Saturday, August 27, 2011

Buzz Off!!!

Buzzwords are everywhere. This blog is buzzword sanctuary. If this is (fair & balanced) meaningless confusion of words, so be it.

PS: The glitch in the blog didn't go away over night, but The Blogger abides.

[x Austin Fishwrap]
A Perfect Swarm — Buzzwords
By Helen Anders

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at
(Click to enlarge)

When did we stop getting in touch and start reaching out, circling back around and pinging? Why must we constantly dialogue about our true north? And how did everything get so darn impactful?

"It's the language we live in," says David Parson, a creative director at GSD&M [Austin ad agency]. "Everybody's using the same words."

Buzzwords are the plastic bags of the English language. We're bombarded with them on TV and in meetings, so we pick them up and use them, adding to the contamination of the linguistic landscape. (Surely somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, there's an island of floating buzzwords.)

Parson says he's been called out by friends for using "It is what it is," a meaningless conversation-filler that, along with "at the end of the day," simply refuses to die.

"It's just another way of saying, 'I don't know,' and you don't want to say 'I don't know' because then you're that guy, and nobody wants to be the guy who doesn't know," he says.

Some buzzwords start out as legitimate words and then "come into general usage in a sloppy way," says University of Texas associate professor of communication studies Matthew McGlone. An example: monetize, which originally meant converting currency or notes into legal tender and now winds up in ads: "Monetize your website!"

One of McGlone's specialties is the study of euphemisms, and some buzzwords qualify, such as "circle around" and "reach out" for e-mailing or telephoning somebody.

"Sometimes it's obsequious and a little unctuous," McGlone says. "It adds this touchy-feely element to something that isn't touch-feely."

One of McGlone's least favorite buzzwords is "impactful."

"You hear it and your blood pressure starts to rise," he says. "I first heard it when I did some consulting for advertising, and it struck me as suspicious to start with."

He's also not keen on "perfect storm."

"Just in the last week, some of my colleagues have used 'perfect storm,' " he says. "You can't say that in Austin, Texas. A perfect storm will involve some rain." Besides, that "Perfect Storm" movie is 11 years old. By now it should be merely a perfect tropical disturbance.

Well, it is what it is. So, here's a quick glossary to help you translate political press conferences, internal business memos and voicemails:

Reach out: To contact someone by phone or email, as in, "I can't talk to you now, but my assistant will reach out to you this afternoon."

Circle back around: To follow up and annoy somebody a second time, as in, "I'm just circling back around to see if you've received my proposal."

Ping: Another word for getting in touch, as in, "I'll ping you when I want to discuss that proposal."

Monetize: To make money, as in, "I really enjoy whistling, and I'm good at it, but I can't figure out a way to monetize it."

Kick the can down the road: A phrase that every politician plays on a continuous loop to describe what his political adversaries are not getting done. Playing this loop is, in fact, a way of kicking the can down the road.

Vision: Agenda, as in, "We will not compromise our vision."

Impactful: Bursting with impact, as in, "That's an impactful insight, Brad." This word is the unfortunate, inevitable result of using "impact" as a verb in a non-wisdom-tooth sense.

Business model: The way you do business. You're no longer a bad businessman or businesswoman. You just have a bad business model. Go get the modeling clay and try again.

Dialogue as a verb: Talk. It means talk. Why not just talk?

Issues: Problems, as in, "I have issues with people who refuse to talk about their problems."

Best practices: Stuff that monetizes, often used as a vague term, as in, "Our business is focusing on best practices to pull us out of the recession."

True north: Technically, the compass direction that leads to the North Pole. In the sense that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, this becomes an apt business buzzword, referring to a directional pull toward the goal of monetizing, as in, "A strong brand is a marketer's true north."

Fulfillment: Making both the customer and the boss happy, as in, "We must focus on fulfillment."

Value-added: Whatever you can get somebody to do without paying him or her.

Migration: A new way of doing things. No longer do only animals migrate. Everything migrates, and the verb has suddenly become transitive, as in: "Hey, we're migrating your job to our plant in Bangalore."

At the end of the day: Summing up, as in, "At the end of the day, he's just kicking the can down the road."

It is what it is: It's something to say when you've nothing to say. That's what it is.

Outside the box: This old, worn-out term for innovation refuses to disappear, despite the fact that its users are clearly thinking inside the box. (Parsons suggests people spin off their own versions of this, such as "outside the egg.")

RIF: Reduction in a force, a decades-old term now used as a verb: to RIF, as in "He was RIFFED," meaning he was laid off, which is also a euphemism, because, really, how many laid-off people get laid back on? He was fired.

ROI: Return on investment, the true north of all monetizers. Maybe the abbreviation makes it sound more likely to occur.

SEO: Search engine optimization. We all know this one. When you Google something, if you use the same lame words as everybody else, Google is more likely to display your website.

And that, folks, means that at the end of the day, we have no choice but to use as many buzzwords as we possibly can. So prepare for endless reaching out and pinging. Ah, well. It's better than having people put bugs in our ears. Ω

[Helen Anders is the travel writer for the Austin American-Statesman; Anders also contributes feature writing to the paper. She received a BA in English from Wake Forest University.]

Copyright © 2011 Austin American-Statesman

Get the Google Reader at no cost from Google. Click on this link to go on a tour of the Google Reader. If you read a lot of blogs, load Reader with your regular sites, then check them all on one page. The Reader's share function lets you publicize your favorite posts.

Creative Commons License
Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves by Neil Sapper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.

Copyright © 2011 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

No comments:

Post a Comment

☛ STOP!!! Read the following BEFORE posting a Comment!

Include your e-mail address with your comment or your comment will be deleted by default. Your e-mail address will be DELETED before the comment is posted to this blog. Comments to entries in this blog are moderated by the blogger. Violators of this rule can KMA (Kiss My A-Double-Crooked-Letter) as this blogger's late maternal grandmother would say. No e-mail address (to be verified AND then deleted by the blogger) within the comment, no posting. That is the (fair & balanced) rule for comments to this blog.