Buzzword stupidity – part 3,996,843

Have you ever noticed how buzzwords come and go? They must be among the fastest evolving words in English – and with good reason, given that most of them are vacuous attempts to hide one thing by couching it as another.

Artwork by Plognark Creative Commons license

Back in the 1980s the in-word in New Zealand was ‘corporate’, particularly in government departments where the word was used as an end in itself. Everything suddenly got the word appended to it – ‘corporate affairs’ instead of ‘public relations’, ‘corporate plan’ instead of ‘annual plan’ and so on. Even annual reports vanished in favour of – well, you’ve guessed it – ‘corporate reports’. Were these government offices actually commercial corporates? Uh… no. And did the word make the slightest difference to behaviours? Uh,.,., no.

A year or so later the word ‘corporate’ went out of favour and was replaced by ‘management’. Everything was suddenly ‘managed’, although nobody actually seemed to know what that involved. Still, there was so much ‘management’ about that trucks were deployed to take away all the management going to waste. Well, I think that’s what the name ‘waste management’ on the side of them referred to anyway.

Did that mean that everything was actually ‘managed’, when it hadn’t been before? Um… again, no.

By the early 1990s that had extended to staff. Employees were no longer people; they were a ‘human resource’. These ‘human resources’ were then organised around the next in-buzzword, ‘team’, in which diverse employees who had nothing in common were pushed together in groups and made to fly around offices like geese in formation, randomly honking on others.

I could go on. To me the whole phenomenon underscores the amazing ability humans have to pretend one thing is another, even when it isn’t, often in order to assert power over others.

And oddly enough, the next buzzword after ‘management’ had done its dash was – well, you’ve guessed it. Power. That was the 1990s for you.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2018

6 thoughts on “Buzzword stupidity – part 3,996,843

  1. ‘Moving forward’…rolls eyes…and let’s not forget ‘spin’. When I was a ‘gel’ we used to call it lying. Now the biggest whoppers are just spin. 😦

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  2. I work in digital marketing and they’re all over the place in this industry. Execs trying to sound clever amongst companies packing hefty budgets. Ideate is the most common one at the moment, I keep seeing it everywhere. “Let’s have a thought shower and ideate over this.” Indeed.

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