you Mr. Watson. You've ripped the mask off the weaselbeast and left it standing naked before us.
Readers, are you as sick as I am about this corporate speak? Share some of your examples here and let's see how creative you can get.