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Buzzwords: A Crash Course in Jargonese.

Tired of endless language courses each evening on how to speak business? If so, we can speed up the process for you, whilst explaining the need to speak, well, English really…

Buzzwords: A Crash Course in Jargonese.


What exactly is your job? Is it herding cats? Eating your own dog-food?

Maybe punching a puppy, circling the wagons, or acting as part of a Tiger Team?

No? Well, perhaps your job is hard to define. We might be able to work it out by establishing what is involved. Does it include?

  • Growth Hacking
  • Thought Showers
  • Getting your ducks in a row
  • Ideation
  • Snackable Content
  • Advertainment
  • Storyscaping

Your answer to all of the above should be no. Sadly, several people reading this will have said yes, or at least have an awareness of what these ‘words’ mean. In writing this, Microsoft Word did not understand, underlining several of these words in red, because, well, they’re not words (and the ones that are words or phrases, are rather pointless).

In business it’s important to have universal terms which are understood by everyone, which is why business terms (often referred to as buzzwords) are created. Sadly, in an attempt to ‘innovate’ an increasing number of pointless, strange and sometimes offensive buzzwords are created, like:

 

POINTLESS:

  • Mission Critical’ – Is just a system essential to the survival and function of a business. So as critical as the mission may be, this term is pointless.
  • ‘Silos’ – Departments. Grain-storage optional.

STRANGE:

  • ‘Sea Change’ – Seemingly credible, owing to its roots in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this term is a peculiar way of saying a change in the current process, which out-nonsenses ‘paradigm shift’ - its self-help sounding predecessor.
  • ‘Open your kimono and show us everything’ – Reveal the inner-workings of a business, possibly to inform a buyout. There, that was much nicer than the image the open kimono gave you, wasn’t it?

OFFENSIVE:

  • ‘Drinking the Kool-aid’ – Used as a description of people who are influenced easily, this tastelessly references the Jonestown Massacre of 1978).
  • ‘Snowflake’ – Generally used in reference to millennials and younger groups who are perceived to be weak and easily offended, or delicate like a snowflake. While this may seem like a harmless joke, it is a term which has been used a great deal by far-right groups to defend racist and homophobic comments, which are offensive. Obviously I would say that, being a millennial snowflake…

Some buzzwords are now pretty well-known, but hated by employees due to their pretentiousness, ambiguity or pointlessness. Some years back, ‘blue-sky thinking’ was done to death in many business meetings, much to the bemusement of attendees. This might have seemed like a great phrase to those presenting, harmlessly trying to move with the times and reflect the language of industry leaders, but it wasn’t. Unfortunately, in the many cases of words like this being overused, misused and not understood by their target audiences the effect is that rather than making a strong point through a modern concept, it actually makes business people seem like poor communicators.

Despite the need for clearer writing and verbal communication in business, there still seems to be a proliferation of pointless buzz-words in circulation. The reasons they exist are many: Trying to impress others out of insecurity is one, an attempt to give ownership to a business idea and create an internal language may be another. Tragically, the main reason for all the jargon is probably due to an attempt to simplify complex processes through catchy, short terms. The thing is though, language is a system for ALL users to mutually understand ideas. So buzzwords not only fail as a means of communication if people don’t understand them, but by simplifying complex processes for employees who may be slightly confused over them; even less is understood, and nothing is gained.

The widespread use of business terms, often described as business ‘jargon’ has led to the Plain English Campaign being created to make them stop (please won’t someone make them stop?!). This society are trying to point out, that while buzzwords may seem crucial to some and pointless to others, the real issue is that if that opinion differs, effective communication of a message can be lost within your business.

Many businesses are in fact now working with the Plain English Campaign, who give annual awards for the worst example of jargon, and have even created a jargon generator, so you can ‘sanity check’ your ‘communications’. They believe that ‘everyone should have access to clear and concise information’, which is what all company employees, at every level, should aspire to.

So say something simple.

 

 

Glossary of Terms

In case you are still lost, here’s our jargon-dictionary (jargonary?) to ‘keep you in the loop’:

Herding Cats – A futile attempt to organise something uncontrollable, which is really hard, like, say, herding some cats.

Eating your own dog food – This is when companies test their own product, so they know it’s good. This doesn’t have to be dog food, unless you particularly enjoy the flavour.

Punching a puppy – Doing a bad thing for the greater good. This might be begrudgingly cutting staff numbers to save a business. Punching an actual puppy has no greater good.

Circling the wagons – Get everyone together to prepare for something. It’s possible that whoever migrated this term to business wanted to run away from the problem, and watch a cowboy film instead.

Tiger Team – Like a S.W.A.T. Team, but tech-based, so full of ‘tech-tigers’ presumably.

S.W.A.T. Team – A group of experts assembled to solve a business problem. Machine-guns optional.

Growth Hacking – Experimenting across various marketing channels. That’s literally it.

Getting your ducks in a row – Getting everything organised, being prepared. Could originate from a description of setting up bowling pins / could be nonsense.

Ideation – The process of creating new ideas. So just say that.

Snackable Content – Short content that can make a strong impact – easy to digest, but not edible.

Advertainment – Mini-movies that tell a story instead of selling directly. So it’s an advert…but it’s entertaining = Advertainment! I see what they did there, must have taken a lot of meetings to reimagineer the wordsmithing process.

Storyscaping – Using stories to create narratives that engage consumers. Call me old fashioned, but that was called advertainment in my day.

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